This blog is the first of a two-part blog series which will discuss strategies you can put in place which will help you manage your osteoarthritis.
This week I'll be covering the importance of getting into the right mental mindset. Next week I'll cover the important role of specific exercises and how best to integrate them effectively into everyday life.
The Mental Mindset
1. Don't forget the reason you're doing this
A course of physiotherapy is a very effective way to start a process of rehabilitation. Whether it is knee arthritis, hip arthritis or arthritis of the spine, physiotherapy techniques can help alleviate pain, improve movement and function.
Physiotherapy can at times be uncomfortable, frustrating, or even tedious — and that's understandable as you're often required to push yourself more, sometimes in ways which may hurt a little at first.
In the difficult moments, it's essential to keep your eye on the prize and remember why you're doing this in the first place. The goal of physiotherapy is to get stronger and more resilient progressively; this will allow you to move more and move better.
We will keep an updated list of your goals and check-in with you about your progress.
2. Surgery is not a cure-all
Joint replacement surgery is a necessity for some patients with arthritis. However, too many people think it will solve all their mobility problems, and their pain will instantly go away.
Unfortunately, the truth is that surgery is usually not a quick fix. If surgery is required, in the initial weeks afterwards, things often feel worse before they feel better. The best way to help yourself get better after surgery is to engage in a period of dedicated rehabilitation.
3. Ditch the victim mentality
Instead of thinking of yourself as being at the mercy of your arthritis, it's essential to think of your condition as something that can be managed, by you.
Imagine having a toolbox and in it are all the things that help your arthritis — things like activity modification, exercises, heat, rest, physiotherapy, and so on. Knowing there is help, and there is much you can do yourself, can help you feel in control of your illness. You can pull out what you need when you need it. We will help give you lots of useful "tools" for your toolbox.
4. Learn how your joints work
Those with arthritis are often more committed to doing their prescribed physiotherapy exercises when they understand how their joints work.
If you can visualise the different working parts of the knee, and how these may work better in response to specific exercises and physiotherapy techniques, it can help you feel more confident and in control of the process.
Your physiotherapist can show you a model or diagram of what your joints look like, how they move and how the surrounding muscles support the joints.
5. You are not your X-rays
Do scary-looking scans mean severe pain and disability? Not always. I always tell my patients that just because they have osteoarthritis, it does not necessarily mean they are going to have a lot of pain.
Many people get anxious when they are told they have 'bone on bone' or have degeneration, however just because that is how the joint looks, does not mean ongoing pain or issues with daily life. It is like have some wrinkles on the inside of your body, a normal consequence of ageing which does not necessarily associate with pain.
It is important to talk to your physiotherapist or doctor about what your imaging means for your prognosis.
6. Start making changes now
One of the things I most wish my clients with arthritis understood better is that time is of the essence. Arthritis is a progressive condition, and avoiding action or "powering through" can result in greater levels of sensitivity, loss of mobility and muscle weakness to develop. The sooner you start taking steps to deal with and treat your arthritis, the better your prognosis can be.
In good health,
Simon Coghlan MSc, BSc, DipMedAc
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