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In the Merry Month of May

May is one of those magical months that tiptoes between seasons. Sometimes it seems as though you can even notice the precise moment the season segues from spring to summer. During this month, we also have much to celebrate; from the unofficial arrival of summer to the day we set aside especially to show love and appreciation for our mothers, it is truly wonderful. So, may this May bring you a whole lot of sunshine and happiness! 

The Do's & Don'ts of Arthritis Pain

Were you aware that May happens to be recognized each year as National Arthritis Awareness Month?

Arthritis is a disease that impacts more than 50 million Americans, making it the number one cause of disability in the country.

Do a quick search online and you'll find plenty of advice about easing the pain of arthritis and other conditions with exercise, medication and stress reduction. The issue is, how do you know which is the best option in alleviating that pain?

Here are some beneficial do's and don'ts to help you figure it out!

Whatever your condition, it will be easier to stay ahead of your pain if you:

  • Talk to your doctor about your symptoms, arthritis related or not. Sometimes seemingly unrelated problems are, in fact, connected.
  • Give your doctor complete information about your medical conditions and medications, including over-the-counter medications and supplements.
  • Ask your doctor for a clear definition of the type of arthritis you have.
  • Find out whether any of your joints are already damaged.

Everyday routines
Do some gentle exercise in the evening; you'll feel less stiff in the morning. When you're sitting still, either watching TV, reading or working at your desk, be sure to:

  • Adjust your position frequently.
  • Periodically tilt your neck from side to side, change the position of your hands, and bend and stretch your legs.
  • Pace yourself. Take breaks so that you don't overuse a single joint and cause more pain.
  • Stand and walk around every half-hour or so.

In addition, lifestyle changes are important for easing pain.

  • Manage weight. Being overweight can increase complications of arthritis and contribute to arthritis pain. Making incremental, permanent lifestyle changes resulting in gradual weight loss is often the most effective method of weight management.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking causes stress on connective tissues, which leads to more arthritis pain.

When you have arthritis, movement can decrease your pain, improve your range of motion, strengthen your muscles and increase your endurance.

What to do

  • Choose the right kinds of activities — those that build the muscles around your joints but don't damage the joints themselves. A physical or occupational therapist can help you develop an exercise program that's right for you.
  • Focus on stretching, range-of-motion exercises and gradual progressive strength training.
  • Include low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling or water exercises, to improve your mood and help control your weight.

What to avoid
Avoid activities that involve high impact and repetitive motion, such as:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Tennis
  • High-impact aerobics
  • Repeating the same movement, such as a tennis serve, again and again

Many different types of medications are available for arthritis pain relief. Most are relatively safe, but no medication is completely free of side effects. Talk with your doctor to formulate a medication plan for your specific pain symptoms.

What to do

  • Take medications. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), can help relieve occasional pain triggered by activity your muscles and joints aren't used to — such as gardening after a winter indoors.
  • Topical analgesics. Cream containing capsaicin may be applied to skin over a painful joint to relieve pain. Use alone or with oral medication.

Consult your doctor if over-the-counter medications aren't enough to relieve your pain.

What to avoid

  • Overtreatment. Talk with your doctor if you find yourself using over-the-counter pain relievers regularly.
  • Undertreatment. Don't try to ignore severe and prolonged arthritis pain. It may mean you have joint inflammation or damage requiring daily medication.
  • Focusing only on pain. Depression is more common in people with arthritis. Doctors have found that treating depression with antidepressants and other therapies reduces not only depression symptoms but also arthritis pain.

Physical and emotional integration
It's no surprise that arthritis pain has a negative effect on your mood. If everyday activities make you hurt, you're bound to feel discouraged. But when these normal feelings escalate to create a constant refrain of fearful, hopeless thoughts, your pain can actually get worse and harder to manage.

