May is Arthritis Awareness Month, making it an ideal time to take a closer look at arthritis—what it is, who it affects, and how the condition can be managed.
While the condition has one name that everyone knows—arthritis—that name actually refers to an entire family of musculoskeletal disorders, all of which have no known cures. Common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, and fibromyalgia. Arthritis can destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and connective tissues, all of which can limit physical movement.
Arthritis, the nation’s leading cause of disability, touches more people than you might realize. It strikes 50 million American adults—that’s 1 out of every 5 adults—and 300,000 children nationwide. Contrary to popular belief, arthritis does not just strike the elderly—2/3 of people with arthritis are under the age of 65.
Arthritis’ effects extend to the workplace, too. For 1/3 of people with arthritis, it causes them limitations at work. And arthritis is also tough on the US economy, costing us $128 billion annually in medical expenditures and lost earnings at work.
Do you suffer from arthritis? The Arthritis Foundation offers this advice about preventing and managing pain: • Consider using heat and cold therapy to reduce pain and stiffness.
• Try massage. Massage can bring warmth to the painful area and provide relaxation.
• If your doctor has cleared you for exercise, exercise regularly—it not only can help you improve your overall health and fitness, but it may reduce your arthritis symptoms.
• Get your sleep—zzzz’s restore your energy so that you can better manage pain. It also allows you to rest your joints.
• Ask your doctor about whether you could be a candidate for surgery, if you have not responded well to non-surgical treatments.
When you have a chronic condition, it’s especially important to make your health a priority. Make it a point to keep up with your checkups and screenings at your doctor’s office. Talk to your doctor about any new symptoms, how well your current treatments and pain management strategies are working, and don’t be shy about inquiring about what new treatments or clinical trials might be available.