(BPT) - Did you know that one in five American adults are unpaid caregivers? That means approximately 53 million people actively care for family members or friends, most often because that loved one simply needs daily care. If you're one of them, you know that taking care of someone else can be physically and mentally taxing, demanding a lot from you every day. On top of this, you may also live with your own chronic pain and find your symptoms flaring up — an often-overlooked aspect of the job. In fact, 94% of caregivers report experiencing musculoskeletal pain, which could potentially be from osteoarthritis (OA).
According to the CDC, more than 32 million adults in the U.S. have OA, a degenerative disease that causes chronic pain, stiffness and swelling in joints such as the hands, wrists, knees and ankles. For caregivers who also have OA, it might be difficult to provide care to others while they are already experiencing daily pain and discomfort themselves.
How is osteoarthritis treated?
While there is no cure for OA, there are a variety of ways to help manage symptoms, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications and physical therapy. It’s important to consult your healthcare provider, who can offer options depending on your unique situation.
However, there are also a number of steps that caregivers who may be experiencing OA can take to alleviate some of their daily pain and discomfort.
Tips for caring for your joints and relieving pain
1. Keep moving — gently
While the experience of pain may initially make you feel less comfortable with the idea of regular movement, the Arthritis Foundation notes that activities that are gentle on your joints — such as swimming, hiking or biking — can actually help you feel better over time. Even low-impact exercise like a short walk can make a difference for your pain levels. If it’s hard to get moving on your own, consider finding a walking buddy or joining an exercise class that can keep you motivated to move.
2. Use a topical, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory gel to relieve arthritis pain
One effective option for treating arthritis pain is Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel, the first prescription-strength, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory gel for arthritis pain. The active ingredient in Voltaren Gel is diclofenac sodium, an effective medicine that is clinically proven to relieve joint pain, reduce stiffness and improve mobility. You apply the gel directly to the site of your pain associated with arthritis to deliver pain relief for your hand, wrist, elbow, foot, ankle or knee — so you can move better and accomplish what you need and want to do each day.
3. Try a heat pack
According to the Arthritis Foundation, many people with osteoarthritis find that regularly applying a heat pack to the area or areas where they experience pain can bring soothing, temporary relief.
4. Make the most of physical therapy
If your healthcare provider recommends physical therapy, try to incorporate your assigned therapy exercises into your daily routine in short intervals. Per the Arthritis Foundation, regular, brief muscle-strengthening exercises developed by your therapist can help protect your targeted joints.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
As a caregiver, it’s all too easy to put others ahead of yourself. But it’s hard to take it all on your shoulders when you are experiencing pain. Reach out to others in your family or social circle for support and assistance — or even just a rest when you need it — to allow you a little time to take care of yourself.
Everything that you do to care for those who need you every day is important, and so are you. As a caregiver, don't forget to care for your own needs, too. Following these tips can help you feel your best, so you can continue making a difference in the lives of your loved ones.