As orthopaedic surgeons we encourage our patients to take an active role in managing and treating their condition.
And we are not alone in this. NICE Clinical Guidelines (No.138) recognise that patients have the primary responsibility for managing their health in the context of their wider lives. It urges healthcare professionals to recognise patients as the co-creators and co-managers of their own health who, as such, should be actively involved in decision-making and treatment.
Importance of self-management
Right now, the unique conditions created by the pandemic mean that many patients are having to rely more than ever before on their own self-management. Routine appointments may have been cancelled and surgery postponed. If you have a degenerative condition like osteoarthritis, you may be experiencing a worsening of symptoms and the added frustration of being unsure when you will be able to resume your normal treatment or reschedule your surgery.
The good news is that private providers like us are now fully open and able to support patients again so the uncertainty is coming to an end. However, if you are waiting for treatment, either on the NHS or privately, there are many things you can do to support your orthopaedic health. As well as being good practice, taking a proactive approach to your health is good for your emotional wellbeing as it can help you to feel more in control and provide a positive structure to support your physical and mental health.
How to look after your orthopaedic health in lockdown
Here are some positive ways to manage your orthopaedic health during lockdown:
(1) Stay physically active: this is crucially important as exercising will keep your joints supple and well-lubricated, helping to prevent stiffness and immobility.
Loss of muscle strength is a key factor in falls, so exercises that build muscle strength can help you to avoid becoming injured.
Exercising plays a key role in supporting mental health, too, and a daily walk in the fresh air will help you to feel good, as well as exposing you to sunlight, an important source of Vitamin D.
(2) Eat a healthy diet: this is important for everyone but particularly if you have a degenerative disease like arthritis. You should be especially careful to avoid:
- Too much sugar: A study published in Arthritis Care & Research in 2017 found that sugar-sweetened desserts and drinks were most commonly associated with a worsening of Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms.
- Red meat and processed meats: Some studies have found eating this type of meat leads to inflammation which can increase arthritis symptoms.
- Highly processed foods, such as fast food and breakfast cereal, may lead to an increase in inflammation as well as other risk factors like obesity.
- Alcohol – this can increase the frequency and severity of gout attacks and chronic alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of osteoarthritis.
- Gluten – some research suggests going gluten-free may help to reduce arthritis symptoms.
(3) Create a routine for yourself: even though you may not be able to do the things you normally do, it can be helpful to build a sense of structure and routine into your week so you feel more in control and can more effectively manage any anxiety you might be feeling. Try developing some healthy new habits such as meditation or Yoga.
(4) Take your medication regularly: this can help you to stay on top of the pain so you can continue to exercise and keep up with your household chores. If your medication is not sufficient, talk to your GP or orthopaedic consultant.
(5) Avoid trauma injuries: accidents happen and sometimes they are unavoidable, but it is advisable to take whatever measures you can to avoid becoming injured right now as you may face longer waits for treatment. Be especially careful in slippery winter conditions.
(6) Stay positive: these are difficult times for all of us and it can be particularly hard if you are experiencing chronic pain or a worsening of symptoms. Try to stay positive and reach out to people if you need help.
Orthopaedic Consultant & Surgeon | London
Thames Shoulder & Elbow are able to provide advice and support to anyone experiencing symptoms affecting the upper limbs (shoulder, upper arm, elbow, forearm and wrist). We can also offer consultations either online or face-to-face.
Telephone: 020 376 15987