Your fast-food habit, how much you actually exercise, the last time you flossed your teeth – there are plenty of things you might keep to yourself when talking to doctors. Well, it turns out there are things that doctors don’t often say outright o their patients, too. Until now. Arthritis Today got a few to share their “secrets” – and if you take their words to heart, it might improve your quality of life.
“Using arthritis aids does not make you a wimp”
Sometimes patients act as if using a self-help device equals “giving up,” says Shreyasee Amin, MD, associate professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. But they shouldn’t be self-conscious about using tools – such as a shoehorn, padded pencil, cane, elevated toilet seat and easy-to-grip utensils – that can help them with daily function, she says. “Taking the strain off of affected joints and making tasks easier can be life-changing,” she says. “They shouldn’t be embarrassed; they should embrace the tools that can dramatically improve their quality of life.“
“If you want to feel better, get some exercise.”
At least once a week, a patient who can’t get around like she used to cries in the office of Sabrina M. Strickland, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “These patients think their active life is over. They’re overweight, they hurt, and they think they can’t exercise. But they have to,” she says.
Countless studies show that moderate exercise increases mobility and reduces pain in people with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
“I tell [patients], ‘I know that you can’t run or even walk. I know you can’t do what other people can do and it’s not fair. But you can do something. Spinning, swimming, weight lifting; do something.’” Dr. Strickland says.
“Your weekend sports could be doing long-term damage.”
You can’t be a desk potato all week and expect to play tennis injury-free on the weekends, says Dr. Strickland. And don’t expect to play touch football once a year at Thanksgiving without injury, either. “Do you think A-Rod just plays baseball and doesn’t train? No, he trains every single day,” says Dr. Strickland.
Worse than the short-term setback of an injury: It can lead to osteoarthritis later. In fact, Dr. Strickland notes, “You have a 50 percent chance of developing arthritis after knee injuries like a torn ACL or meniscus.”
If you want to be a weekend warrior, make sure you “train” during the week. At the least, you should warm up your joints with activities such as walking, biking, swimming, yoga or water exercise.
“I wish you wouldn’t fib about how much you’re drinking.”
The heart-health benefits of red wine are well known. In fact, the American College of Rheumatology recommends one to two glasses of wine a week. So don’t feel guilty about telling your doctor about your cabernet habit – and do make sure to be honest about the quantity.
“If you drink and are on certain medications, or if you occasionally drink more than you should, there could be an issue,” says Ruchi Jain, MD, assistant professor of medicine and attending rheumatologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “There are certain arthritis drugs – methotrexate is one of them – that can cause liver damage. So can alcohol. If you combine them, the risks rise,” she says. “In that case, maybe a drug other than methotrexate is better for you. We won’t know unless you are honest with us about your drinking habits.”