In a perfect world, pain wouldn’t exist, our weight would be optimal and we’d enjoy daily exercise and have energy to spare. But the world is not perfect, and sometimes our bad habits get in the way of our best intentions to live a healthy life. You can make small changes toward adopting a healthier lifestyle and reducing your arthritis symptoms. Along with adopting the healthy habits in our previous blog post, make an effort to break these 5 unhealthy habits.
- Eating over-processed foods.
Sugar and white flour – and the overabundance of them in processed foods – can lead to weight gain, which is hard on sore joints. Replace them with fruits, nuts and whole grains. A good rule of thumb, says Rachel Brandeis, a registered dietitian in Atlanta, is to indulge in foods with fewer than 10 grams of sugar and more than 3 grams of fiber per serving. You’ll feel full on less and prevent weight gain.
- Dwelling on pain.
When you’re in pain, it’s easy to believe the pain is permanent, that you can’t do anything and your life is forever changed. “Over time you develop expectations about how every situation will play out, and then you respond to those expectations rather than the real situation,” says David Castro-Blanco, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY. “Break the pattern. Ask yourself, ‘Am I always in this much pain or just today?’” Castro-Blanco suggests you keep track by writing down how you felt in a given situation and assigning a pain level number. This will help you see that some days are in fact better than others.
- Wearing uncomfortable shoes.
Those stylish, toe-cramping slings may look fabulous with your outfit, but your joints will thank you once you make a switch. “Bad shoes are an under-appreciated contributor to joint pain,” says D. Casey Kerrigan, MD, owner of OESH shoe company and former chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Virginia. Her recommendation: Keep heels to 1.5 inches or less. More height increases the torque, or twisting force, in the knee. Avoid shoes with excessive cushioning and arch support, which reduces the foot’s natural shock-absorbing contractions as it hits the ground. Learn more about the best and worst shoes for arthritis >>
- Pushing yourself too hard.
“One of the biggest problems people with arthritis have is that when they feel like doing something, they tend to do too much,” says Robert H. Phillips, PhD, founder and director of the Center for Coping in Hicksville, NY. “But that wears a person down, causing more pain and fatigue.” Instead, pace yourself. If you know your day will be full of strenuous activities, include several rest periods of 15 to 20 minutes or longer. Lie down, nap, watch TV or read.” The number of rest periods depends on how you feel. Pay close attention to physical cues such as increasing pain or flagging energy.
- Going it alone.
Instead of muscling through arthritis pain on your own – or feeling angry that others don’t understand your condition – enlist their support, says Phillips. “Family members and friends often don’t understand what you’re going through. Pain and fatigue aren’t visible. Encourage them to read about arthritis or ask them to go with you to a support group.”
- 10 Healthy Habits for Better Arthritis Management
- The Best & Worst Shoes for Arthritis
- Arthritis Today Magazine