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Self-care for osteoarthritis

There are many things you can do to help manage your arthritis.

Keep physically active

Keeping active is one of the best things you can do to manage your osteoarthritis. It can help to reduce your pain, keep you moving, restore your flexibility and protect your joints against further damage.

Some people worry that they will wear out their joint if they use it too much. But we know that regular physical activity can help to strengthen your joints, muscles and bones.

Some people also worry that pain during physical activity means they're causing harm but it doesn't. Some pain is OK and will not cause harm. But if you have a lot of pain during physical activity or feel a sharp pain, you should stop and ask your general practice team or physiotherapist for advice. You should also get advice if you have pain that is worse than usual the morning after your physical activity.

It’s important to find an activity you enjoy as you’re more likely to stick with it. Excellent activities for osteoarthritis include:

These exercise videos provide instructions on how to do a series of exercises at home and have been designed for people with hip or knee arthritis. Each weekly session takes approximately 20 minutes, and you can repeat it over the course of the week.

If you aren't sure which activities are right for you, talk to your general practice team or other health professional about Support for getting active. There are several initiatives to help adults get physically active. Some of them are free or subsidised but you may have to pay for others.

For more information see Arthritis and exercise on the Arthritis New Zealand website.

This booklet written by health professionals from the University of Otago has information for people with knee arthritis. It explains what causes knee osteoarthritis and what causes the pain you may get with knee osteoarthritis. It also explains why the best thing you can do for your knee and your health is to stay active and take part in things that are important to you. Click the image to see the booklet. You can also find more information including videos and worksheets at Free from Knee Pain.

Eat well and aim for a healthy weight

There is no special diet that will make your arthritis better, but the Mediterranean diet may help.

Being overweight increases the strain on your weight-bearing joints such as your knees and your hips. Losing 5 to 10% of your weight (for example, losing 5 to 10 kg if you weigh 100 kg) can help to relieve some strain on your joints and reduce your pain. Read about How to lose weight.

Learn how to manage pain

Arthritis is a changeable condition. Some days you may have no pain and other days you will. Having pain can be the hardest part of having arthritis. Healthy lifestyle changes such as, eating well, staying active, having a good sleep routine and managing stress can be very helpful. Self-care for chronic pain has more information about how you can help manage your pain.

Retrain Pain is a free course that teaches you techniques for overcoming chronic (persistent) pain. Through a series of one-minute videos, it uses a science-based approach to reducing symptoms.

Find out about aids and devices

There are many aids and devices for osteoarthritis that can make a big improvement to your day-to-day activities.

Speak to an arthritis educator

Arthritis New Zealand has trained arthritis educators who can answer your questions and provide information about ways to live well with osteoarthritis. To contact an educator phone 0800-663-463 or fill in this online self-referral form. Arthritis New Zealand also provides a range of other services and resources.

Have regular check-ups with your general practice team

Have regular check-ups with your general practice team to monitor your symptoms and check whether any treatments are working for you.

Your general practice team may refer you to a dietitian for support to lose weight, a physiotherapist or a podiatrist. They may also refer you to a mobility action programme.

Find out about financial support

For information about funding that your general practice team might be able to use to reduce the cost of your health care, see Funding schemes at your general practice.

To find out about the disability allowance benefit, see Disability allowance.

Transport and parking has information about mobility parking permits, the Total Mobility half-price taxi scheme, and other transport options.

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On the next page: Treating osteoarthritis

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2021.

Page reference: 48779

Review key: HIOST-35589