Having to deal with pain every day and night can lead to profound lifestyle changes. Arthritis, which is a general term to describe over 100 medical conditions, generally affects the elderly and is the main cause for disability among people over 55 years old. The most common form of arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA), but there are other forms of arthritis that can affect a person even at an early age. To better understand how to manage the pain and get better sleep, you need to understand what arthritis is. Arthritis is usually caused by something going wrong within your joint, leading to a specific type of arthritis. Whether it is a lack of fluid within your joint, wearing of the cartilage that stops 2 bones from rubbing together or damage to the tendons and ligaments, arthritis pain can cause depression and sleep disorders.
Out of over 100 types of arthritis, these are the most commons forms:
Osteoarthritis- The cartilage within your joint that acts as a shock absorber begins to lose its elasticity and stiffens up. It gradually wears down and damages the tendons and ligaments by stretching them, causing pain and soreness. Very severe OA is when the bones begin to rub against each other causing severe and sometimes debilitating pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis- Inflammation in your joints can cause pain and deformation if not treated. The synovial membrane in your joint is attacked, resulting in pain and swelling. Although this is more common in women, it can also affect men and children.
Infectious arthritis- Caused by an infection in the joint, this type of arthritis affects the synovial fluid and tissue of the affected joint. Bacteria, fungi or a virus may spread through the bloodstream from infected tissue nearby. The most susceptible people are those who may already have some form of arthritis, and they develop an infection.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis- JRA can vary, but basically means a child 16 or younger is affected by arthritis.
Having limited mobility caused by pain can have profound psychological effects on a person. Depression and insomnia are common in people who suffer from arthritis, yet lack of sleep is an underdiagnosed complaint. The stress induced by the pain can take a toll on both physical health and mental health, so getting the proper amount and quality of sleep is vital to managing the pain. When talking about arthritis, pain management is a catch 22; sleep helps increase blood flow, suppresses inflammation and allows the body to fight infections, but those same reasons are typically why a person cannot sleep. So how do you manage the pain?
Physical activity- It may sound odd, but increasing your physical activity and exercise may decrease your pain. Don’t overdo it when it comes to exercising, but gentle movements will help keep your muscles strong and in a healthy state. Exercise and physical activity can build muscle to provide protection to your joints. The less protection your joints have, the more pain you can expect as well as risk of further injury. Additionally, being active will help increase blood flow, which can decrease inflammation and ease pain. The less pain you have, the better sleep you will be able to achieve.
Avoid pain medications- Some pain medications can cause you to develop a sleep disorder. Although you may think the pain is being managed, you could be damaging the joints more. Pain is our body’s way of telling us not to do something. If you mask the pain, you could severely damage the joints, causing severe pain when the pain medication wears off. This increased pain combined with some of the side effects, can lead to many sleepless nights.
Manage your weight- Being overweight will place more strain on your joints. By managing your weight, you can alleviate excess stress put on your body and reduce possible symptoms or causes of your arthritis. Losing some weight may also improve your sleep quality and can reduce your chances of developing a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. By getting quality sleep you can also help manage your weight, as sleep is a great natural way to lose weight.
Stretch- When you stretch, you are increasing blood flow as well as strengthening your muscles. Flexibility will help increase mobility, so stretching at least 3 times per week can help ease pain. Stretching also helps your body release built up stress from your day’s activity, so stretch before bed also. The increase in blood flow and the release of stress will make your night’s sleep more enjoyable and improve its quality.
These are just some tips on how to alleviate pain caused by arthritis as well as ways to improve your sleep quality. Arthritis can be a hassle to deal with, so minimizing the pain and increasing your sleep quality will help you overcome this debilitating condition. If you know of other ways to help reduce pain while increasing sleep quality, please feel free to post it as a comment! We would love to hear from you!