What to do
Therapies that interrupt destructive mind-body interactions include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This well-studied, effective combination of talk therapy and behavior modification helps you identify — and break — cycles of self-defeating thoughts and actions.
  • Relaxation therapy. Find ways to relax. Meditating, doing yoga, deep breathing, listening to music, being in nature, writing in a journal — whatever works for you. There's no downside to relaxation, and it can help ease pain.
  • Acupuncture. Some people experience pain relief through acupuncture treatments, when a trained acupuncturist inserts hair-thin needles at specific points on your body.
  • Heat and cold. Use of heat, such as applying heating pads to aching joints, taking hot baths or showers, or immersing painful joints in warm paraffin wax, can help relieve pain temporarily. Be careful not to burn yourself. Use heating pads for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
    Use of cold, such as applying ice packs to sore muscles, can relieve pain and inflammation after strenuous exercise.

  • Massage. Massage may improve pain and stiffness. Make sure your massage therapist knows you have arthritis and where.

What to avoid

  • Smoking. If you're addicted to tobacco, you may use it as an emotional coping tool. But it's counterproductive: Toxins in smoke cause stress on connective tissue, leading to more joint problems.
  • A negative attitude. Negative thoughts are self-perpetuating. As long as you keep dwelling on them, they keep escalating until you believe the worst. Using negative thoughts to cope with pain can actually increase your risk of disability and pain. Instead, focus on adaptive therapies like distraction or calming statements.

May Mischief

With Poppies to Remember Them

"We cherish too, the poppy red, that grows on fields where valor led. It seems to signal to the skies that blood of heroes never dries." 

Have you ever been curious as to why you see veterans asking for donations and rewarding your generosity with a handmade poppy flower? In honor of Memorial Day (which falls on the 30th of this month), we decided to delve into the reason behind why this flower symbolizes the memory of our fearlessly selfless, fallen soldiers.

The poppy was first chosen as The American Legion's memorial flower at the 1921 National Convention and was worn in memory of the men who lost their lives in World War I. Picture vast armies on two sides in a long four year battle, along a double line of trenches. This was Europe from 1914 to November 11, 1918. In this area of death and destruction, hundreds of thousands of American boys advanced in 1917 and 1918 determined to put an end to the horrible war. You all know the story of how they did end the war, restoring peace and liberty to subjected peoples. But, many thousands of fine young lives were required to complete the task.

The one bright color on the battle torn fields and hills of these areas was the little, red poppy. On the edges of the trenches, in the ragged shell holes, brave little poppies grew and bloomed on the graves of those men buried in the sacred plots of French soil, which was Flanders Field. Remembrances of the cheery bright red flowers returned to America with our boys. And so, the poppy became the symbol of those heroes lost, their memorial flower. It became the sign that the high ideals for which these brave young men gave their lives, still live, and are honored.

Soon a double significance was attached to the memorial poppy. Disabled veterans quickly learned to assemble poppies while growing well again. The American Legion and Auxiliary are united in efforts to help those hospitalized veterans. Through the winter months, cut materials are delivered to these veterans and soon boxes of bright red poppies are ready for a big distribution in May. And when payday arrives, what a thrill to receive their pay for a job well done!  And what a joy it is to wear a poppy made by a disabled veteran, when you know the money it brought him filled a desperate need.

So each year, prior to Memorial Day, millions of Americans wear little red poppies in memory of those who have died in all wars and to assist in the rehabilitation of those veterans who are now hospitalized suffering from wounds and illness.

Now you know the story behind the red poppies you see around Memorial and Veteran's Day, millions of which are distributed by unpaid, volunteer workers on these days. 


Culinary Corner

If you're anything like the rest of the staff at Absolute Health Care, we positively love Mexican food! And Cinco De Mayo is a splendid excuse to try out some delicious Mexican-inspired recipes! Try this vibrant soup with a spicy kick as your entree and then cool it down for dessert with some fresh fruit dunked into refreshing margarita dip. If you decide to try these recipes out, share por favor?

Mexican Vegetable Soup w/ Lime and Avocado

Cinco De Mayo Margarita Fruit Dip

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Absolute Health Care has been providing professional home care and elder support services for over 20 years.