Category Archives: Symptom Management

menopause arthritis connection

The Menopause-Arthritis Connection

Cheryl Koehn, 56, was surprised that information about how menopause might impact her rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – and vice versa – was so hard to find. “So many of us go through these profound life experiences in units of one,” says Koehn, who co-authored the book Rheumatoid Arthritis: Plan To Win (2002, Oxford University Press). In fact, living with inflammatory arthritis can affect how women experience menopause and their health risks.

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big toe pain arthritis causes

What’s Aching Your Big Toe?

It is easy to forget how important your big toe is – most of the time it stays out of sight and out of mind, hidden beneath our socks and shoes. But if you have ever had toe pain, you know it can keep you off your feet and up at night.

When arthritis affects the foot it usually hits at the base of the big toe in what is known as the MTP, or metatarsophalangeal joint. This can cause big problems for the tiny joint that has to bend and bear about 50% of your body weight every time you take a step.

Here are six common culprits of big toe joint pain—many of which are related—and ways you can find relief.

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expressive writing to relieve arthritis stress

Relieve Arthritis Stress With Expressive Writing

While living with arthritis can create stresses most people might not even think about, a technique called expressive writing may bring relief, both mentally and physically. For example, maybe you’re angry because pain is keeping you from joining friends on a shopping trip or playing with your kids – again. You may be stuck in anger.

“But in addition to anger, you probably also feel grief, loss and a lack of control over the circumstances,” says clinical psychologist Mark Lumley, PhD, psychology professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. “Expressive writing can help bring forward those less-accessible feelings besides anger that don’t always have a voice.

Writing this way reduces inner conflict and provides you a better sense of emotional balance – and perhaps even less pain – when you express those feelings on paper.”

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aromatherapy essential oils

Essential Oils: What You Should Know

Aromatherapy won’t cure your arthritis, but it may ease certain symptoms and help you feel better. For example, lavender is sometimes used to relieve anxiety and promote sleep. Some research shows aromatherapy may even have benefits for pain. Two small studies found aromatherapy massage with lavender or ginger and orange oils led to short-term relief of knee pain.

“It doesn’t work for everyone, but some have good outcomes,” says Sue Cutshall, a Mayo Clinic integrative health clinical nurse specialist. However, as with other “natural” treatments, you should exercise caution when using them; in rare cases, they can be hazardous.

Essential oils are the foundation of aromatherapy. The oils – extracted from plants, flowers, herbs and trees – are most often used for their scent, but they can also be mixed with lotions or alcohol and used as bath or massage products.

Most essential oils have few side effects or risks when used as directed, but some can cause harm. Undiluted essential oils can provoke skin problems, and citrus essential oils can increase sun sensitivity.

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when to go to the emergency room

Know When to Go to the Emergency Room

You’re feeling sick but your doctor is booked and the nearest urgent care center is 45 minutes away. There’s always the hospital emergency room, but your symptoms aren’t that bad. Should you just tough it out?

Figuring out how and where to handle an illness isn’t easy. It’s even harder for people with inflammatory types of arthritis, because complications related to the disease and its treatment can be serious, says Uzma Haque, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Here’s what she suggests:

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boost positivity and decrease stress

Five Positive Ways to Boost your Mood and Relieve Stress and Pain

It’s not always easy to stay positive – but dwelling on negative thoughts can do more than put you in a blue mood; your thoughts affect the way you feel mentally and physically, says Helen Grusd, PhD, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist who specializes in health psychology. Studies have shown that gloomy thoughts can worsen pain and fatigue and negatively affect your immune system.

Fortunately, positive thinking can have the opposite effect. Try these simple mood boosters.

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reading sunscreen labels

How to Read Sunscreen Labels

Wearing sunscreen is especially important for people with inflammatory arthritis and conditions such as lupus, because their medications or disease may make them extra sun-sensitive. But choosing the right sunscreen may not be so simple. The good news is sunscreen labels – governed by federal regulations and designed to rein in over-reaching claims like “waterproof” and “sunblock” – can help you pick the best protection for your skin. Here’s what to look for on sunscreen labels.

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