Understanding Arthritis–How Joint Pain Impacts Daily Life

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The number of adults with arthritis is rising by about 1 million people each year, according to a 2013 government report. The report reaffirms previous predictions that cases of arthritis would rise rapidly with the aging of the population. However, the impact of arthritis on activity limitations is exceeding previous estimates, says the Arthritis Foundation.

“The sharp rise in activity limitations is alarming,” says Arthritis Foundation President and CEO, Ann M. Palmer. “More people are hurting when they walk and climb the stairs, and they may be curbing activities they love due to severe pain and limited mobility caused by the disease. We must reverse this trend by investing more dollars in research to find a cure for arthritis and providing health intervention programs to help people be more active today.”

A Growing Problem

arthritisAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published in the Nov. 8, 2013, issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, arthritis affects the daily activities of about 23 million adults, up from 21 million during 2007-2009, and not far from the projection of 25 million that wasn’t expected until 2030.

The report also confirms the disease is common, impacting about 23 percent of the adult population. The report shows that the number of adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis climbed from roughly 50 million to 53 million over the last three years. Arthritis also carries a heavy financial burden, costing the U.S. economy $128 billion annually.

“The number of U.S. adults with arthritis is increasing. This amounts to an average increase of approximately 2,400 individuals per day,” says Dr. Wayne H. Giles, Director of the Division of Population Health at the CDC.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints. Although it occurs in people of all ages, osteoarthritis is most common in people older than 65.

OA causes a breakdown in the cartilage covering the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint and allow movement. As the cartilage wears away, the bones become exposed and rub against each other. The deterioration of cartilage also affects the shape and makeup of the joint, so that it no longer functions smoothly.

What Are the Symptoms of OA?

Symptoms of OA vary, depending on which joints are affected and how severely they are affected. However, the most common symptoms are stiffness, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting, and pain. The most commonly affected joints are the lower back, hips, knees and feet. When those joints are affected you may have difficulty with such activities as walking, climbing stairs and lifting objects. Other commonly affected joints are the neck and fingers, including the thumb base. When finger and hand joints are affected, osteoarthritis can make it difficult to grasp and hold objects, such as a pencil, or to do delicate tasks, such as needlework.

How is OA treated?

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are medications to help relieve pain, when needed. The doctor may recommend physical therapy (PT) or occupational therapy (OT) to help improve strength and function. When pain is severe and frequent or mobility and daily activities become difficult, surgery may be considered.

Information adapted from The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org). The Foundation is committed to raising awareness
and reducing the unacceptable impact of this serious and painful disease, which can severely damage joints and rob people of living life to its fullest.

Published: July 2014

Posted in: Healthy Living

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