The diagnosis of a chronic condition such as arthritis can make anyone feel helpless. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, some people may begin to despair, believing (incorrectly!) that there is nothing they can do to alleviate their pain and discomfort and keep them from getting worse. Arthritis may have no cure, but there’s a lot that you can do to control your symptoms and keep living the life you want.
Self-management is a way of taking charge and getting the information and help you need to keep your condition under control. Self-management means taking an active role in working with your health-care team, pursuing a healthy lifestyle, and learning about different treatment options.
Even if you’re a doctor, you can’t do everything yourself. But you can stay informed, make decisions, and follow through to give yourself a better chance of getting the results you want.
Knowledge is power
You may have a lot of questions, especially if you are newly diagnosed with arthritis. Fortunately, there are many resources for you to turn to. This site is loaded with tips, articles, recipes, and illustrations to help you better understand — and better manage — your condition. You can also consult members of your health-care team, such as your physician, pharmacist, physical therapist, and other health-care professionals.
Many organizations exist to educate and empower people with arthritis. You can contact the Arthritis Foundation and find out what Arthritis Foundation chapters, support groups, and self-management programs are available in your area. You can also look to magazines, such as Pain-Free Living (formerly Arthritis Self-Management) and Arthritis Today.
Part of being a good self-manager is staying critical of the information you receive. Always consider where the things you hear and read about arthritis are coming from, and try to check claims against multiple sources. Always ask yourself: Is this person or Web site trying to sell me something? Is this claim supported by clinical research? Who funded the study? Was it published? Where?
For more help assessing the quality of news, look at our article “Finding Health Information Online.”
Another important part of self-management is setting realistic goals, and then making plans to achieve them. Identify things you would like to change, then think about the way or ways you could bring about that change. If you have trouble opening jars, for example, investigate the various tools and techniques that can make jar-opening easier, then try a few to see what works. “Solving Arthritis-Related Problems,” from our May/June 2012 issue, is full of ways to deal with tightly sealed jars and overcome other common difficulties. It also offers a good model for addressing many issues you might encounter.
Once you’ve made a plan, you have to carry it out. But your work isn’t done there! You also need to look at the results and think about what you might do differently next time. Don’t expect to get everything right overnight. When you’re working on changing the way you’ve done things all your life, it is important to start small, check your progress, and make corrections as needed. Try different things, and find out what works best for you. If you make a mistake, the experience has probably taught you something that you may not have learned otherwise, and tomorrow is another day to apply that knowledge.
Self-management is a part of every day. With the right attitude, you can confront any challenge, and thrive. As the French novelist Gustave Flaubert once said, “The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you the challenge to live, and the promise of future accomplishments.”