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

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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.

Sunshine Reduces Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis by a Fifth

Good news for sun worshipers! if you can find any sun to worship. A new study has found sunshine cuts rheumatoid arthritis riskthat spending time in the sunlight can reduce a woman’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

Based on data from the Nurses’ Health Study, new research involving more than 200,000 women found that bathing in the sun can cut the risk of rheumatoid arthritis my more than 20%.

However, it is worth remembering that overexposure to UV rays do still damage the skin and trigger skin cancer.

Scientists took into account where the women lived to work out their likely sunlight intake, considering latitude, altitude and cloud cover.

A total of 1,314 women developed rheumatoid arthritis during the 30-year study period .But women with the highest levels of exposure to the sun were 21pc less likely to develop the disease.

It is worth noting that evidence of the reduced risk was only found in older women who enrolled at the beginning of the study in the 1970s. Researchers pointed out that this could be due to the fact that sun creams which block UV rays were not around when the women were in her youth.

“This adds to the growing evidence that exposure to UV-B light is associated with decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis,” Dr Elizabeth Arkema of Harvard School of Public Health wrote.

Click here to find out more about ‘Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis’ by downloading our information booklet.

Source: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/health/sunshine-may-reduce-risk-of-arthritis-in-women-16270187.html#ixzz2K2Pyr2CO

Making the Most of my Doctor’s Appointment

We’ve all heard that it is important we play an active part in our healthcare treatment but Imagewhat exactly does that mean? Here are some of the things that I try to keep in mind when visiting my rheumatologist or physio.

1. Prepare: Before my appointment, I write down questions, items to discuss, and any changes in my condition so I can make the best use of my time with my doctor.

2. Questions: Unless I’m 100% clear on what my doctor is saying, I will ask for more of an explanation. I find that seeing x-rays or using diagrams can often help.

3. Bring a family member or a friend: Not something I have done in a while but it can make the experience of visiting the doctor less daunting. Moral support is always nice as is having someone to help you get around!

4. Describing pain and symptoms:  I find it useful to think of how I am going to describe the pain and symptoms I’m experiencing in advance so I can give an accurate description during my appointment: Where are my symptoms? How much does it hurt? When did the stiffness start? Have things changed over time?

5. Recording major events: I try to jot down anything that I think might be significant in relation to my arthritis since my last visit. For example, if I’ve been having trouble with my neck at work, I will record this at the time and tell my doctor when I visit.

6. Scaling my pain: I find it useful to give the level of pain I have been feeling a number based on a scale: 1 representing no pain at all and 10 the worst pain possible. The doctor sees this as a helpful way to track my pain levels.

7. Prioritise: During my appointments I try to ask the top things that are concerning me at the beginning rather than the end. This means that if we run out of time, I will still have had the most important things covered.

8. Write down: If I’m worried that I will forget something my doctor advises, I will ask him to write it down for me so I don’t have to be concerned about not remembering some important information or detail.

9. Keep a diary: Keeping track of all of my medication, treatments, symptoms and pain levels can be very useful over time as I start to spot trends emerging. I keep track of my overall health, not just arthritis-related symptoms so I get an accurate general picture. At Arthritis Ireland we have developed ‘My Health Organiser which is a handy place to store all of that information. There are also a number of mobile apps available that you can download for your phone.

For more tips on making the most of medical appointments check out ‘Let’s Talk Arthritis’ information booklet.

Laura Hickey is Arthritis Ireland’s Young Arthritis Ambassador. If you have any questions or would like to join the Young Arthritis Network, please email lhickey@arthritisireland.ie. 

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.