Living with arthritis: How do you stay active?

Posted by Justin McClanahan @JustinMcClanahan, Mar 9 11:15am

Let’s talk about trying to stay active while living with arthritis. More than 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis and it is the No. 1 cause of disability in the country. Arthritis can be painful and debilitating, preventing many who have it from being active or doing the things they once enjoyed. The changes in physical capabilities can also have an effect on mental health as well. If you have arthritis, what sort of activities have you had to give up and how has that affected you? Have you found ways to adapt your activities or found new ones?

Let’s start by introducing ourselves.

I’ll go first.

I saw this post from Mayo Clinic Radio, https://connect.mayoclinic.org/page/podcasts/newsfeed-post/living-with-arthritis/, and the topic hit home. I first developed arthritis when I was 8-years-old. I have a genetic bleeding disorder where my blood doesn’t clot on its own and can result in internal bleeding to joints and muscles. I had so many ‘bleeds’ in my right knee it ate away the cartilage and resulted in end-stage arthritis by the time I was 14. As a result, I also developed arthritis in both ankles from overcompensation (I've since replaced my right knee, fused my left ankle, and still have end-stage arthritis in my right ankle). I had to give up every sport I played by the time I was 12. It was at that age, I had to start learning to adapt my lifestyle to arthritis. Early on, I started playing golf to stay active in sports. It wasn’t until recently that I truly found the smartest, and most beneficial ways of adapting.

To stay active now, I lift weights (modified to reduce impact on bad joints), golf, cycle, and play sled hockey which is played sitting down using your upper body. Every day is a grind. Some days are great, and some days my ankle feels like it’s filled with knives. You learn to live with the physical pain, but some days the hardest thing to deal with is the mental fatigue of living with a chronic illness or injury. I’ve learned, one bad day of feeling down is OK, so long as you don’t let it become a week, month, or year.

@bonnieh218, @candrgonzalez, @jimhd, @cmartz, @trellg132, @mickeyb2,@jmb73 – Although the location of the arthritis discussed may be different, the difficult management of symptoms is often a similar experience.

How do other Connect members find ways to stay active while dealing with the ups and downs of arthritis? What struggles do you find the most difficult, and how do you overcome them?

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I think that arthritis became noticable within the last 20 years. Doctors have noted it in my neck, shoulders, hands, knees and feet – joints from head to toe. It's mainly been bothersome first in my neck, then in my hands. Turning my head while driving is moderately painful, and I have diminished range of motion. My left index finger started to hurt and is swollen and bent. I can't manipulate it like the other fingers and certain motions cause sharp pain. The thumb of my right hand has been getting increasingly painful, in the knuckle and lower joint, to the point that I had a cortisone injection a few months ago. The injection effected relief in most of my thumb, but it didn't reach all the way to the base.

I'm a pianist, and obviously I count on my hands. Arthritis pain, especially in my thumb, has made playing scales painful. The injection helped with that, but it didn't reach far enough down my thumb. The shot was extremely painful!!! I decided that arthritis would be really bad before I would submit to the cortisone torture again. The pain is now starting to return.

I think it's likely that daily practice keeps my fingers functional. I also take Meloxicam in the morning and rub Voltaren cream on the painful areas. That helps, but as the cortisone wears off, my piano playing will be limited by how much pain I can tolerate.

Other joints hurt less from spring to autumn because I don't spend as much time in my recliner. My yardwork is a 32+ hour work week, so I know that I keep the muscles stronger around my joints.

Neuropathy pain in my feet and ankles limits activities involving walking. If we lived in town, I would be at a gym, doing things that are low impact. I've been putting off fixing the flat tires on my bicycle because it's been so cold, but it's on my to do list, before the warm weather returns. Then I'll ride to the mailbox, just under a mile from the house.

I guess you can see that I love to procrastinate and hate exercising.

