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Essential Habits For People With Osteoarthritis

Updated on September 20, 2014

I am not a doctor. These are my personal experiences.

Peach of Mind  Image License CC0 Public Domain --
Peach of Mind Image License CC0 Public Domain -- | Source

Osteoarthritis Posture Habits

I received a package two years ago from a friend. She wanted to send me a housewarming gift. I opened the box and this pillow was inside. Along with this pillow I found a sheet set and a bag of coffee beans. It may have been the most thoughtful housewarming gift I have ever received. The coffee beans lasted a long time because I would use them when I had guests or over holidays. The bedding and the pillow I am sure to enjoy for many years. This page is specifically about the pillow and why it is such a blessing to me.

I have degenerative disc disease. That is a stage of advanced osteoarthritis. This has been a lifetime condition, beginning in high school, which since about 2002 has become even more advanced, problematic, painful, and limiting.

My condition is worse in my upper back and neck area. There are times when I can not get comfortable no matter the position I try to sit, lay down, or be propped up in. That is where this pillow has come in and has given me countless restful nights since July 2012.

I've learned a lot of things over the past ten years to keep myself mobile. My condition has threatened to keep me home bound. It has succeeded in keeping home to work, but, I have learned tips and tools to use so I can remain mobile (walking, showering by myself, and grocery shopping). I realize one day I may not be as independent as I am today. That reality becomes clearer over the years. But for now I am maintaining as much independence as I can by consistently keeping mindful of things I need to do.

I'm showing off this pillow but that is only a part of what this page is about. I will share the most important elements of my body maintenance routine and hope this will help others who are dealing with advanced stages of osteoarthritis.

Five Essential Habits

1. Meal Plan

2. Sleep

3. Walking

4. Comfort Zone

5. Mind Spirit Emotion

Essential Self Care

The primary categories to learn about and improve for better health are:

  1. Meal Plan: I eat portions and make every bite count. Calories aren't counted but, I have limited carbs and no gluten. I have two sizes of meals. A scoop (the size of a small apple sauce -- like the kids carry in their lunch boxes) which I used for a portion of trail mix or granola cereal. Then I have a salad plate (which I use for everything else). 5 portions a day. In a year I'm about 10 pounds away from my ideal weight.
  2. Sleep: It is important for me to make sure I am getting 7-9 hours of sleep each day. I do best when I get those hours in two segments. One 7 hour overnight and one 2 hour nap. This isn't really structured however I think it would improve my life even more if it were possible to set my bedtime routine a bit more 'routine.' At this time I sleep when I'm tired and wake up when I wake up.
  3. Walking: I walk two miles a day. That is my minimum and I rarely miss it. Some days I walk a bit more. I try to use my walking time to take care of errands, visit friends, go to the park, drop by the library, and generally make my walks enjoyable. I do now and then step up the pace, but, in general I walk a steady pace and time about 25-30 minutes a mile.
  4. Comfort Zone: I make sure when I sit, lay down, walk, or anything else I adjust my body to the ultimate comfort zone. Sometimes this means looking like I'm fidgeting, but, over time this has ensured I do not injure myself by simply sitting in a chair the wrong way.
  5. Mind Spirit Emotion Connection: I address my whole being. This is important to make sure we are addressing every aspect of our lives as they relate to the challenges we are experiencing in our bodies. Simply open to a holistic approach to every physical condition we find ourselves challenged by.

Take Progress In Steps Gently Improving Over Time

Image License CC0 Public Domain --
Image License CC0 Public Domain -- | Source

5 Essentials Question

Are you incorporating healthy habits in each of the five categories?

See results

Stay In Motion

One of my essential habits is staying in motion. There are times when I am not moving very fast, but, I am moving. I don't push myself (no need to add pressure to the situation) but I do spend time each day in the following activities which have improved my life and allowed me to live as fully as possible in spite of my condition. These aren't in any particular order. I'm thinking of them as I go along. Remember this is what I do and it isn't going to be exactly the same for everyone.

Also realize what I'm listing here today is where I am today. Ten years ago, even two years ago, I hadn't made it to where I am today yet. The main thing is to start from where you are and gradually reach toward where you would like to be over time. Set a goal. One more thing... don't listen to the 'no pain no gain' thought process. Not now. That is for muscle builders who are actually tearing muscle to build muscle (or something like that). For us, those of us with osteoarthritis, we are better off being gentle with ourselves but staying in motion. Gentle motion, consistent motion, and gradually moving a bit more.

About The Pillow Below: I've included this one to companion the pillow above. I use both in different ways, day and night, to ensure I am following essential habit #4

This is the shape to use for my neck. There are times with the highest side fits under my neck comfortably and others when I need to use the low side instead. What I like about this pillow is the firmness adjusts to me. It starts our firm and then gives in just the right places. This is important to me because I use the edge behind my neck to relieve stress.

Proper Posture Awake & Asleep

Z Gel Infused DOUGH Memory Foam Contour Pillow with Liquid Z GEL Packet - 5 Year U.S. Warranty - Standard
Z Gel Infused DOUGH Memory Foam Contour Pillow with Liquid Z GEL Packet - 5 Year U.S. Warranty - Standard

Laying down on my side. I will move the contour pillow as far to the side my back is facing. I position my head/neck on the pillow (with only about four inches left on the side where my face is facing).

Next I will reach behind me and gently pull the extended area of the pillow down toward my feet. This creates a stable place to lean a bit.


© 2014 Deb Bryan

Do you or someone you know have osteoarthritis? What habits do you strive for to improve your quality of life?

Submit a Comment

  • GypsyOwl profile imageAUTHOR

    Deb Bryan 

    4 years ago from Chico California

    @Ibidii: Thank you, ibidii.

  • profile image


    4 years ago

    Sound advice. I am glad you are so mobile. I cannot walk more than 100 yards. I use all the mobility equipment. I am not sleeping well for 40 years. Working on all of it. I have other disabilities as well covered in a lot of my lenses. Your lens is very well written.


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