Debbie Smith looked forward to retirement. After years in the workforce and raising her children, she envisioned finally having the time to return to studying piano and maybe giving lessons on the side.
But as her retirement approached, she began to feel pain in her hands. She frequently felt a stiffness in her fingers when she’d sit down to play. After a visit with her doctor, her concern was confirmed: a diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Generally, arthritis is not preventable, but you may be able to reduce your risk. Simple steps include maintaining a moderate weight to help protect your joints and avoiding smoking are simple steps that can help make a difference. Arthritis and chronic joint symptoms affect 46 million Americans.
In Debbie’s case, her doctor gave several exercises and suggestions that could help manage the pain and discomfort of arthritis at home. These are good suggestions for anyone, and include:
- Make a Fist: Start with your fingers and thumb straight out. Then slowly curl your fingers into your palm and close your thumb around the outside of their fingers without squeezing your hand too tight. Hold the position for 2–3 seconds. Repeat the action 10 times.
- Squeeze a Tennis Ball: Similar to making a fist, the motion should be slow and deliberate.
- Adjusting Your Computer Habits: Using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse can help alleviate tension on the hands. Likewise, dictation software programs can help you greatly reduce your need to type.
- Adjusting Kitchen Habits: These include stirring food using a shoulder motion as well as using utensils with large, easy-to-grip handles.
In Debbie’s case, these suggestions helped her enormously. But what brought her most joy was learning that May is Arthritis Awareness Month and that she could participate in an Arthritis Awareness Month Walk event. Along with some friends, she hooked up with others on a Facebook Arthritis group and formed a team of 10 walkers to help raise money for arthritis research, support, and advocacy.
“I’m still educating, just not in the way I planned to with piano tutoring!” Debbie laughs, “I may have to limit how much I use my hands, but I can still use my feet!” she laughs.
Debbie is helping raise awareness about arthritis, but she also learned her own valuable lesson. “Be ready for the unexpected,” she says, firmly. The experience taught her the importance of participating in benefits like a dental plan and having life insurance. “You never know what’s going to happen, but you CAN be ready for it.”
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