6 Ways to Improve Joint Pain (Naturally)

No-Cost Self-Help Tips

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Chronic pain can have many causes. An old injury or medical conditions like arthritis can cause stiff, achy joints. Chronic pain can also negatively impact your daily functioning, restful sleep and quality of life.

brunette woman sleeping on her right side with white linen sheets and pillowcase

While over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin can help ease joint pain, these products can negatively react with any prescription medications you are taking.

Long-term use of NSAIDS can also cause other health issues.

woman seated on floor with white shirt and black pants deep stretching with left arm outstretched over head and right elbow on floor and one knee bent while other is straight

So here are 6 ways to help reduce your joint discomfort at home:

  • Cold compress – Wrap an ice pack or frozen bag of corn or peas in a towel. Apply this to the painful joint.
  • Heat therapy – Soak in a warm bath or try a warm shower. You can also apply a heating pad to the aching joint to bring some pain relief.
  • Elevation – If the painful joint is in the lower extremities, raise the joint above your heart level to reduce any swelling.
  • Exercise – Walking and gentle stretching help to strengthen muscles that support your joints.
  • Relaxation Activities – Meditating, deep breathing exercises, and journaling are a few ways to practice relaxation. Don’t discount the power of these activities – give them a try.
  • Distractive Activities – Self massage or listening to music can temporarily displace pain sensations with pleasant ones.
woman seated on pink mat meditating with hands on knees and feet flat together

Here are additional ways to relieve joint pain. While not necessarily home treatments, have a conversation with your health care provider about the following options:

  • Weight Management – Extra weight can put additional stress on your joints. Ask your health care provider for a plan to safely lose weight.
  • Yoga and Tai Chi – These two forms of exercise can ease joint pain and stiffness, improve balance, and reduce stress.
  • TENS Unit – A small, portable device that provides transcutaneous (passes through the skin without needle penetration) electrical nerve stimulation to ease pain. Be sure to check with your health care provider about your medical conditions prior to using this device.
  • PT and OT – A physical therapist can create a tailored exercise plan for muscle strengthening and improved range of motion. An occupational therapist can create a treatment plan for protecting your painful joint by teaching you how to complete daily tasks in non-conventional ways.
  • Therapeutic Massage Therapy – A massage therapist can manipulate muscle tissue to improve circulation and reduce pain and stress.
woman receiving a massage

This information is not meant to replace medical advice. Always check with your health care provider before trying any new treatments.

My Gluten Free Pantry Staples

A Minimalist List


Since my celiac diagnosis in 2004, I’ve reduced the gluten-free specialty products I keep on hand in my pantry.

In the beginning, I felt overwhelmed with the prices of gluten-free specialty foods. But I soon realized that a few basic products met my needs AND made my wallet happier. All I need are the items on my list below – then I add fruits, vegetables and proteins to round out meals and snacks. I did not include brand names, since there are so many to select from on the market.

Occasionally, I enjoy trying new products as well!

My Bare Bones List of Gluten-Free Staples

bright green pencil writing lines on a note pad

GF all-purpose flour

GF pancake and baking mix

GF bread – I honestly keep bread in the freezer for freshness but some people keep it in a pantry or bread drawer so I included it for a pantry item

GF cereals and GF oats

GF broth/bouillon – chicken, beef, vegetable

GF brown rice pasta – various forms like spaghetti, elbow and ziti

GF soy sauce replacement – aminos in liquid form like wheat-free soy or coconut

GF pretzels

GF granola bars – If I need to quickly grab a to-go snack for my purse


Other items in my pantry are mainstream staples and products that I verify do not contain gluten. These include essentials like rices, various sweeteners, oils, and canned goods.

Each package label is eyeballed for gluten ingredients before I purchase them. This is an important task because ingredients and processing can change. You’d be surprised at the number of manufacturers I’ve contacted over the years about a questionable product!

If you shop for groceries online and the site provides expanded image views of the product, trust the product image ingredient list, not the text description of the product on the page.

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Because it is so important, I will repeat this again – EVERY label must be checked EACH time, because ingredients can change from one purchase to the next.

My final suggestion is that you create a designated space in the pantry for gluten-free products. This has worked well for me over the years.

