10 Commandments for Living Well with Arthritis

NRAS thought that these ’10 Commandments for Living Well with Arthritis’, which are on the Canadian Organisation website About.com, were useful goals to make you aware of and so are happy to share them with you here:

Arthritis is a chronic disease. Simply put, there is no cure for most types of arthritis. You can expect to have the disease for the rest of your life. Learning how to best manage arthritis is essential.

When first diagnosed, people with arthritis often feel discouraged and wonder how they can possibly live with pain every day. Fact is, it takes time to find the best combination of medications, treatments, and lifestyle modifications that will allow you to cope with pain and live well with arthritis.

The best combination is not exactly the same for every person with arthritis. But, there are 10 things every arthritis patient should do to ensure they are living their best possible life despite having arthritis. I call these the 10 Commandments for Living Well With Arthritis.

1 - Pay Attention to Early Symptoms or Increasing Symptoms

When you experience the first symptoms of arthritis, you will just want to wish it away. But, you should not delay having your symptoms evaluated by a doctor. Permanent joint damage may be the consequence of waiting too long to see a doctor or going without treatment. Early treatment offers the best chance for slowing disease progression. Even if you are not new to arthritis and have had the disease for some time, pay attention to worsening symptoms which may indicate that a treatment change should be considered.

2 - Have a Doctor-Patient Relationship You Can Rely On

I don't really know anyone who enjoys going to the doctor. Yet, if you have a chronic disease, such as arthritis, your relationship with your doctor is very important.

It is as important as any other relationship you have because your well-being depends on it. You must be able to rely on your doctor, communicate with your doctor, and trust their guidance and advice.

3 - Be a Compliant Patient

While it is important for you to trust your doctor's advice and recommendations, your doctor must be able to trust that you will be compliant with the treatment plan. Skipping your medications, cancelling appointments without rescheduling, or withholding important information from your doctor are not options. You must be a compliant patient. There can be no shortcuts or non-disclosure.

4 - Pay Attention to Your Diet

It is a physical challenge to live with chronic pain. Increased fatigue and energy depletion are among the consequences. You should eat a healthful diet to give your body every advantage and restore your energy. Consider reducing pro-inflammatory foods and including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. Avoid foods that you suspect trigger flares.

5 - Maintain Your Ideal Weight

Carrying excess weight burdens the joints. The added stress on joints can increase pain. To maintain your ideal weight, watch your calorie intake. If you are overweight or obese, cut daily calories by 500 to lose weight. You should participate in regular physical activity to burn calories as well. It is a common misconception among people with arthritis that they can't do enough to affect their weight. Even small changes are significant. Researchers have determined that for each pound lost, there is a 4-fold reduction in loading forces on your knee as you take a step.

6 - Exercise Regularly

Several years ago, a national survey revealed that over one-third of arthritis patients get no exercise. Many of those people perceive exercise as something they just can't do. Many people also believe that exercise will exacerbate their arthritis symptoms. In reality, exercise helps maintain joint function, bone strength and muscle strength. Exercise improves sleep and mood. It also helps with weight management. Any movement is better than no movement. Set realistic goals and build on those goals at a pace that is appropriate for you.

7 - Get Sufficient Rest and Sleep

While you are encouraged to exercise regularly and to keep moving, you should realize that rest is necessary, too. Resting a painful joint can relieve pain. Your body requires periods of rest in order to recuperate. Prolonged periods of rest can work against you, though, and can actually promote pain and weakness. Just as overdoing activity can increase pain and worsen symptoms, too much rest can have the same effect. Strive for a balance between rest and activity. Also, be aware of good sleep habits. Achieving a pattern of sufficient, uninterrupted sleep each night is another important goal.

8 - Don't Feel Sorry for Yourself

No one would blame you for feeling sorry for yourself once in a while. We all do it on occasion for reasons other than having a chronic disease. But, self-pity must be short-lived and not be allowed to become a way of life. It will not serve you well to dwell on "why me" or "I can't". Realize that every person is faced with challenges, and this is yours. If you find yourself stuck in self-pity mode for too long, make adjustments or consider asking for help.

9 - Improve Your Environment at Home and Work

It is important for you to make your environment at home and work accessible and comfortable. This may seem obvious, yet it is often overlooked. Simple changes, such as swapping out a chair for one that makes it easier to go from sit to stand, organizing shelves to keep frequently used items easy to reach, getting a supportive mattress, or purchasing other ergonomic equipment or assistive devices, can make a big difference. Adjustments and adaptations to your environment may help protect your joints and help reduce pain.

10 - Reinforce Your Positive Attitude

A positive attitude can carry you through your most difficult times. Do what you can to minimize stress and to avoid negativity. Discover what promotes positivity for you. It will not be the same for everyone. It may be church, music, nature, or something else entirely. When you discover what fuels your positivity, make sure you get enough of it. Cling to those experiences.

14 Replies

  • Would make a refreshing change if health professionals could be made to comply with 1& 2.

