Nearly 20 percent of Americans suffer from some form of arthritis. Those with arthritis are no strangers to pain, stiffness and swelling. Often those with arthritis have trouble moving. These are common effects associated with all types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

If you or someone you know has arthritis, it is important to know that feelings of hopelessness and depression can be triggered when activity levels decrease and pain levels increase. While it may seem like you are on a downward spiral of pain with no chance of relief, this is not the case.

There are ways to reduce pain

There are a multitude of methods for lessening pain and slowing the progression of arthritis besides medicines. Consider these proactive approaches to managing your arthritis:

  • Lose weight — Shedding pounds not only makes you healthier and feel better overall, but it also reduces arthritis pain and helps slow progression of the disease. Putting less stress on your joints can only be a good thing.
  • Be active — Research shows that light to moderate exercise decreases arthritis pain, improves function and mood, and delays disability. Even taking a walk and doing light stretching can make a big difference.
  • Eat the right stuff — Foods with more omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation, whereas foods with more omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation. Therefore, eating healthy foods like salmon, tuna, veggies and nuts can help you improve your arthritis, while unhealthy foods such as egg yolks, meats, corn and sunflower oils, and fatty snack foods can make it worse.
  • Get a massage — In addition to the stress relief provided for your entire body, a massage warms and soothes the painful area affected by arthritis. Ask your physician for a professional recommendation or use a soothing lotion or oil for a self-massage.
  • Hot/cold therapy — Ask your physician for a heating pad or a cold pack that's appropriate for your affected area. It's a quick and convenient way to relax or numb the painful area. Depending if you use heat or ice, you are also stimulating blood circulation or reducing the amount of swelling.
  • Find ways to relax — Try one of these relaxation methods to help gain a sense of control over your situation: Take a long bubble bath, meditate, do yoga, get lost in a song or book or enjoy a warm cup of tea. As simple as these activities may sound, you can never underestimate the power of a positive state of mind when you're in pain.
  • Educate yourself — Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to arthritis pain. Seek out local self-management education programs. By taking the initiative to learn more and try a variety of options, you'll be better equipped to ask your doctor if alternate treatments such as electrical nerve stimulation, acupuncture or ultrasound are right for you.

Whatever your type of arthritis, know that there are ways to improve your situation. Be sure to keep an open line of communication with your physician.

To find a doctor, call Riverside Community Hospital at (951) 788-3463.

In the meantime, keep your thoughts, actions and attitude positive — you may be surprised how much it can help you in the long run.