Insight into Low Vision

Healing, Accepting and Adapting

pickupimage.com/e by zettasnap

You’re being driven home from your eye doctor’s office by a family member. As hard as you try, you can’t seem to digest two specific words the ophthalmologist said.

Low Vision.

Low vision can be caused by glaucoma, diabetes, macular degeneration, injury or other conditions. It is a permanent loss of significant vision that can’t be restored with eyeglasses, contact lenses, medications or surgery. Low vision commonly includes the loss of central or peripheral vision. The inability to see at night or severe haziness are other low vision symptoms.

It doesn’t matter if your vision loss was sudden or gradual, you have the right to mourn your diminished eyesight. This is a normal and healthy process that you are entitled to feel.

Each person will grieve differently and you may experience feelings of anger and sadness. You may also fear that your independence is threatened.

Sad young woman sitting alone on bench
pickupimage.com by peopleshot

The reality of sight loss can be overwhelming at any age. If you are young, it can be especially scary to think about what the future holds for you. The way you see the world, literally, will require both your acceptance, patience and adjustment.

If grappling with this new reality becomes overwhelming, accept the emotional support of family and friends. If you are reluctant to talk freely about your emotions with them, seek the help of a mental health counselor to guide you psychologically through this transition.

Although you have lost considerable sight, low vision means that you still have some usable vision. Know that there are ways to maximize your remaining eyesight.

pickupimage.com by peopleshot

When you are feeling ready, find out what resources are available to support your safety, independence and quality of life. Ask your eye doctor about rehabilitation programs and professionals who can teach you to live with the vision you still have.

You will likely have options for low vision rehabilitation in your local area. There are various aids and adaptive devices that can help you do the things you want or need to do. An occupational therapist can help you learn adaptive techniques to keep you safer while you perform your daily activities.

As you begin to accept your low vision, remember that adapting how you do things can help you maintain an independent and wonderful life.

*This article is informational only. It is not medical advice and should not replace the advice of a medical professional*

Simple Home Remedies to Comfort Dry Eyes

Help for Dry, Gritty Eyes and Sjogren’s Syndrome

Deliyum / pickupimage.com

Dry eyes are a common condition, especially if you are over 50 or stare at a computer screen for hours. Another cause of dry eye symptoms is Sjogren’s Syndrome, a chronic autoimmune condition.

Dry eye can feel like gritty sand or a stray eyelash floating on the surface of your eye. Light sensitivity, burning and blurry vision are also common symptoms of dry eye.

Fortunately, these simple home remedies can help soothe your irritated eyes. Best of all, they’re free!

  • Sip Water Throughout the Day – Drinking water during the course of the day will keep your whole body hydrated, including your eyes (and mouth, for Sjogren’s sufferers). Keeping hydrated isn’t always tops on your mind, but it’s important. So have a tall, cool glass or bottle of water nearby and take sips frequently until it becomes second nature.
  • Use a Warm, Wet Compress – Wet a clean washcloth with warm (not hot) water. Squeeze out excess water. Rest your head back with the washcloth placed gently over your closed eyes for five minutes. Relax and allow the warm moisture to calm your irritated eyes. You can use a warm, moist compress as many times a day as necessary.
  • Gently Clean your Eyelid Area – Wet a soft cloth with warm water. Gently wipe your eyelids, especially the inner and outer corners. Carefully wipe your eyelashes too.
  • Ditch the Eye Makeup – Eye makeup, especially powders and glitters, can add more irritation to dry and unhappy eyes. Mascara and eyeliners can also be a source of discomfort. Instead, use an eyelash curler and perfect your brows with an eyebrow pencil. For more face “pop”, play up your lips with a glamorous red lipstick or pretty blusher instead.
simmer water for moisture
  • Add Moisture to Indoor Air – Dry indoor air is frequently caused by air conditioning and heating sources sucking humidity from the air.
    • Try placing a bowl or pan of water near your heat vent or radiator. This can help to add moisture to your indoor air. This is a minimalist version of a humidifier.
    • Use the stovetop more than the microwave to help bring restore indoor air moisture.
    • After taking a shower or bath, open the bathroom door to allow humidity into other rooms. Hang bath towels to air dry.
smoking irritates dry eyes
  • Avoid Smoke and Drafts – Drafts from air conditioning, ceiling fans and heating sources can dry eye surfaces. In addition, fireplaces, wood burning stoves and tobacco smoke can all contribute to eye irritation. Keep a distance from air conditioning and heating vents.
  • Look Down at your Computer – Place your screen as low as you can tolerate to avoid lifting your eyelids too much. Keeping them wide open permits surface moisture to evaporate quicker. The more you can look down at your screen the better. Another option is to lift your seat height.
  • Try the 20/20 Rule – For every 20 minutes that you are looking at your computer screen, close your eyes for 20 seconds. This trick can help ease eye dryness and gives the muscles around your eyes a relaxing break.
  • Post a Blink Reminder – When you stare at electronic screens too long without blinking, you are robbing your eyes of needed tear film. So try placing a bright sticky note near your computer that reminds you to blink more often. Blinking helps to minimize moisture evaporation from the surface of your eyes. Change the note color occasionally so you don’t subconsciously ignore it after a while.
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You will get the best results by trying these suggestions before your eyes are overly dry and irritated. Over-the-counter artificial tears, gels and ointments can offer additional symptom relief. But these products can be expensive to rely on exclusively.

