Even on hard days, try and see the positives in what you can achieve rather than focusing on what you can’t
Having a long term illness like arthritis can impact your life in many ways changing how much you can do, your moods, your relationships, your finances, your plans for the future and your very sense of who you are. Chronic illness can require long-term adjustments to your life. One way to tackle this is “self management”. Self management means taking an active role in managing your arthritis and learning new attitudes and skills to help you effectively respond to the challenges it poses. Self-management is about using resources available to you to help manage your arthritis. It helps to encourage an attitude whereby you accept how your arthritis affects you, but do not allow it to control you: your arthritis is after all just one part of who you are.
Educating yourself about your arthritis and the support that is available to you is a simple but powerful step to regain control of your life, even if you have had your arthritis for years. When people have a better understanding of their arthritis and how to manage it, this can help to maintain or enhance their overall health and happiness. There is much you can do for yourself.
- Be determined – life is about living.
- Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.
- Adapt the way you do things so you can continue to do them.
- Get help from wherever available.
- Learn new tips to enable you to live your life more easily.
- Communicate with your family who can be supportive and understanding.
- Ask questions – get as much information as you can.
- Build good relationships with the health professionals treating you.
- Have confidence – you need to believe you will come through it, even if you can’t see how.
When you have arthritis it is important to look after yourself to reduce further damage to your joints. This might mean learning new ways of carrying out everyday tasks to reduce the stress on your joints. To help protect your joints you should:
- plan ahead – save harder tasks for later in the day when you might be feeling less stiff or sore
- pace yourself throughout the day
- notice which positions and movements make you stiff
- avoid straining joints by doing things awkwardly
- avoid being in one position for a long time
- keep active, but balance activity with rest
- maintain a healthy balance diet
Being overweight puts significant stress on your joints, as well as increasing other health risks such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The NHS offers support and plans to help with weight loss and can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/start-the-nhs-weight-loss-plan/
To protect your joints you might want to think about how you carry out everyday tasks such as washing, dressing and going to work. There are some simple changes you can make to minimise the risk of damaging your joints.
Use larger, stronger joints – push doors open with your shoulder rather than your hand and/or use your forearms/elbow joints to pick up items.
Spread the weight of an object over many joints – use both hands to carry your shopping or use a shoulder bag.
Avoid gripping things too tightly – hold items as loosely as possible or expand your grip with padding.
Shift rather than lift items – slide heavy pans along a kitchen unit.
Consider flexible working – starting earlier or later in the day to avoid the rush hour.
Try not to sit in the same position all day – take regular breaks and move around.
An occupational therapist can assess you in your home or workplace and suggest simple adaptations to the way you do things to reduce the chances of damaging your joints. They can also suggest special equipment that you can buy to make some tasks easier. Patients who are under the Rheumatology team can be referred to a rheumatology specialist occupational therapist. See the Versus Research website for more information on how to look after your joints: Click Here
LOCAL SELF HELP RESOURCES
ESCAPE-pain is a programme for people with chronic joint pain of the knees and/or hips, that offers self-management and coping strategies with an exercise course individualised for each participant. It helps people understand their condition, teaches them simple things they can help themselves with, and takes them through a progressive exercise programme so they learn how to cope with pain better.
The ESCAPE-pain website https://escape-pain.org/
ESCAPE- pain is a six-week group-based course which is offered in locations across Cornwall. To find a local class please go to https://escape-pain.org/find-a-local-class
Expert Patient Programme
The Expert Patient Programme provides training and support for adults who are living with a long-term health condition, to manage their condition better on a daily basis, by running self management courses. Through the programme, people are helped to manage their condition, develop confidence in daily management of their specific condition, meet others to share similar experiences and help them to develop more effective relationships with healthcare professionals. The courses are delivered by a team of trained volunteers who themselves have a long term condition and run over six weekly sessions of two and half hours.
People who have attended the course report feeling more confident and more in control of their life and better able to manage their symptoms and enjoy an improved quality of life. They also are able to work more effectively with health care professionals.
Expert Patients Programme Courses look at a number of topics including:
- dealing with pain, sleep and extreme tiredness
- falls prevention
- appropriate exercise
- relaxation techniques and stress
- healthy eating
- communicating with family, friends and professionals
- planning for the future
The aim is to give people the confidence to take more responsibility to self-manage their health, while encouraging them to work collaboratively with health and social care professionals.
The Expert Patient Programme team run 6-8 courses a year, across the whole county, with the locality and dates depending on venues and availability of tutors. People with long term conditions are encouraged to self refer.
Courses are available throughout the year. For further information, please call 01579 373500 or mobile 07824 598626 or go to: https://www.cornwallft.nhs.uk/expert-patient-programme
Below are some links to other websites you may find helpful in regards to self management: