Christmas could be particularly difficult this year for elderly and vulnerable people who are on their own and unable to meet up with family and friends due to Covid restrictions. For people with arthritis, the festive period already comes with many challenges and these are likely to be heightened by the additional psychological pressures.
5 tips to relieve arthritis symptoms
If you or your elderly relatives are affected by arthritic pain, taking some simple precautions can help to reduce or relieve symptoms which may help to avoid exacerbating this already difficult time. Follow our five-point plan to take control of your arthritis symptoms:
- Be careful what you eat
Eating the wrong types of foods and overindulging can lead to an increase in joint pain and inflammation. Over Christmas, try to avoid eating too much:
- Sugar and refined carbohydrates (cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sugary drinks) as these produce AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which create cytokines in the blood and increase inflammation.
- Fried and processed foods, salt and preservatives which are associated with increased inflammation in the joints.
- Dairy products which can irritate the joint linings.
- Alcohol which is high in sugar.
- Keep moving
Moving your body is an important way to prevent pain, stiffness and loss of mobility. Getting outside in the fresh air is also good for your mental health, so why not wrap up warm and go for a walk? Or, if it’s too cold and wet, some stretching exercises or moving to music at home can be a good way to keep yourself flexible and your joints well-lubricated.
- Manage your stress levels
Stress causes your body to release certain chemicals which trigger the immune system’s inflammatory response. It also creates tension in your muscles and both of these factors can lead to a worsening of arthritis symptoms. Developing some effective techniques to manage your stress levels can be helpful at any time of year but particularly during the festive period when stress levels can be particularly high.
Try gentle exercise such as yoga or walking or relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing exercises. Reach out to family and friends if you need support – even if you are unable to meet up due to Covid restrictions a phone call or Zoom call can help. Maybe listen to some relaxing music or an audiobook as these can provide distraction from pain and stress.
- Get enough sleep
Disrupted sleep can lead to an increase in anxiety and depression which may make it harder to cope with chronic pain. Try to maintain good sleep habits over the festive period by not going to bed too late, or over-indulging or drinking large amounts of alcohol.
- Know your limits
Christmas is a time when many of us experience additional pressures – shopping for gifts, cooking, cleaning or visiting. This year, the pressures may be different to normal but after many months of sustained stress and anxiety, all of us are likely to be more susceptible to becoming worn out and stressed.
If you are also coping with a degenerative disease like arthritis, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at Christmas so it’s important to pace yourself and not to do too much. It’s worth remembering that it’s more important for you to stay well than it is to clean the cooker or shop for that perfect gift. Be aware of what you can and can’t do this Christmas, listen to your body and allow yourself to rest if you need to.
If you have arthritis, talk to Professor. Joseph Queally before the festive period. We can advise on pain-killing medication and lifestyle tips to help you cope with arthritis symptoms and deal with a flare-up if it happens. We can also advise on treatment options, including pain-killing injections or surgery.