Remember – don’t rub your eyes. Rubbing will only increase the irritation. Be aware that if severe dry eye is not medically managed, it can harm the corneas of your eyes.

Have your eyes checked by a medical professional regularly, especially if you are experiencing eye discomfort or vision problems.

Your eye professional will assess your symptoms and determine if you have any underlying conditions causing your dry eyes. They can then recommend a treatment plan to maintain your eye health.

*This article is informational only. It is not medical advice and should not replace the advice of a medical professional*

How to Enjoy a Pizza Shop (When You Can’t Eat Gluten)

7 Strategies to Eat Out with Friends Again

image by mcfoodie

Social gatherings can be difficult for anyone with a food allergy or intolerance. Many events seem to center around eating and drinking. This scenario is especially true for a celiac when a pizzeria is a spur of the moment choice.

Plastering a smile on your face and assuring everyone that you’re fine is hard. Smelling the oregano and melting cheese wafting about doesn’t help either.

Then you get questions asking why you can’t just order a salad. You explain that even a salad is risky in a pizza kitchen with airborne flour. Even gluten-free menu items can be dangerous since they are prepared in the same space as gluten items.

Yes, everyone means well, but sometimes it’s hard to restrain yourself from running to the ladies’ room in frustration. So you sip your water and watch everyone else enjoy their cheesy pizza and garlicy breadsticks.

But know that you don’t have to be resigned to just a drink. A little planning can improve this situation.

Tips to Help Make Eating Out with Friends Easier:

  • Pick the Place: If socializing with family and friends is a regularly scheduled event, make sure you get to choose the restaurant occasionally too. Seek out gluten-free eateries. Do some online legwork to find dedicated safe places in your area. Be honest with your friends about your special diet. Let them know you can be flexible sometimes, but you appreciate their flexibility as well. Then consider having a favorite meal ready to zap when you get home.
  • Skip the Meal: When eating out is only one part of the evening fun, consider skipping the restaurant if it really brings you down. Sure, it’s disappointing, but anxiety over getting sick isn’t fun either. Eating at home first might be your best choice. Tell the others that you can meet them later at the club. Be firm if they persist in your attendance at dinner, especially if you don’t want just a glass of water for your meal.
image by foodiesfeed
  • B.Y.O.F: Contact the restaurant and explain your food intolerance. Ask if you can bring your own food to discreetly eat. Don’t expect the establishment to heat your food. They may be prevented from doing so for health code reasons. So pack a homemade hoagie to enjoy.
  • Know What Alcohol Is GF: So the gang is going to a pub and you want to drink too. Do some online research beforehand to know your gluten-free options. Make a note of a few safe alcoholic choices and brand names. Otherwise, basic wine is typically a safe bet. If you know the specific bar, try calling ahead to confirm they carry these options. Remember to bring your own snacks to help absorb the alcohol.
  • Eat Before You Meet: Watching others enjoy the pizza while you sip your wine is easier if you have a full stomach. So take care of your hunger at home and then go meet the gang.
  • Carry a Snack: For those times that you didn’t realize you’d be eating out, always have a safe snack with you. Or if you know the plans include going to an eatery with unsafe choices, bring something grand along! At these times, only an individually wrapped, horribly expensive treat will console you! GF bonbons anyone?
  • Be the Chef: Why not make the food and invite the gang to your place? Offer a sampling of new foods to taste. You can enjoy your company while eating safely.
image by flickrpd

Be prepared if the spotlight is suddenly turned on you and your food issues. When the table chat zooms to your inability to eat from the menu, offer a 10 second “mini education” about your condition. Then quickly steer the conversation back to the guest of honor or another popular topic.

