Just Diagnosed with Arthritis? 5 Do's and Don'ts

A diagnosis of arthritis can be frightening and overwhelming. How will the disease affect your ability to perform everyday activities? Will you be in constant pain? What does this diagnosis mean for your future? Here's a list of five do's and don'ts to follow—so that you can take control of your health and start loving life again.

  • Look for treatments that work for you. If you're given the traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and they help you, great. If they don't, let your provider know. There are different prescription drugs that have been shown to be helpful for people with arthritis, such as methotrexate. Depending on your particular case, you might consider corticosteroid shots. At-home remedies such as hot or cold compresses can be very effective as well. Keep searching until you find the treatments that work best for you.
  • Avoid scouring the Internet. Your first instinct may be to Google your diagnosis and its symptoms, but beware: You're likely to be bombarded with every kind of horror story that arthritis sufferers have to offer. Message boards abound with complaints and woes. Chances are good that the arthritis patients who are doing well-and there are many of them-are not spending their time on Internet message boards. Use the Internet for basic medical information and to research doctors, if necessary, but avoid the sob stories.
  • Look for a support group. You may find it extremely helpful to search out a community of other arthritis patients, either locally or online. Ask your physician for references or see if your local hospital or community centers offers arthritis support groups. Finding others who suffer from the same symptoms you do can help you feel less alone, and the emotional support you'll get can buoy you as you absorb your diagnosis and what it means for your life.
  • Set up an exercise program. If you aren't already active, plan to get active. Studies show that exercise is extremely helpful for arthritis sufferers, and working out with other people is a great way to form friendships. Join a water-aerobics class, find a few pals to walk with every morning, and rent some stretching DVDs from your local library to share with your spouse as you unwind after dinner. Keeping your joints flexible and in motion will greatly cut down on unpleasant symptoms like stiffness and pain.
  • Work toward acceptance. It's not easy to deal with any diagnosis at first, and you may find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster when you find out you have arthritis. But once you start living with arthritis and realize that it can be managed, you'll likely find yourself on more of an even keel. Continue engaging in activities you enjoyed before, and open yourself to new ones. You'll be happier once you accept that you're simply a person living with arthritis, and be sure to keep the emphasis on living.



Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritis.org.