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New CDC Reports Finds Arthritis Disables 1 in 4 Adults

June 01, 2017

Arthritis is a debilitating condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, arthritis has become even more common among the population.

More than 54 million Americans have arthritis and 24 million could only perform limited activities because of this joint disease, according to the CDC.

The agency also found people with arthritis were likely to have other chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. Half of all adults with the latter two health conditions also had arthritis, as did one-third of obese adults.

The CDC also found nearly half of all adults with arthritis are under the age of 65, and more than 29 percent of middle-aged adults between the ages of 45 and 64 have this disease.

Arthritis is becoming more widespread across the population. As doctors, we need to take more steps to treat arthritis, including helping patients be more proactive in managing their condition and finding alternative ways to treat their pain.

Arthritis Symptoms & Treatment

There are two common forms of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is usually age-related, but also can happen after a joint injury caused by an accident. The condition is characterized by pain in the knees, fingers, ankles and hips. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, often occurs in the hands and feet and is typically the result of an autoimmune disorder. Both these conditions can be physically debilitating and make it challenging to perform routine activities.

For a long time, the standard of care for arthritis has involved the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids, or prescription drugs. However, because of the addictive nature of some prescription drugs and the increasing danger they pose the longer someone takes them, it’s critical to find other pain treatments for arthritis sufferers and other people who deal with chronic conditions.

The CDC says more evidence-based physical activity (exercise) and educating patients about how to better manage the disease can help them avoid opioids for pain treatment.

There’s a Catch-22 here, because arthritis often makes it more difficult for people to get and stay active, but every little bit helps. If you have arthritis, talk to you doctor about what types of exercise you can safely do without risking a joint injury or worsening the pain. Typically, range-of-motion exercises that include some stretching can increase flexibility in the joints. Aerobic exercises, such as walking or biking, and strength training with light weights also can help you better manage arthritis symptoms. Water aerobics, in particular, is good for arthritis sufferers because it puts less pressure on the joints. Losing weight can help because this also reduces joint pressure pain.

The CDC also says self-management education workshops, where people learn skills to reduce depression, pain and fatigue, can be helpful in better managing this chronic condition. When a provider recommends these education classes, a patient with arthritis is more likely to take them, according to the CDC, so primary care physicians should inform patients about these resources during their visit, if they are available locally.

Arthritis can make it more challenging and more painful to do the things you used to do, but exercise can help you better manage this condition and research has shown it improves sleep and energy levels in arthritis patients.

Talk to your doctor about starting an exercise regimen and whether there are self-management workshops or other education classes you can take to learn how to better cope with arthritis pain.

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