Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 Americans over the age of 18 have arthritis in at least one joint? It is projected that by 2040, an estimated 78 million (26%) US adults ages 18 years or older are to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis (source). What exactly is arthritis and what should you do about it? Arthritis itself means joint inflammation and can affect you in many ways throughout your body. We’ve provided some background information on what arthritis is, common types and how to lessen its impact on your activities for daily living.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis can be referred to as more than 100 different conditions that affect the joints. It can also affect the muscles and other tissues in your body. The two most common types are:
- Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis is degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthritis, which happens due to the breakdown of the tissue inside the joints.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This is when your immune system, which usually fights infection, attacks the cells that line your joints, making them swollen, stiff and painful.
Common Warning Signs of Arthritis
Some of the most common symptoms or warning signs you should discuss with your doctor include:
- Lasting joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Joint stiffness
- Tenderness or pain when touching a joint
- Problems using or moving a joint normally
- Warmth and redness in a joint
So, what can you do if you have Arthritis?
How to Deal with Your Arthritis
There are many ways to improve your daily life if you have arthritis, such as:
Medication Management: You may be prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and the most prescribed drugs for treating arthritis pain including: ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Alleve, Naprosyn) as examples. Make sure to manage your medication properly to provide ease to your joint pain.
Exercise and Stretch: As much as your body will permit incorporate safe exercise routines to build muscle and bone strength. Stretch on a daily basis to keep your muscles loose especially around your joints. Don’t over-extend yourself and discuss with your doctor about a routine that fits your needs.
Hot and Cold Therapy: Cold can help numb areas of pain or swollen joints and can be applied with an ice pack. Heat can help to relax the muscles and bring a sense of relief. You can apply heat with a warm pack, a warm bath, Jacuzzi or whirlpool, electric heating pad or blanket. If you feel any pain when applying a cold or hot therapeutic method discontinue immediately and discuss it with your doctor.
Adaptive Clothing: Adaptive clothing is designed with the dressing needs of the elderly and disabled in mind. Silvert’s, an adaptive clothing & footwear for independent & assisted dressing, designs styles while focusing on the challenges faced by those with decreased levels of mobility like arthritis. These adapted features include:
- Velcro-type closures instead of buttons
- Lap-over back-style garments with snaps for the individual who cannot raise their arms
- Zippers with easy-to-grasp pull tabs
- Pants with side zippers
- Shoes with Velcro-type closures instead of shoelaces
- Slippers that adjust in width to accommodate swollen feet and ankles
Splints, Braces and other Assistive Devices: To provide the support your muscles and joints may need you should consider using a splint or brace to support weakened joints and allow them to rest. Other assistive devices, such as a cane or shoe insert can help when walking.
There are many ways to live with your arthritis and we’ve suggested just a few of them above. Speak with your doctor about what methods are best to meet your pain and discomfort.