I have posted various photos on my Instagram over the last few months that have prompted questions about my daily arthritis routine. So I thought I would go into a bit more detail as to what that looks like.
It should be noted at this point that I’m no saint here. I can’t tell you that I start my day with fruit and whole grains followed by an hour at the gym because I don’t. My body hasn’t been able to handle the gym for a couple of weeks now. Unless I made arrangements to be carried out afterwards! It is what it is. So this routine is my reality of living with arthritis, not what you should necessarily do.
With my forms of arthritis, you know what kind of day you are going to have the minute the alarm goes off in the morning. I’ve always been a morning person but this makes me dread waking up now. It might even be a factor in why I can’t sleep that well anymore. Fear of what the next day brings perhaps? I have always been the type to be organised and I like being prepared. The fact that I can wake in the morning and have to change all of my plans, frustrates me like you wouldn’t believe. To try and ease that frustration a little, this is the routine I follow:
1. Assess and adjust
As you as you wake up, assess where the problem areas are. What hurts, what’s stiff to move, what’s changed since yesterday? These are the things you must consider and compare to the previous day as that will give you an indication as to what sort of limitations you are likely to face. What worked yesterday? What didn’t? Were you sore because you moved too little or too much? Did you get a net gain over the course of the day or were there any actions that made things worse?
Another key part of this self-assessment that is often overlooked is the how well rested are you? Not necessarily how much sleep did you get but how much energy do you have? Are you recharged? I often find that the level of fatigue I wake with is another indicator as to what I can achieve that day. So before you make plans, give yourself time to understand what your body is telling you and adjust accordingly.
2. Bake yourself
Now this next bit of advice is my own personal preference. I shouldn’t need to tell you that I am not a medical professional and have had no medical training (although I did do a first aid course once!). I also shouldn’t need to warn you about scolding yourself in the bath. Yet for legal reasons, I will. Basically, don’t be stupid! 😉
My morning bath is probably the most important part of my routine. If I miss it, for example if I have a screaming one year old needing my attention, I suffer all day. Genuinely.
I have my baths between 30-35c and I realise that this will be too uncomfortable for some. The idea is to get heat into my joints, things moving and I also find it’s benefits my skin to have a good sweat. So if you take this approach, have a bottle of drinking water to hand. Something with vitamins in it may benefit too.
I prepare my bath by using epsom and dead sea salts, I prefer Westlab Salts but other brands are available. I use around two handfuls of each if I have them available, then I add Radox muscle soak therapy. Finally, around 5-6 tablespoons of my prescribed Isomol paraffin-based moisturising cream. This is usually applied dry before or after bathing but I have seen good results from having it in the water itself. Some will melt under high heat but what’s left you can rub into the skin since it floats on the surface.
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If I have the luxury of time, I will stay in the bath for around half an hour. I usually time it via a podcast I am familiar with so I can relax without clock watching.
3. The meds
After my bath, I moisturise to avoid any areas drying out from the heat and I take my pills. All seven of them. I know I should eat something first (I did say this was not a guide!) but when I am in pain I can’t eat.
If you don’t have a paraffin-based moisturiser on prescription for your psoriasis, you can buy them over the counter. I’ve provided a link to the one I use.
4. The dog walk
This next bit is either the hardest or most enjoyable part of my day. I either find out that my efforts have worked and over the course of the walk I loosen up. Or its the longest 20 minutes of my day as I hobble around in increasing pain whilst a dog tries to pull me over.
It’s normally on this walk that I also reflect on my plans for the day and make any necessary changes. The most obvious being am I going into the office, working from home, do I need assistance from my Dr etc. It’s important to give yourself a space to think.
I find that one of the hardest elements of chronic illness is the additional stress you put on yourself regarding decisions like work and finances. Being in pain is hard enough, without you beating yourself up about whether you are fit to work or not. Have a space in your morning arthritis routine once your body has warmed up and set a cutoff point for the decision so you can get on with the rest of your day. Whatever that may look like.
Only you know your body and condition but you must also be willing to listen to it.
Starting your day right is the best way to make the most of it and ensure it’s a productive one. Allow time for your routine. For example, I have to get up anywhere between 5-6am just to ensure I can fit this in without rushing. I know it isn’t ideal when you are tired and sore but I would much rather start my day without a mad rush or only realising that I am unfit for what I have planned halfway there.
Find a routine that works for you. To avoid stress, ensure that you have thinking/reflection time as well as time for physical preparation for the day ahead. Take the time to learn what works for you and what doesn’t. That way, this unpredictable set of illnesses we have to live with becomes that little bit more manageable.
That’s my morning arthritis routine, what’s yours? Let me know in the comments.