4 Tips on Conserving Energy with Arthritis

By Orla Tiernan

Movement and exercise are important in managing arthritis, but striking the BALANCE Imagebetween rest and activity is the key. Sometimes when feeling tired or during a flare up it may be necessary to avoid or modify some everyday activities which can increase stress on joints, leading to pain and fatigue.

How can energy conservation help you?

Energy conservation involves taking a look at the methods and routines you have developed and deciding how you can better perform some everyday tasks.

Here are some practical ideas for applying energy conservation to your life:

1. Plan ahead 

The full day’s activities should be carefully planned to balance periods of rest with periods of work and to alternate active jobs with quiet ones.Rest is important to give your body time to repair itself, and improve your overall endurance.  It is important to save energy for essential tasks or that you enjoy doing.

Ask yourself…….

  • Is this task really necessary?
  • Is this the best way to do the task?
  • Is this the best time to do the task?
  • Am I the best person for the job?

Image2. Organise storage 

Everyday supplies and equipment should be stored within easy reach of where they are used and placed in the best position to grasp. This may mean reorganising the kitchen cupboards so the items you use most often are the closest and plates are not stacked on top of each other. Utensils can be hung within easy reach, your food processor and other appliances may be able to be kept on the worktop.

 3. Sit when possible 

Arrange work areas within easy reach of a stool. Reaching and bending uses energy and often can strain joints and give pain if the position is not comfortable.

 4. Choose the right equipment 

Select proper equipment and keep it in good condition. Energy is conserved if the tools fit the job and are in good repair. Use electrical appliances if possible; these may include clothes dryers, self-defrosting fridges, microwave ovens, electric can openers and electric beaters, long-handled dustpans.

If in doubt apply the 4 P’s to each day:

 

Pace Yourself

Activity-rest-activity. Work at a steady pace.

Prioritise

Set tasks in priority each day. Remember “the urgent” may not be “the necessary”.

Plan

Set priorities and pace yourself by planning – rest periods or light activities to follow heavier activities. 

Posture

Poor posture will increase fatigue

Orla Tiernan is Arthritis Ireland’s Community Manager. You can contact her at otiernan@arthritisireland.ie

 

8 Tips on Coping with Negative Emotions with Arthritis

Although arthritis can be only diagnosed thrCoping with Emotionsough the identification of physical symptoms like joint degeneration, there are a host of mental symptoms associated with it which can be just – and often more – difficult to deal with.

Just because two people have the same condition does not mean they will experience it in the same way. This is especially true on the emotional side of living with arthritis.

A recent survey by Arthritis Ireland found that the impact of arthritis on the emotional well-being of Irish people is significant, reducing their ability to participate in social activities, causing sadness and depression and ultimately leading to social isolation.

In response to this we have developed the Coping with Emotions information booklet and we also have our National Helpline which is available to anyone seeking support or information. Below are eight tips (taken from our booklet) on coping with negative emotions such as anxiety or depression.

1. Positive Mental Attitude

The first step in dealing with both the physical and emotional effects of arthritis is having a positive attitude as much as possible. It won’t always be easy. However, it is essential in managing your condition effectively that you are optimistic and positive about yourself, your future and your arthritis. It is important to remember that this is your condition and you control a lot of its effects.

2. Laughter

Laughing is a great way of making yourself feel better. When we laugh, feel-good chemicals are released in the brain, and these chemicals block pain and help us feel better. It’s not always easy to laugh or to keep a happy demeanour. You could keep a stack of comedy DVDs or books handy – anything that helps you see the funny side of things and lightens your mood.

3. Exercise

Regular exercise serves to benefit both the body and the mind. It is a good idea to develop an exercise programme with a doctor/friend or family member that is appropriate to your lifestyle. Regular exercise will serve to relieve stiffness, maintain or restore flexibility and improve your overall sense of well-being. Exercising is often more enjoyable when done with a family member or friend and they can also serve as your motivator when you may not be feeling up to it! Remember that Arthritis Ireland has a dedicated resource on exercise at www.arthritisandexercise.ie.

4. Massage

Massage can help relax the muscles and improve their condition by increasing the blood flow. This can provide temporary relief from localised pain. You could ask a partner/friend for a massage or go for a professional therapeutic message. Remember to get the approval of your health professional before you get any massage, as each person experiences their arthritis in a different way and the effect that massage has on them is different.

5. Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep restores your energy and improves your ability to manage your pain both physically and emotionally. It is important that both your bed and pillow are supportive to ensure your body is benefiting fully from the rest. Often a brief nap may be all you need to replenish your energy levels and rest your joints and mind.

6. Relaxation

Learning to relax your body and mind properly is essential in managing your pain with arthritis. When we are tense, our muscles compress our joints and as a result they hurt and the joints are painful. Developing the ability to relax can help you reverse these effects. Some of the more effective ways of relaxing may include deep breathing, meditation, walking or swimming. Everyone has different methods of winding down but it is particularly important for anyone affected by arthritis to find an outlet that will allow both their body and mind to rest regularly.

7. Treating Yourself 

Giving yourself the “feel good” factor is important for all of us but especially so when we may be feeling dragged down emotionally by our arthritis. When feeling low, it is important to remember you owe it to yourself to pick yourself up and do something kind for yourself. This might just mean sleeping for an extra hour or visiting a friend. The list is endless and so are the benefits!!

8. Asking for Help

Often people don’t know what they can or should do to support someone with arthritis, so it’s up to you to let them know and to discuss it openly with them. You could consider giving them some of Arthritis Ireland’s information leaflets, which contain information and advice on living with various forms of arthritis.

Sometimes it helps to talk to someone you don’t know. Arthritis Ireland’s helpline is manned by people who are living with arthritis and is the first of its kind in Ireland, providing vital emotional and practical support and information to people affected by arthritis.

For more tips on dealing with the mental impact of arthritis download our Coping with Emotions booklet. If you are looking for information or seeking support, call our helpline and speak to one of our volunteers on locall 1890 252846.

11 Tips on Taking Drugs and Medication with Arthritis

Taking medication on a daily or weekly basis is a reality for most people with arthritis to control arthritis pain and inflammation. But with such a wide array of options available, finding the right combinations of treatments that work for you can be tricky.

arthritis treatments

11 Tips on Taking Drugs and Medication with Arthritis

Understanding what each individual type of  arthritis drug does and what side-effects it can cause is no mean feat either. However there are a number of steps you can follow to help ensure you are taking medication safely.

Many people have their own safety checklists that they consult when they discover a new drug or treatment. At Arthritis Ireland, we have drawn up a checklist of our own based on the thoughts and advice of both healthcare professionals and people living with arthritis.

1. Take time to discuss possible side effects of your medication with your doctor – it will help you weigh up the risks and benefits of a treatment.
2. Keep a list of all the drugs you are taking. Let your doctor or pharmacist see this before you start on any new treatment – even ‘over-the-counter’ medicines including vitamins, creams, gels and rubs etc.
3. Some drugs affect your immune system and can leave you prone to infection. So it is important to report any new symptoms to your doctor without delay.
4. Expect to have your blood and urine tested regularly, before and during your treatment. Other tests such as chest X-rays may also be needed.
5. Follow the instructions for taking your medication – keeping to the correct dose and times, and noting whether your tablets are best taken with or without food.
6. Always read the leaflet enclosed with medicines carefully.
7. Some drugs used by people with arthritis can affect fertility in men and women, and be harmful if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Always check with your doctor first.
8. With some drugs you may need to avoid alcohol or reduce your intake. Ask your doctor for advice.
9. If you miss a dose, don’t try to catch up by taking more next time. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what you should do.
10. Immunisation against flu and pneumonia is recommended for everyone taking immunosuppressants, anti-TNFs and steroid tablets. Immunisations involving live vaccines
such as polio and rubella should be avoided. Ask your doctor for more information.
11. Remember, if one drug doesn’t work for you, or you get severe side effects, this won’t necessarily happen with them all. Ask for regular medication reviews, persevere and work with your doctor to find a treatment that suits you.

For more information on drugs and treatments, including information specific to NSAIDS, DMARDS and Biologics, download the Arthritis Ireland Drugs and Complementary Therapies information booklet.

8 Top Tips on Managing Arthritis Pain

Image

8 Top Tips on Managing Arthritis Pain

Pain is part of daily life for many people living with arthritis but there are a number techniques that you can practice to control your own joint pain.

Different types of pain management work for different people – everyone is unique. Arming yourself with information is the first step along the road to pain control and living life with arthritis to the full.

Below are Arthritis Ireland’s eight top tips for creating a pain management plan. For a full guide to how to better manage arthritis or joint pain, download our Coping with Pain information booklet.

