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Living with Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease. But it doesn’t have to keep you from leading an active life. You can help control symptoms by exercising and watching your weight. Using special tools also helps make life easier. Be sure to see your doctor for scheduled checkups and lab work. If you have questions or concerns between office visits, call your health care provider's office.

Two women in pool doing water exercises.

Make exercise part of your life

Gentle exercise can help lessen your pain. Keep the following in mind:

  • Choose exercises that improve joint motion and make your muscles stronger. Your doctor or a physical therapist may suggest a few.

  • Try low-impact sports, such as walking, biking, or doing exercises in a warm pool.

  • Most people should exercise for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. This can be broken up into shorter periods throughout the day.

  • Don’t push yourself too hard at first. Slowly build up over time.

  • Make sure you warm up for 5 to 10 minutes before you exercise.

  • If pain and stiffness increase, don't exercise as hard or as long.

Watch your weight

If you weigh more than you should, your weight-bearing joints are under extra pressure. This makes your symptoms worse. To reduce pain and stiffness, try shedding a few of those extra pounds. The tips below may help:

  • Start a weight-loss program with the help of your doctor.

  • Ask your friends and family for support.

  • Join a weight-loss group.

Use special tools

Even simple tasks can be hard to do when your joints hurt. Special tools called assistive devices can make things easier by reducing strain and protecting your joints. Ask your health care provider where to find these and other helpful tools:

  • Long-handled reachers or grabbers

  • Jar openers and button threaders

  • Large grips for pencils, garden tools, and other hand-held objects

Use mobility and other aids

People with arthritis and other joint problems often use mobility aids to help with walking. For example, they may use canes or walkers. They may also use splints or braces to support joints. Talk with your health care provider or physical therapist about these aids:

  • A cane to see knee or hip pain and help prevent falls

  • Splints for your wrists or other joints

  • A brace to support a weak knee joint

Online Medical Reviewer: Hollaway, Beth, RN, M.Ed
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 8/19/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.