An article in the January issue of Consumer Reports on Health reviews how many of us with joint pain from osteoarthritis can feel and function better by incorporating a few proven strategies, possibly avoiding unnecessary drug treatment or surgery. Putting that into perspective by telling my story, I have had the opportunity to work in an environment where I collaborate with health care professionals across the spectrum, and one area in which my eyes were opened on how to better manage pain was from the knowledge base of physical therapists. When I first started talking with a physical therapist I was experiencing moderate to severe pain in the bottom of my feet, also called plantar fasciitis. I was taking 800mg of ibuprofen twice a day on a routine basis, and for someone at my age that may have been acceptable and with low risk for harm. However, for many older adults, the chronic use of drugs like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin) are a leading cause of harm, ER visits and hospitalization. In the case of my dealings with the physical therapist, she taught me some simple stretching exercises which I tried for about a week, and then miraculously I had no pain! I stopped taking ibuprofen, and since then I have been a spokesperson for the non-drug management of many conditions that affect our quality of life.
The first step to take is rid your mind that for everything that ails you requires a pill or a surgical procedure. Keep in mind that the surgical business industry is filled with sales people, people who if they don’t sell procedures can’t continue their lavish lifestyles. Now, I must interject at this point, not everyone is going to be able to turn to exercise and supplements to forgo surgery or medication, but in many instances we can start shifting our health beliefs and start believing that with a little more expert knowledge we can change our miserable course, and with no risk for harm from botched medical procedures and the adverse drug events associated with pain medications. So now that you may have bought into this new belief, here are some simple steps that you can think about and explore further. Then YOU make the decision on what YOU are going to do, instead of having someone sell you a drug or a procedure.
- Link up with someone who is truly an expert in their field of exercise. Not a 20-something certified personal trainer, but someone who’s been around the block a few times. You’ll find that “someone” with those traits when you’ve talked to a few. There is nothing that replaces wisdom from aging and experience! More specifically, I ALWAYS recommend to an older adult they consult with an experienced physical therapist who works with older adults since they have the expanded knowledge base needed to provide real solutions.
- Stick with their recommendations because if you don’t, you’re on the fast-track to surgery and multiple medications. You MUST believe that you have to be engaged in a plan and stick to it!
- Don’t listen to the commercials and reach for the supplement that promises to cure your arthritis. Very few supplements have benefit in improving how you feel and function when it comes to joint pain from arthritis, and one of the few that comes to mind that has good evidence is glucosamine. When in doubt, consult your pharmacist.
- Learn about the safe use of medications. Every time to take a drug you increase your risk of harm. These are called adverse drug events, or ADEs. ADEs from drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen can be: stomach ulcers and bleeding, kidney damage with long term use, drug interactions with other medications that increase your risk of bleeding, eye damage, high blood pressure and the unfortunate prescribing of blood pressure medications as a result, also called a prescribing cascade.
Now that I’ve taken the time to thoughtfully write this post I must admit, I’m feeling a bit more engaged in my health. Now it’s time to go for a walk, stretch the right muscles, and strengthen my shoulder muscles that have been aching lately, although those band strengthening exercises have just about eliminated my pain, with no drugs or surgery!