Dr. Arthritis Shares: Kids With Arthritis Could Benefit from Having a Pet

Pets-and-kids-with-arthritis

Kids get arthritis too—it’s a fact that either people are oblivious to, or completely overlook. After all, isn’t arthritis an “old person’s disease”? It seems impossible that a child, under the age of 16, would have to deal with creaky, painful joints most commonly experienced by people over the age of 60.

Yet it’s true—kids do get arthritis. Those who get diagnosed younger tend to fare best, owing to the fact they haven’t really known any other reality. Those who get diagnosed in their early teens however, have a harder time dealing with the fact that they’re now unable to do a lot of the things they used to love doing.

Additionally, when even adults have a hard time articulating the emotions that they feel due to their diagnosis, how can we expect a child to easily express the difficulties that they’re experiencing?

Fact is, arthritis is just as isolating for kids as it is for adults. And when kids are unable to run and play with friends as they used to and verbalize how that makes them feel, it can be very frustrating and lonely.

For Elizabeth Medeiros, the company that her loyal little pooch provided as her juvenile arthritis escalated proved to be a godsend. “[…] I’m so glad that we got Gracie in time for those hard years. She’s always so happy, whether she’s playing or cuddling up in front of the TV. And Gracie never leaves my side on the awful days. Many quiet, painful days would have been far lonelier if it hadn’t been for my furry sidekick,” she shares in a recent post on Juvenile Arthritis News.

A pet can give a child who feels physically limited and unwell companionship to temper the feeling of loneliness that tends to creep in when you end up getting sidelined by arthritis. A few minutes cuddling up with your dog, playing with your cat, or even watching your fish swim can help you feel calmer and less anxious.

Scientifically, animals have been known to offer comfort and provide support, helping reduce patient stress and anxiety. In fact, a survey reports that 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. Additionally, over half of the respondents say that their physical health improved because they have a pet.

If you’re a parent or a well meaning family member or friend who wants to give a child suffering from juvenile arthritis a pet, there are guidelines to keep in mind though.

For instance, large dogs can be quite problematic. Some dog breeds will be harder to manage, especially if you want a small child to primarily be responsible for it. So while those Labrador or Golden Retriever puppies are so adorably playful now, remember they’re going to be pretty hard to take care of when they get a little older because they have such high energy. Your options aren’t just limited to dogs either. For younger children, if puppies or kittens aren’t an option, bunnies or hamsters, even fish can also provide the same sense of companionship but demand lower maintenance from pet owners. 

Bottomline? Pets can truly be a source of companionship for kids who suffer from a condition that can make them feel isolated and alone. If you agree, feel free to share this post or tell us about your personal experience with pets.

Dr. Arthritis Asks: What New Year’s Resolutions Will You Make for 2020?

new-year-resolutions-2020

One holiday down, one more to go—and this time, it’s not just about gift-giving and indulgent feasts. After a week of holiday revelry, we wake up on January 1st with the urge to take stock of where we want our life to go. It’s a new year after all, and we have every opportunity to redefine where the remaining 365 days will take us.

Many of you are probably thinking that making New Year’s resolutions is a tired old tradition—especially considering that statistics say resolutions made as the year winds down don’t even make it past January.

As trite as it is however, no occasion is more symbolic of our desire to improve ourselves and drive positive change than New Year. So in the spirit of bucking statistics and making a long-term, lasting impact in our life, we’ve compiled a list of resolutions our own team members who suffer from chronic pain are making as they go into 2020. Hopefully, they inspire you to start your own.

Be more open about living with chronic pain

I recently spoke about what it was like to live with chronic pain—and it made me realize just how helpful it is for chronic pain sufferers to open up about what we’re going through. We often keep things bottled up. Usually so we don’t have to bother others about how hard it is to live with our illness and function normally, or because we don’t like other people feeling sorry for us. We keep it to ourselves at the risk of being thought of as weak. We fear being misunderstood, or worse, being considered lazy or whiny. I’ve learned though that this is never usually the case. Opening up to people around us—family, friends, colleagues—it actually helps. You might even be surprised at how supportive people around you can be. So this year, I want to make a more conscious effort to be more open about what I’m going through—to not keep everything inside.

Victoria

Incorporate more exercise into my lifestyle

We all complain about exercising. But working with chronic pain sufferers with varying degrees of severity, I realized I shouldn’t take my ability to still be able to work out for granted. Exercise is a great way to manage arthritis symptoms and often, arthritis sufferers would love to get more exercise but their illness and severe symptoms prevents them from doing so. So this year, I want to make a bigger push to incorporate activity in my life.

Monica

Eat healthier

I live a fairly active lifestyle but I’ve noticed that my symptoms seem to get more persistent as I get older. I’ve come to realize that it’s because no matter how religiously I exercise, a lot of my flares are triggered by diet. I love junk food but the fact is, I should really make more of an effort to include greens and whole foods and cut back on sugar and fast food.