  1. Note down when is the most effective time for you to take your medication. Be aware of how your body responds to painkillers and take all medication appropriately, in accordance with your doctor’s advice.
  2. Make a note of whether heat, cold or massage helps, and how often you try them.
  3. Make space in your day for rest. Take notice of when your body responds well to rest, and to the resting of specific joints in splints, and develop a positive rest routine.
  4. Make a note of the things that help you feel relaxed and calm, and in control of your pain. Try to practice those techniques which you find suit you best.
  5. Develop techniques for conjuring up restful, pleasant images and memories.
  6. Work on having a generally healthy lifestyle to improve your sense of overall wellbeing.
  7. Make a plan to do aerobic, strengthening and range of movement exercise.
  8. Make a list of questions to put to healthcare professionals concerning your treatment programme and pain management. Be firm in asking these questions and persist until you are happy with the answers.

For more information on how you can better manage the pain of arthritis or fibromyalgia download our Coping with Pain information booklet.

Our Helpline & the advice it should never give, according to Maeve Binchy

Have you called our Helpline?  Did you know Arthritis Ireland has a Helpline?

Arthritis Ireland advocate Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy

Our Helpline was started in 2009 and has gone from strength to strength.  We started with a core group of 10 volunteers and we now have 27 dedicated volunteers. This is a confidential service and all of our volunteers are living with arthritis.  We are proud to have such a wide range of ages on our Helpline – our youngest volunteer is 23 and our oldest is ……70+ and of course all the ages in between!  All our volunteers are living with different types of arthritis and while they do not consider themselves to be experts, they certainly have the experience of living with arthritis and all the challenges that that brings on a daily basis.  Our volunteers are continuously updating themselves on all matters arthritis and keeping themselves informed of any new developments.

So who is our Helpline for?

Our Helpline is for anyone living with arthritis, whether newly diagnosed or living with arthritis for many years.

Perhaps you have read something in the paper which you would like to know more about?

Maybe you are completely up to date with your arthritis but would like some emotional support around living with the condition?

Maybe you are caring for someone with arthritis and would like some support with that?

Perhaps you are looking for information on courses and events being run by Arthritis Ireland in your area?

The late Maeve Binchy was a great advocate of our Helpline.  As part of the Helpline launch in 2009 she wrote about the 10 things you should never say to someone with arthritis.  Here are some of the things she wrote – we guarantee not to use these phrases on the Helpline!

  1. ‘Cheer up, nobody ever died of Arthritis’
  2. ‘It is just a sign of old age, it will come to us all’
  3. ‘A touch of Arthritis’
  4. ‘The walking stick is very aging – I wouldn’t use it if I was you’

Maeve finished her article by saying ‘Don’t ever say, sadly, how tragic it is that nothing has been done for poor arthritis sufferers.  Plenty is being done.  Just contact Arthritis Ireland Helpline.  Then you will have an idea of how much is happening and you can be a true and informed friend rather than a false and frightening one.’

We are here to listen and to help so please give our Helpline a call on locall 1890 252 846.

Fiona Keegan is Arthritis Ireland’s Helpline Coordinator.

10 Tips on Working with Arthritis

Working with Arthritis, Parenting with Arthritis

Young Arthritis Seminars

We have all heard the well-known adage that work is good for your health, but when you have a musculoskeletal disorder, like arthritis, it does not always ring true.

Whether your job is physically demanding or you are sitting at a desk all day, work can have an adverse effect on your joints and posture. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce the strain your body is under at work.

Arthritis Ireland is running a number of Young Arthritis Seminars around the country for young people (aged 18-40) living with arthritis, which will focus on the topics of pregnancy and parenting with arthritis and working with arthritis.

The second of a two part series on the new Arthritis Ireland Blog will focus on working with arthritis with 10 key things to keep in mind in the office.

  1. Plan and prioritise tasks, completing most important first. Pacing yourself throughout the day will conserve your energy, reducing pain and fatigue.
  2. Stop before you get tired. Bad habits creep in when a person is tired and not concentrating.
  3. Leave working splints in your drawer and use when needed. They will assist in relieving pain and increasing strength of joints.
  4. Adapt your work station for your individual needs. Using ergonomic keyboards, mouse, chair and desk will reduce strain on your body.
  5. Avoid prolonged standing or sitting positions to minimize muscle stiffness, pain and fatigue. Use a timer on your phone to remind you to change position.
  6. Complete stretching exercises when seating such as ankle rotations, wrist rotations and shoulder rotations, circle the joint in one direction for several seconds, and then change direction
  7. Utilise heat e.g. hot water bottle or ice packs to reduce pain and inflammation.
  8. Discuss options for flexibility in work schedules and tasks with your employer to allow you to plan for changes in function that come with an arthritis flare up e.g. if you find the mornings difficult explore possibility of working flexitime.
  9. Explore the possibility of adapting your role, cutting down on tasks you find most difficult or transferring to a different role within your workplace.
  10. Utilise peer support e.g. discuss matters with your line manager, occupational health specialist and other young people with arthritis through the Young Arthritis Network!