Remember that you don’t need to make excuses or apologize for protecting your health. True friends and family will eventually understand why eating gluten-free is necessary for your well being.

*This article is informational only. It is not medical advice and should not replace the advice of a medical professional*

How to Get the Most From Your Health Provider Visit

9 Tips to Maximize a Visit

Syringe and Prescription Bottle

Health professionals strive to provide quality patient care while balancing a time-strapped schedule.

With patient appointments in the U.S. averaging only 20 minutes, this translates to limited time for your medical consultation. So it pays to prepare for your health visit.

Preparing will help maximize those precious minutes with your healthcare provider.

Before Your Healthcare Visit:

  • Complete appointment pre-work: Complete any testing that your health provider ordered for you. This includes lab work, x-rays or similar. Be sure to schedule these test well in advance of your physician visit.
  • Prepare questions for your visit: Write down the questions you want to ask your healthcare provider in a notebook. Its frustrating to forget a concern that bothers you.
  • Make Lists: In the same notebook, make a list of your allergies, medical conditions, prior surgeries and your family history. Also jot down any medication names with dosages, supplements and over-the-counter drugs you are taking. Write clearly because the medical office may want to make a copy of these pages.
  • Remember your Notebook: Put the notebook containing the information for #2, and #3 above in a place you will remember to grab it on your appointment day. If you have any forms that need to be completed for school or an employer, be sure to take them too.

During Your Healthcare Visit:

  • Bring Extra Ears: Have a family member or friend attend the medical appointment with you. Give them permission to ask questions, too.
  • Be Honest: Tell the doctor about any symptoms. Tell them if you have experimented with a home remedy or an illegal drug. Do not withhold any information from your healthcare provider. If you haven’t taken previously prescribed medications, haven’t followed a previously ordered exercise or therapy plan – be honest.
  • Take Notes: Write down the name of a new diagnosis, new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also note any new instructions your provider gives you. Understand why a new prescription or treatment is being prescribed, and how it will benefit you. Side effects are important to ask about as well. This is why having someone attend with you can be helpful. They can write while you listen, or vice versa.
  • Understand the Next Steps: Before leaving, restate your understanding of any medications or dosage amounts, medical tests to schedule, and any diagnoses the health professional has discussed with you. Obtain any paper scripts for requested medical tests.
  • Schedule Future Appointments: Make sure to schedule any appointments before you leave the building. This includes follow-up visits or tests that your healthcare provider has ordered for you. Sometimes your provider’s staff will help you schedule your tests.

It’s important to actively participate in your treatment decisions. This means keeping informed and well-educated about your conditions and treatments.

If you are not comfortable with the outcome of your visit, get a second opinion or find a different health professional.

You know your body, pain and symptoms better than anyone else. Be assertive and advocate for yourself.

*This article is informational only. It is not medical advice and should not replace the advice of a medical professional*

Writing Cottage Blog

A Health and Wellness Site for How to Improve Chronic Illness Challenges

flower cottage
Image by JL G from Pixabay

Welcome to the launch of the new Writing Cottage Blog and my first post!

My name is Regina Zielinski and I’m excited to tell you what my blog has to offer.

I have so many tips, how-to’s, and inspiration that I want to share with you.

My Writing Cottage blog will:

  • Share health and wellness info that impacts you
  • Empower you to advocate for yourself
  • Help you manage your wellness journey
  • Bring positivity and awareness to chronic health conditions
  • Offer ideas to help you minimize the impact that chronic illness has on your life
  • Strive to help you improve your quality of life
Image by Bella H. from Pixabay

I aim to write with clarity, passion and honesty.

This blog will share chronic condition content, including both familiar and less known illness topics. General wellness topics will also be included.

I look forward to your next visit!

*This article is informational only. It is not medical advice and should not replace the advice of a medical professional*