Jim

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@jimhd

I think that arthritis became noticable within the last 20 years. Doctors have noted it in my neck, shoulders, hands, knees and feet – joints from head to toe. It's mainly been bothersome first in my neck, then in my hands. Turning my head while driving is moderately painful, and I have diminished range of motion. My left index finger started to hurt and is swollen and bent. I can't manipulate it like the other fingers and certain motions cause sharp pain. The thumb of my right hand has been getting increasingly painful, in the knuckle and lower joint, to the point that I had a cortisone injection a few months ago. The injection effected relief in most of my thumb, but it didn't reach all the way to the base.

I'm a pianist, and obviously I count on my hands. Arthritis pain, especially in my thumb, has made playing scales painful. The injection helped with that, but it didn't reach far enough down my thumb. The shot was extremely painful!!! I decided that arthritis would be really bad before I would submit to the cortisone torture again. The pain is now starting to return.

I think it's likely that daily practice keeps my fingers functional. I also take Meloxicam in the morning and rub Voltaren cream on the painful areas. That helps, but as the cortisone wears off, my piano playing will be limited by how much pain I can tolerate.

Other joints hurt less from spring to autumn because I don't spend as much time in my recliner. My yardwork is a 32+ hour work week, so I know that I keep the muscles stronger around my joints.

Neuropathy pain in my feet and ankles limits activities involving walking. If we lived in town, I would be at a gym, doing things that are low impact. I've been putting off fixing the flat tires on my bicycle because it's been so cold, but it's on my to do list, before the warm weather returns. Then I'll ride to the mailbox, just under a mile from the house.

I guess you can see that I love to procrastinate and hate exercising.

Jim

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Hi! Migizii here…..the arthritis in my body is widespread but has only been really impacting me for about the past year, after breaking my foot (which set off the extreme arthritis I didn’t know about and had not been bothering me before the break). Eight months later it healed (osteoporosis delayed healing) and steroid injections to settle the pain later; walking a few blocks and going to a therapy pool have been what I’ve been able to accomplish, thus far. I also work full time which makes me pretty tired, so it’s hard to keep myself motivated.

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@jimhd

I think that arthritis became noticable within the last 20 years. Doctors have noted it in my neck, shoulders, hands, knees and feet – joints from head to toe. It's mainly been bothersome first in my neck, then in my hands. Turning my head while driving is moderately painful, and I have diminished range of motion. My left index finger started to hurt and is swollen and bent. I can't manipulate it like the other fingers and certain motions cause sharp pain. The thumb of my right hand has been getting increasingly painful, in the knuckle and lower joint, to the point that I had a cortisone injection a few months ago. The injection effected relief in most of my thumb, but it didn't reach all the way to the base.

I'm a pianist, and obviously I count on my hands. Arthritis pain, especially in my thumb, has made playing scales painful. The injection helped with that, but it didn't reach far enough down my thumb. The shot was extremely painful!!! I decided that arthritis would be really bad before I would submit to the cortisone torture again. The pain is now starting to return.

I think it's likely that daily practice keeps my fingers functional. I also take Meloxicam in the morning and rub Voltaren cream on the painful areas. That helps, but as the cortisone wears off, my piano playing will be limited by how much pain I can tolerate.

Other joints hurt less from spring to autumn because I don't spend as much time in my recliner. My yardwork is a 32+ hour work week, so I know that I keep the muscles stronger around my joints.

Neuropathy pain in my feet and ankles limits activities involving walking. If we lived in town, I would be at a gym, doing things that are low impact. I've been putting off fixing the flat tires on my bicycle because it's been so cold, but it's on my to do list, before the warm weather returns. Then I'll ride to the mailbox, just under a mile from the house.

I guess you can see that I love to procrastinate and hate exercising.

Jim

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@jimhd, 32+ hours a week of yard work is certainly no small feet. I grumble if I have to do more than 1-2! Battling weeds in landscaping is admittedly one my least favorite and most frustrating things to deal with. I wish I had learned to play the piano. I forgot to mention that around the time I started playing golf as an alternative, I also started playing electric guitar. Those two things were my saving grace in middle school and high school. I spent about 6 hours a day playing guitar from the ages of 14-18. I also agree on the biking, it's zero fun when it's cold. I often see the cyclists riding throughout the winter here in MN and can't help but think it has to be absolutely miserable.