The Young Arthritis Seminars will feature expert speakers, including rheumatologists, clinical nurse specialists, occupational therapists and patients, who will focus on pregnancy and parenting with arthritis (click here to read 10 tips on parenting blog post) and working with arthritis.

The events will take place in:

  • Athlone: Sheraton Hotel, Saturday 19th January, 11am.
  • Dublin: The Gresham Hotel, Sunday 20th January, 11am.
  • Cork: Maldron Hotel, Saturday 2nd February, 11am.

Admission is free. Click here for more information or contact Laura Hickey on (01)6470208 or email lhickey@arthritisireland.ie.

Fibrofella’s 2013 Resolutions

fibromyalgia patient

Peter Boyd, Fibrofella

Did you enjoy it? Did you even notice it was going on? I paid it no heed and was much the happier for it. 2012 came like a tonne of bricks and shattered my life to pieces but thankfully it disappeared with a whimper. Fear not that there is a ’13’ in this year, it can’t be worse than 2012 so if I have anything to do with it, 2013 is going to be a blast!

I wished my family a Happy New Year very early on December 31st. It was going to be an early night for me and I didn’t want to be disturbed by too many messages come the midnight hour. As I lay in bed, and just before I slipped off to sleep, I performed a little state of the nation chat with myself. I was always told ‘that it’s no problem talking to yourself, it’s only when you are answering back that you should start to worry’. Well I’m definitely gone over to the dark side, because not only did I answer back but I was having this discussion with myself out loud.

The first fella was very loud and domineering. He shouted and roared a long list of everything that went wrong in 2012. Things he did, things he should have done, things he shouldn’t and people who had upset or offended him throughout the year.

The second fella was a lot more timid. He kept trying to answer but couldn’t find a gap in Himself’s stream of consciousness. Like the young lad in school who has to hold one arm in the air with his other hand because the teacher hasn’t got to him yet.

Item after item, awful moments of new diagnoses followed by horrible incidents, things that went wrong and not forgetting the four mornings in a row Himself walked into his kitchen wall. The wall never moved but unfortunately spatial awareness, concentration and alertness are never good first thing in the morning.

Eventually, Himself paused for breath and He had some time for rebuttal. He agreed that, yes 2012 was an Annus Horribilis but in amongst it there had been some small flickers of light and even a little happiness.

He has learned about fibromyalgia and how to manage some symptoms. He volunteers and meets people who not only understand what He is going through but also show how to live better with any illness or symptoms that raise their heads. His family feel even closer to him than before and He thinks fibro has helped. The emotional rollercoaster He is on, and the depression He is suffering from so badly now, means He talks about his emotions more with his loved ones. As a result the rest of the family do the same and the bonds are much tighter for it.

New Year is traditionally a time for resolutions but as 2012 drew to a close in bed at 10pm both He and Himself finally agreed on something. Since very few people actually stick to their resolutions, they’ve decided to go for an easy and achievable resolution. In fact they’ve already succeeded in achieving it and as a result it won’t be too hard to stick to it for the long haul.

Before I go to bed each night, I have a quick recap of my day. Both He and Himself get a chance to speak and say their piece. Himself still hollers and roars about all the bad bits of the day and all the things left undone but, once that’s done, He gets a chance to talk too. He lowers his tired arm as teacher finally gives the nod so He can begin.

He says slowly and quietly, ‘well done fella, you did some great stretching this morning before you had your breakfast. Now isn’t that one small success a much better thought to try to fall asleep on?’, and even Himself cannot argue with that.

New Year resolutions don’t have to be massive or difficult. Simple and achievable goals are much better and give just as big a sense of accomplishment. Good luck with whatever resolutions you decide upon, and from both He and Himself, may we wish you a Happy (and pain-free) 2013!

Peter Boyd is a helpline volunteer and self-management leader. Follow his blog, Fibrofella, to read more of his posts. If you would like to contribute to the Arthritis Ireland blog then please email communications@arthritisireland.ie with your topic suggestions.