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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Arthritis Awareness Month


One of the most widespread chronic health conditions in the United States is arthritis. With it affecting one in four adults, which is over 58 million people, arthritis takes a toll on many people’s health. Arthritis causes not only disability, but lost wages and the spending of billions of dollars annually in medical costs. The Arthritis Foundation and the CDC has designated May as Arthritis Awareness Month to raise awareness on this debilitating chronic health condition.

Arthritis Awareness Month encourages all adults, including adults with arthritis, to commit themselves to a walking routine of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity. This moderate intensity aerobic activity could be activities like brisk walking or riding a bike. It is also recommended that adults work on muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.

The main two types of arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis 
    • Most common
    • The “wear and tear” arthritis where the joint breaks down from injury or overuse
    • Occurs most frequently in the knees, hands and hips
    • Signs and symptoms include pain, aching, stiffness, swelling, decreased range of motion or flexibility
    • The risk increases with age. Also, a family history, joint injury in the past and obesity put people at an increased risk.
    • Women are more likely to get than men
    • Treatment includes increasing physical activity, physical therapy, weight loss if needed, medications, supportive devices, surgery and self-management strategies
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • An autoimmune and inflammatory disease (the immune system attacks healthy body cells)
    • Attacks many joints at once, mainly the hands, wrists and knees
    • The lining of the joint becomes inflamed which causes damage to the joint tissue
    • Causes chronic pain, unsteadiness and sometimes deformity
    • Signs and symptoms include pain/aching/stiffness/tenderness/swelling in more than one joint, the same symptoms on both sides of the body, weight loss, fever, weakness, fatigue
    • The risk increases with age
    • Women are more likely to get than men
    • Specific genes called HLA (human leukocyte antigen) class II genotypes can make the arthritis worse
    • Smoking increases the risk of development
    • Treatment includes medications, weight loss, physical activity, self-management strategies
  • Lifestyle management and evidence-based programs are key to improving the quality of life of people who suffer from arthritis
  • Physical activity programs in the community help participants safely exercise and reduce arthritis symptoms
  • Self-management programs teach people the skills for not only managing their arthritis but other chronic conditions. One of these is the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) through the Self-Management Resource Center (SMRC), formerly the Stanford University Patient Education Center. The program focuses on decision making, problem solving and action planning. (PTI has leaders who can deliver this workshop at your organization or at our office. Contact for more information.)
  • Remote delivery of arthritis and chronic disease programs really started moving during the pandemic. These include video conferences, phone conferences, email support, online web-based programs and manual mailing with other resources. Many organizations are continuing to provide remote programs.

Arthritis does not have a cure, but non-surgical treatments can manage it for most people. Some severe cases may need surgery if conservative treatments haven’t help improve the symptoms. Talk with your healthcare provider for the right treatment plan for you.

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