Adam

Get more sleep

Being in this industry, I’m used to working a lot of late nights. But the truth is, if you’re tired and not feeling well-rested, it will snowball into a lot of other aspects of your life. Because you’re more tired, you tend to rush through eating and pick up something quick and easy (fast food!); you’re more tired so you skip exercise; you’re lethargic so you’re more withdrawn. And when you feel run down and beat, it also amplifies your arthritis symptoms. I want to make an effort to maintain better sleeping patterns and see how it will create positive changes in my routine.

Jennifer

Seek support

I work a lot with with patients who suffer from chronic pain and across the board, the idea of seeking help and finding support isn’t a popular one. To that end, most chronic pain sufferers tend to feel isolated and alone—when they don’t have to be. So as part of my resolution, I want to practice what I preach and be more open to support—from friends and family, even from arthritis communities online.

June

Cut back on stress

Stress is hard to avoid and it’s an inherent part of our lives. But I want to truly make a conscious effort to learn how to deal with it better, simply because we usually gloss over how it negatively affects our lives. There are a lot of things we can do, for example, exercising, meditation, talking to family and friends, being more social, getting more rest. The important thing is being more self aware about what factors are causing your stress so you can recognize it and do something about it.

Michael

What’s on your resolution list as we welcome 2020? Feel free to share it below and leave a comment!

Dr. Arthritis Shares: 2019 Arthritis-Friendly Holiday Recipes

joint-friendly-christmas-recipes-2019

Following our annual Dr. Arthritis holiday tradition, we’ve collected this year’s favorite holiday recipes from team members who won’t let pain and fatigue get in between a fabulous Christmas meal.

So plan ahead, get the whole family involved, and check out these easy-to-make, joint-friendly recipes below–

Crudités and Garlic and Herb Dip

vegetable-dip-xmas-recipe

Simple, straight-forward, and easy—all the hallmarks of a must-try appetizer recipe you can whip up in minutes for Christmas. These vegetables are also known for fighting inflammation and are packed with antioxidants.

Pro-tip? Pick-up pre-chopped vegetables at the supermarket to save time and minimize stress on your joints.

Ingredients:

2 cups baby carrots

2 cups, pre-cut broccoli florets

2 cups, pre-cut cauliflower florets

2 cups, pre-cut celery

1 pint Greek yogurt

1 pack fresh dill, stems removed

1 pack fresh chives, torn into small pieces

2 tsp pre-chopped garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Wash vegetables thoroughly and arrange on a serving tray.

2. Place yogurt in a food processor and add dill, chives, and garlic.

3. Process the mixture until smooth.

4. Season with salt and pepper, according to taste.

5. Pour mixture into a serving bowl and serve alongside the tray of vegetables.

Broiled Honey Garlic Salmon

Honey-Garlic-Salmon-xmas-recipe

A savory and sweet recipe that’s not only easy to make, it can also help decrease inflammation. No need to settle for bland fares this year. This Christmas, you can enjoy the tangy hint of lemon paired with sweet honey and spiced with garlic.

Ingredients:

4 pcs salmon fillets

2 tbsps ghee

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 tbsps honey

1 tbsp water

2 tsps soy sauce

1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 lemon cut into wedges

1/2 tsp paprika

Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven and set to broil

2. Place ghee in a skillet over high heat until melted.

3. Add garlic and saute until fragrant.

4. Add honey, water, and soy sauce and whisk until all mixture is combined.

5. Gently place salmon fillets in the sauce. Cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until golden. Baste the tops with pan juices. Season with salt and pepper.

6. While cooking the salmon, place lemon wedges around the salmon to boost the citrus flavor.

7. Remove from heat and place salmon fillets on a baking dish and broil for 5-6 minutes.

8. Serve with a drizzle of sauce from the pan.

Spiced Dark Hot Chocolate

spiced-dark-hot-chocolate

Dessert has always been tricky for arthritis sufferers. But did you know that dark chocolate is actually good for our joints? If you want to enjoy a steaming cup of hot cocoa for Christmas, we recommend this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 cup non-fat milk

1 tsp organic raw coco sugar

2 oz dark chocolate, chopped

A pinch of ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Heat milk in a sauce pan over medium heat.

2. Before it boils, add brown sugar and stir until dissolved.

3. Stir in dark chocolate and keep stirring until melted.

4. Remove saucepan from heat and pour mixture into a mug.

5. Sprinkle cinnamon on top and serve.

Dr. Arthritis Shares: Do You Know About These Arthritis Complications?

