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Arthritis Overview: Part 2

By Alan Williams, PT, OTR/L, ATC, CSCS

In my last article, I went over some of the basic facts of arthritis – its history, common types, and impact in our country today. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 46 million Americans suffer from the condition. Maybe you’re one of them, maybe not. Either way, it’s time to learn how you can better manage your arthritis and how you can help prevent yourself from getting the disease -and good news! The process of reaching these two goals is essentially the same.

Your physical therapist, occupational therapist, or doctor can be a wonderful resource for learning to control your arthritis pain. They are familiar with you, your particular condition, and its severity, and they will be able to recommend management techniques specifically for you. In this article, I’ll be discussing a broader outlook at arthritis management. After all, according to the American Pain Society, patient education is potentially the most critical therapy in arthritis pain management.

The CDC lists arthritis as the number one reported cause of disability in America, so it’s pretty clear that we all need to seriously start giving our joints some extra TLC. That starts with getting up and moving! Our joints were meant to move, just like airplanes were meant to fly and race cars meant to race (imagine shelling out seven figures for a Bugatti Veyron and leaving it in your garage!). The human body is priceless and more complex than any machine; it wants to be used.

Although moving painful joints may seem like less than a stellar idea, it’s really the best thing for them. Movement in the form of regular exercise can help to slow the progression of arthritis (this includes people who may not have it yet) by encouraging the joints to remain active rather than succumbing to immobility. Low-impact activities such as walking, cycling, and aquatic exercises are excellent choices, but always check with your physical therapist or doctor before starting a new exercise program.

It may seem odd, but arthritis can be a great way to grow closer to the people in your life. By staying active and enlisting your loved ones as partners in your activities, you’ll spend more quality time together than you might otherwise. Instead of watching TV, why not sign you and your spouse up for dance lessons or recruit your family and neighbors to participate in a charity walk? The world is full of fun things to do, and it’s twice as nice when we can do them together.

Beyond staying active, much of managing and preventing arthritis pain comes down to keeping your body healthy as a whole. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy body weight are important for everyone regardless of age. Strong bodies also need strong bones, so make sure you get ample amounts of calcium every day.

Those with arthritis concerns will also benefit by paying attention to proper posture, not just for your back, but also your neck, wrists, knees, etc. Simple things like checking that your computer monitor is level with your head and wearing comfortable, well-fitting shoes will help make sure your joints don’t become overworked simply by trying to compensate for the objects around them.

And finally, remember R.I.C.E. – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Painful joints benefit from rest between activities. Ice (or heat) can help relax tense muscles. Swelling can be reduced by gently compressing the area with a wrap, and then elevating it above the level of your heart. See your doctor for pain that is intense, unusual, or does not lessen with the above treatment.

Whether you are old, young, or somewhere in between, arthritis is a major concern for Americans today, but it doesn’t have to keep us from enjoying our lives. By educating our minds and taking care of our bodies today, we are also taking care of ourselves for tomorrow.

For your FREE Arthritis Assessment, call 463-0022 today!