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@migizii

Hi! Migizii here…..the arthritis in my body is widespread but has only been really impacting me for about the past year, after breaking my foot (which set off the extreme arthritis I didn’t know about and had not been bothering me before the break). Eight months later it healed (osteoporosis delayed healing) and steroid injections to settle the pain later; walking a few blocks and going to a therapy pool have been what I’ve been able to accomplish, thus far. I also work full time which makes me pretty tired, so it’s hard to keep myself motivated.

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@migizii, the pool was my savior when I rehabbed from my ankle fusion. The combination of being low impact and the cool water on my swollen joint was the perfect combo to ease back in to being active. I need to make myself go to the pool more often because of how good it feels on all of my bad joints. Understandably, life will give us obstacles, but anything is always a good start.

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@jimhd

I think that arthritis became noticable within the last 20 years. Doctors have noted it in my neck, shoulders, hands, knees and feet – joints from head to toe. It's mainly been bothersome first in my neck, then in my hands. Turning my head while driving is moderately painful, and I have diminished range of motion. My left index finger started to hurt and is swollen and bent. I can't manipulate it like the other fingers and certain motions cause sharp pain. The thumb of my right hand has been getting increasingly painful, in the knuckle and lower joint, to the point that I had a cortisone injection a few months ago. The injection effected relief in most of my thumb, but it didn't reach all the way to the base.

I'm a pianist, and obviously I count on my hands. Arthritis pain, especially in my thumb, has made playing scales painful. The injection helped with that, but it didn't reach far enough down my thumb. The shot was extremely painful!!! I decided that arthritis would be really bad before I would submit to the cortisone torture again. The pain is now starting to return.

I think it's likely that daily practice keeps my fingers functional. I also take Meloxicam in the morning and rub Voltaren cream on the painful areas. That helps, but as the cortisone wears off, my piano playing will be limited by how much pain I can tolerate.

Other joints hurt less from spring to autumn because I don't spend as much time in my recliner. My yardwork is a 32+ hour work week, so I know that I keep the muscles stronger around my joints.

Neuropathy pain in my feet and ankles limits activities involving walking. If we lived in town, I would be at a gym, doing things that are low impact. I've been putting off fixing the flat tires on my bicycle because it's been so cold, but it's on my to do list, before the warm weather returns. Then I'll ride to the mailbox, just under a mile from the house.

I guess you can see that I love to procrastinate and hate exercising.

Jim

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@jimhd Having arthritis to some degree in multiple areas must make doing many things very difficult. I am sure you are right, playing the piano has probably helped to keep your fingers more functional than they would be without that. I have had cortisone shots in my knees and hips and they were not painful, but I think hands are more sensitive.

I too am a great procrastinator, and unfortunately, I must have passed that on to my son and daughter. When my son was in HS he wrote a paper about procrastination, finishing it by saying, that yes he did write it at the last minute! He is a big fitness nut but even he says no one likes going to the gym, it just has to be done. I dread it every time but when I am done I give myself a pat on the back.

@migizii An injury really can set off a problem in a different area. When I had a fractured femur this past summer it affected my knee terribly. I am finally back to being able to walk up and down the stairs with both feet, not just one. My hip took longer to heal due to my osteoporosis also I think. It was minimally displaced but it took about 5 months. They expected it to take about 3 months to heal completely.

@JustinMcClanahan The pool really does help so much. I alternate gym days and pool days. After a gym day my legs are really aching and sore but then exercising in the pool the next day helps, even though I exercise in there vigorously. I did the pool this morning and my legs are really tired but not aching as they were before.
JK

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@JustinMcClanahan

@jimhd, 32+ hours a week of yard work is certainly no small feet. I grumble if I have to do more than 1-2! Battling weeds in landscaping is admittedly one my least favorite and most frustrating things to deal with. I wish I had learned to play the piano. I forgot to mention that around the time I started playing golf as an alternative, I also started playing electric guitar. Those two things were my saving grace in middle school and high school. I spent about 6 hours a day playing guitar from the ages of 14-18. I also agree on the biking, it's zero fun when it's cold. I often see the cyclists riding throughout the winter here in MN and can't help but think it has to be absolutely miserable.