    Feeling cynical today!

  • Exactly. I was diagnosed with are a over 10 years ago I was lucky the symptoms seemed to have been kept in check, but this year I started developing a problem with my right knee which affects how long and how far I can walk.

    I live in the UK it took me two weeks to get a GP appointment. A further two weeks to get a rheumatologist appointment. A further month to have an MRI a scan. And now three weeks waiting for the outcome. All the while the knee is not getting better.

    Joined up thinking? Think not!

  • While I'm at it....the same goes for parts of 3!

  • I seem to be in an 'and another thing' kind of a mood today and these 10 Commandments have been niggling away at me since I first read them earlier on.....so I'm just going to go for it.

    Although much of what is in them is valid, the general tone is patronising in the extreme. Personally, I choose to 'manage' my arthritis. This may not be everyone's choice but the idea of 'living with' the beastie is far too accommodating for me. It shoved its way into my life without so much as a by-your-leave and I refuse to decide to allow it room. Additionally, there is a glaring omission which should probably be the only arthritis commandment there is - 'educate yourself about the disease and your treatment'. If you do this, you will be able to make well informed choices about whether or not to take meds, whether/how to exercise, what your diet should be etc, etc. All of these things are actually the arthritis sufferer's choice.....not commandments to be handed down from on high. If you are educated about your disease, you will have a concept of the consequences of your decisions, rather than someone who follows blindly, with no understanding.

    The most dangerous 'commandment' above is number 3 'Be a Compliant Patient'. Dumb compliance helps no one and can actually be rather dangerous for the patient who blindly swallows the antibiotic they are allergic to or the NSAID they shouldn't take because they have stomach issues, because the doctor has prescribed it and it is their role to merely comply. This view of the patient was already going out of fashion when I started nursing training in the 1980s. Perhaps Canada lags somewhat behind.

    I would also take issue with the 'commandments' failure to recognise the financial impact that arthritis can have on people and their ability to manage their disease. The good diet and assistive devices we are advised to equip ourselves with cost money that at least some of us don't have because the disease has decimated our earning potential. Yes, there are NHS OT departments but they have waiting lists and budgetary constraints just like every other part of the NHS.

    Inflammatory arthritis doesn't follow rules. People who have it need to be equipped with the knowledge and the appropriate support to manage it flexibly because prescriptive, nannyish rules alone just won't cut the mustard. You could do every d*** thing on that list in the most exemplary fashion and still not find yourself 'living well' with arthritis.

    There, I said it!

  • I like your words of wisdom especially your concepts of working in collaboration with the medical profession rather than passively to manage RD and Educating ourselves but with bona fida internet sources and researching using good evidence based sources. I think you should start a rewrite of the Ten Commandments for the NRAS forum members. Here's a start

    1. Learn to understand your body:

    Consider keeping a diary of your symptoms, including phtographic evidence, e.g lumps, bumps, rashes, swellings, and anything that is worrying you, etc. This can be used for your GP and clinic appointments. Enlist the help of family, friends to monitor your condition, progress and/or change in physical and mental wellbeing as they may notice changes before you do (they are not in denial or stoic mode). Listen to your family and friends' concerns and act on these (do not ignore).

    2. Be knowledgable about RD and it's treatment:

    Surf good quality websites, talk to others with RD through RD arranged meeting groups or through a good online forum (you can do this anonymously). Keep a diary of symptoms and side effects when you start treatment, medication is increased or changed. The time between clinic appointments means that you may forget to mention problems or symptoms.

    Other possible topics to add to the list: educating work colleagues, learning to pace yourself, building your emotional and mental wellbeing. Brain fog preventing anymore creativity at moment but it would be good if other forum members added their ideas to the list. look forward to hearing more realistic and helpful 'commandments' and I would be happy to collate a final list.

  • Excellent idea!

  • I would add "don't be fobbed off with substandard treatment, educate yourself on RA and its treatment and don't be afraid to ask for what you think you might need."

  • Great advice, thanks. Xx

  • Thank you Emma! I think these are important points to keep in mind, for me especially number 7!! :D xx

  • Livingston......that was brilliant!! You said everything I wanted to.....if only my stupid fingers would let me 😊

  • I normally just internalise & seethe quietly but I know it's not good for me :)

  • Thanks this is a great list :)

  • Hi all

    Good to see that the 'About.com' list has sparked some debate. It's not easy getting a list that everyone would agree on and of course this is a Canadian site, so some in the UK may find that the style/content don't match with their experiences.

    I wonder if you've seen a document we put together some time ago, called '10 Healthcare Essentials' which we have aimed at/given out to patients and healthcare professionals alike. The idea behind it was to try to summarise the level of care that people with RA should be getting. It's not quite the same type of document as the About.com one, but might be of interest for you and/or your healthcare team to read:


    Kind regards


    (NRAS Helpline)

  • Now that's a list of 10 things I like an awful lot better. :D

    If only even half of it happened. :/

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