For many people with arthritis, pain is a constant companion. However, there are ways to effectively manage chronic arthritis pain. The coping strategies below come from real people who suffere from this debilitating condition and found effective ways to rise above it.
Share the problem. Lessen the pain.
Award-winning chef, restaurateur, and author Seamus Mullen was shocked when he was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2007. “I think the first mistake I made was believing that life as I knew it was over. I really wish that, early on, I’d gotten to know more people who were living and functioning with RA [rheumatoid arthritis], and that I’d learned more about what I could do as an individual to treat the disease, rather than depending so heavily on the medical community for answers.”
Triathlete Dina Neils feels the same way. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 18. Her doctor told her that she would be in a wheelchair by her mid-twenties. Boy, did she prove the doctor wrong! Dina fought every day to continue to do what she loves—swim, bike, and run. In 2015, she qualified for and raced at USA Triathlon National Championships. (Get up from a chair without struggling.)
Alan Brewington of Idaho fell while rock climbing and the resulting injuries led to chronic arthritis. But that did not stop him from starting a website—Pain Talks but Does Not Win—to educate others about the disease. “As a chronic pain and arthritis patient, it’s sometimes incredibly difficult to see past today”
Be mentally strong
When first diagnosed, one of the biggest challenges many patients face is figuring out what you can and cannot do. It takes much trial and error to realize that diet and lifestyle can help you reduce the effects of your condition by a lot. Some people were so successful they didn’t even need painkillers any longer and stopped experiencing symptoms altogether.
It’s true, there are good days and there are bad days. But a bad day does not automatically translate into a bad life. You can still manage to work, engage in sports and activities you love, travel, and have an active social life. (A breakthrough secret helps joints feel younger.)
Patience, patience, patience
Patients who succeeded in learning to live comfortably with arthritis (or despite their arthritis) agree that you’ll need loads of patience to defeat the disease. Being diagnosed with a chronic condition may be discouraging, so you need to learn to be patient with yourself, as many things that you’ve been taking for granted—such as showering—are going to be difficult from now on.
Hear out others, but listen to yourself
Learn as much as possible about your arthritis and work together with your team of specialists to set and reach your goals for an acceptable quality of life. If you’ve been recently diagnosed, getting a second opinion from another specialist is always a good idea.
Start health networking
From the day you are diagnosed, start looking for online support groups to learn what it’s really like to live with the disease. It’s a great way to meet people and even make friends who struggle with the same challenges as you do. It’s easier to find solutions together when you understand each other and know what you’re going through.
Mullen assures you that you’re not alone. “It can feel awful to be alone, but there are many others that truly understand what you’re going through. Find them, meet them, and share your story with them.”
These inspiring stories provide the perfect dose of optimism and hope that every arthritic patient needs. Their stories inspire confidence and tell us that diagnosis is just the beginning. What happens after the diagnosis depends entirely on you.