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@JustinMcClanahan

I delivered newspapers in upstate New York on my bike. I was in better shape then, maybe more so in the winter, with a couple of feet of snow on the ground and slush on the road. I remember biking across untouched fields in the snow. Not that I enjoyed it.

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Hi. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis (neck, knee, elbow, wrist, low back and feet) and any exercise or physical therapy was too much for me. Now I am doing Chair Yoga and is helping me a lot. I started about 2 weeks ago (3-4 times a week) and I feel it is helping. I joined a group in my community and we have lots of fun.

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Hello, I have end-stage arthritis at 27 on my knee from an old injury that slowly wore away the cartilage. By the time it was diagnosed, it was too late. I'm trying hard to stay active with anything I can….from jogging to yoga to weight lifting. I'm also hoping weight loss can lessen the pain. That said, surgery is looking more like a better option every day. Just not sure when I can work up the courage to do it.

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I have two knees and two hips replaced. Without those operations, I'd be unable to do much. My main exercise is just walking which I try to do every day. I used to go occasionally to the health club, but now in this period of the Corona virus, I've been just walking outside. I got a Fitbit so I can see how I'm doing each day. That does help to motivate. My problem will be when the hot and humid weather comes. Living in the south, I find the summer weather keeps me inside most of the time as I can't tolerate the heat. I'm hoping the heat will lower the virus risk and I can return to the treadmill at my health club, but that's still unknown. I also do occasional light weight lifting for my arthritic shoulders.

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Hello- I am 64 years old, and have only been plagued with this for about a year, so I guess I should consider myself lucky. Having said that , is arthritis just something you have to endure? Is there no long term relief? I really wanted to say cure, but decided against it.

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Sorry to read of your situation. There is no cure but many ways to help yourself. For me it has been surgery, weight loss, physical therapy exercise, and a good orthopedist. That has provided for me, short term, and hopefully long term relief. As I don't know your personal story, I can't offer any other suggestions. I do know, healing is a process and it takes time. Getting as much information as you can about your specific condition is a good start. Good luck.

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@michael6822

Hello- I am 64 years old, and have only been plagued with this for about a year, so I guess I should consider myself lucky. Having said that , is arthritis just something you have to endure? Is there no long term relief? I really wanted to say cure, but decided against it.

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Good afternoon @michael6822, Welcome to Connect. I am glad that you chose to post about the issues you currently are facing. To start this journey on Connect, I am going to ask that you spend about 19 minutes watching this video created at Mayo Clinic just a couple of weeks ago by Dr. John Davis.

It will update you on the changes in arthritis symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments.
I know that if we don't have some form of arthritis at this age, it will be coming our way soon. I would like to gather a couple of members who have taken a stab at controlling the pain and discomfort while you are watching the video. Check back in with any questions or what I call "wonderments".
https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-mnet-001&hsimp=yhs-001&hspart=mnet&p=mayo+clinic+arthritis#id=1&vid=13fb9a61890b045d5edfc9b0efe45759&action=click
May you be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.
Chris

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@trayus

Hello, I have end-stage arthritis at 27 on my knee from an old injury that slowly wore away the cartilage. By the time it was diagnosed, it was too late. I'm trying hard to stay active with anything I can….from jogging to yoga to weight lifting. I'm also hoping weight loss can lessen the pain. That said, surgery is looking more like a better option every day. Just not sure when I can work up the courage to do it.

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Good afternoon @trayus, At 27 you are very young to be considering knee surgery. You say that an injury wore away the cartilage. Would you please explain a bit more about the injury. How old were you? What tests were run? You say it was too late……too late to do what? I am struggling to wrap my arms around what you are trying to convey.

What kind of surgery are you considering……a (Total Knee Replacement TKR)? We have lots of feedback from members about that surgery. Why are you concerned about "courage"? You may want to ask your clinician how long you can wait and still get the best outcome from the recommended surgery.

And you know, the success of a TKR is a lot about good preparation and patient rehabilitation. Here is a discussion that was introduced a few weeks ago. Maybe you will find it helpful.
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/what-can-you-do-to-extend-the-life-of-your-tkr-and-mobility/
Be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.
Chris

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