If you are due to undergo surgery for arthritis, your symptoms are probably already pretty severe. As well as pain, you may be experiencing significant loss of movement and joint stiffness. Your quality of life is likely to have been impacted and you may have had to give up doing things that you love.
Due to Covid-19, your scheduled surgery may have been cancelled. If this is the case, you may find yourself living with debilitating symptoms and being unsure when you are likely to experience any respite from them. Even private orthopaedic surgeons like ours are directing all of their efforts towards supporting the NHS for the next few months which means just about all except the most critical limb-saving surgery has been put on hold.
However, there are things you can do to relieve some of your arthritis symptoms while you are waiting for surgery. It won’t make the problem go away but it will make it easier to live with the pain and loss of mobility until a more permanent solution can be found.
Eat a healthy balanced diet
Some foods are known to exacerbate arthritis symptoms so it’s important to keep an eye on your diet and make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and lean protein, like chicken, fish and nuts. Avoid eating fried and processed foods which increase inflammation in the body. Cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates as these produce AGEs or advanced glycation end products which are also linked to increased inflammation. Dairy products contain a protein that can irritate the joint linings.
Do some gentle exercise
Although you may not feel much like exercising when you are in pain, we advise patients with arthritis to keep as mobile as possible to prevent joint stiffness and loss of movement. Gentle exercises are best, such as yoga or pilates. There are many more online classes available at the moment, enabling you to exercise at home. Unless you are subject to social shielding, getting outside for a walk can be beneficial for both your physical and mental health.
If you are overweight, your joints – and in particular hips and knees – are under increased strain. A higher body weight is associated with more severe arthritis symptoms, as well as developing the condition at a younger age.
Research shows that even a small reduction in body weight – of between 5 and 10% – can dramatically reduce joint pain.
It also makes exercising easier. A combination of healthy diet, realistic weightloss goals and exercise can help you to reduce excess weight.
Take painkilling medications
It is important to keep on top of your pain by taking prescribed medication regularly. There are many different types of medication depending on the severity of your symptoms and the type of arthritis you have. These might include opioids for severe pain, anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids and DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) which are often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of arthritis, leading to worsening pain and loss of mobility. This is Stress Awareness Month so it is a good time to think about how you can manage stress in your life more effectively. Not everyone will respond to stress in the same way – something that is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another. Identify the factors that lead to you becoming stressed and do what you can to alleviate or reduce them. Try implementing some simple relaxation techniques like mindfulness practices or guided meditation to help to bring your stress levels down.
Modify activities and use special aids
Having arthritis does not mean you have to stop doing the things you love (although some, more vigorous exercise may become impossible). Instead, think about how you could modify your activities to make them more do-able.
With gardening, for example, try doing a bit each day rather than trying to do everything at once and exhausting yourself.
There are many types of aids that can help you with day-to-day tasks such as opening jars or pouring kettles, which may become difficult if you have lost strength in your hands or wrists.
Maintain a positive mindset
This may be quite challenging in the current circumstances, but it is helpful to stay as positive and upbeat as you can while you are waiting for surgery. Remember that this situation will change and you will undergo surgery, even if it is not in the timescales you originally thought. Try phoning or video calling friends and family if you feel low or are in pain. Maybe watch a favourite film, listen to some comedy or try losing yourself in a good book.
Avoid too much alcohol
Alcohol may not mix well with joint pain medications and can make you more susceptible to liver damage. Some recent reports have suggested that drinking alcohol in moderation can decrease the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, however these studies are limited and the risk of liver damage when drugs for the condition are mixed with alcohol is real. Gout sufferers need to be particularly careful as purines in alcohol can trigger a gout attack.
Don’t skimp on sleep
Unfortunately, chronic pain can lead to depression and this may worsen if you are unable to sleep. If you are experiencing disrupted sleep due to the pain of arthritis talk to your doctor who may be able to provide medication that can help.
We realise that these are difficult times for many people and living with chronic pain is particularly challenging. Castle Orthopaedics will be open and scheduling surgery again as soon as is possible and we would be happy to help you return to a full and pain-free life.
Orthopaedic specialists – Nottingham
Our orthopaedic consultants each specialise in a particular area of orthopaedics, giving you added peace of mind that you are receiving expert medical advice and highly tailored treatment.
BMI The Park Hospital
Sherwood Lodge Drive Burntstump Country Park, Arnold NG5 8RX
Spire Nottingham Hospital
Tollerton Ln, Tollerton, Nottingham NG12 4GA