OA-complications

As arthritis sufferers don’t have enough to worry about—did you know that osteoarthritis (OA) also comes with a host of other complications? On top of chronic joint pain, OA sufferers could also experience everything from anxiety to insomnia to weight gain. This is why we want to remind everyone of the importance of early detection. Without treatment, OA symptoms can lead to a host of other complications that will inevitably affect your quality of life. For example–

1. Sleepless nights

Stiff, aching joints are a primary complaint of people who suffer from arthritis. Unfortunately, this is also the most common and pervasive symptom of arthritis, which means it will interfere with your ability to have a restful night’s sleep.

The biggest problem here is that most of us are already exhausted during the day, simply trying to manage our symptoms. And yet no matter how tired we are, sleep will evade us at night. Our symptoms prompt us to toss and turn, leaving us even more exhausted the next day.

2. Less productivity

When you have stiff and aching joints and are completely exhausted from simply trying to manage and live with your condition, you can expect a significant dip in your productivity.

A lot of us tend to miss a lot of school or work days because our flares can be debilitating. Down the line, you may be able to find an effective course of treatment that will help manage your symptoms better, but until then, you can expect your productivity to decline significantly.

Painful joints tend to lower your drive to be active. And the frustration you feel because of your inability to engage in activities that you used to enjoy can lead you to a downward spiral of loneliness and isolation.

3. Depression and anxiety

Numerous studies highlight the link between anxiety and depression among arthritis sufferers. The main symptoms of OA have a direct impact on your mental health, with rising incidences of anxiety and depression. This is mostly due to our inability to articulate the emotional impact of the illness as well as our desire to maintain independence and not let condition bring down friends and loved ones.

4. Weight Gain

In addition to arthritis limiting our ability to move and be active, certain medications have also been known to cause weight gain. Putting on extra pounds will mean more pressure on our joints, which is why we’re constantly advised to maintain a healthy weight. Plus, extra weight can also increase your risk of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Thankfully, these unexpected—albeit inevitable—complications can be managed. Start by speaking to your healthcare professional if you start experiencing early signs of these complications or reach out to our community on Facebook or Instagram to get suggestions on how you can best manage it from fellow arthritis sufferers.

Dr. Arthritis Asks: Could Stress Trigger Arthritis?  

stress-and-arthritis

Think back to the last time you had a flare up. Did a stressful or traumatic event precede it?

Researchers have long tried to make a definitive connection between emotional distress and arthritis. But while numerous studies claim to link negative life events to the onset of symptoms, a lot of questions still remain.

Making the Connection

As far back as 2010, a study among people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) saw subjects who were able to directly connect a stressful event to the onset of their condition. The researchers however concluded that the correlation was only made as a way to give meaning and establish a sense of control over their condition.

What does this study imply? That there really is no direct cause-and-effect relationship between stress and chronic joint pain. 

However, other studies report different findings and have identified an association between stress and increased risk for arthritis. In fact, one study saw a 100 percent increase in rheumatic diseases for people who had experienced two or more traumatic events in childhood, versus those who didn’t.  And in another research, this time involving veterans, more symptoms and impairment presented itself among subjects with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). 

The Real Role of Stress

Research conducted to understand the correlation of chronic joint pain illnesses and stress are extensive.  But to date, the role stress has over arthritis remains unclear—even amid numerous studies and growing evidence that it could make arthritic symptoms worse. 

Why? Chalk it up to the fact that stress itself is particularly hard to measure.

Stress is subjective.

People’s reactions to stressful situations will vary greatly depending on a lot of other subjective factors such as the cause, the patient’s current state of mind and emotions, general health, the environment, just to name a few. It’s also worth noting that the human body doesn’t really have a standard response for stress that researchers can use as a baseline for their studies. This means any kind of study on the effect of stress on the body will have no choice but to start with very little quantitative data, that makes it all the more difficult to make a definitive conclusion. 

Here’s What You Can Do About It

Rest assured that the medical community is hard at work to give millions of arthritis sufferers a real answer. But while they’re working to find a connection between stress and arthritis, one thing is for sure: stress can affect your health in general—even though you may not realize it—and it can manifest itself in different ways…from nagging headaches or persistent insomnia; chest pains to stomach problems; restlessness to irritability; isolation to anxiety.

If you already suffer from chronic pain, needless to say that adding all these to a running list of symptoms that you have manage can be very overwhelming. And that can inevitably lead to stress, lower your pain threshold, and make your symptoms feel worse than they already are. Stress prompts a never ending, vicious loop of anxiety and pain. And you have to consciously break this by trying to find better ways to manage your stress. 

Here’s our advice–

  • If at all possible, try to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.
  • Practice relaxation techniques including meditation and deep breathing.
  • Try to keep everything in perspective.
  • Do not alienate family and friends, even during your worst days.
  • Set aside time to pursue a hobby—even something as simple as reading, or listening to music.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet

 And perhaps most important of all… 

  • Know when to seek help. There are others out there who know exactly what you’re going through. Find a support group, talk to your doctor, reach out to family, and friends, and identify channels that can help you open up about what it’s like to live with arthritis.