Osteoarthritis, or OA, is a common disease affecting as some 27 million Americans, causing pain, stiffness and swelling in joints. OA reduces your joints’ mobility, interfering with your ability to work and live your life normally.

There is no cure for OA at this time. It will progress and damage your joints further unless you intervene now. Luckily, there are many ways to manage OA symptoms.

Long-Term Management

As a person with osteoarthritis, you’ll need to take a long-term view of your health. OA can’t be bested in one day or with a single pill. You’ll have to take a comprehensive approach to your health.

You have a team to help you, including your arthritis doctor and other health care professionals, your family and friends, and your local Arthritis Foundation office. But you are the manager of that team. You must make a commitment to making healthy changes and choices and sticking with the OA management plan that you and your doctor will devise.

Top Tactics for Tackling OA

Your plan for taking on OA should include:

  • Managing OA symptoms, like pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Improving joint mobility and flexibility
  • Keeping your weight in check
  • Maintaining better fitness through physical activity

That sounds like a big project, but start by slowly making changes to your current routine, not trying everything all at once. Here are tips for managing your OA, and resources to help you.

Stretch Yourself. Slow, gentle stretching of joints may improve flexibility, lessen stiffness and reduce pain. Morning is a great time to stretch to get joints ready for the day’s tasks. The Arthritis Foundation offers stretching routines, including yoga- and tai chi-based moves, approved for people with OA on DVD or in live classes in your area. First, speak to your doctor to gauge your level of fitness and any special considerations.

Get Moving. Physical activity is a proven way to manage OA symptoms. Before you groan about hating exercise, just pledge to progress from dedicated couch-sitter to regular mover. Simple activities like walking around the neighborhood or taking a fun, easy land or water exercise class approved for people with OA can reduce pain and extra weight, which only worsens OA.