Arthritis refers to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. It is the leading cause of disability in America. More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go. They can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years, but may progress or get worse over time. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs.
By 2040, an estimated 78 million (26%) US adults ages 18 years or older are projected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risk of arthritis increases with age and arthritis is more common among women than men.
5 ways to manage arthritis
Physical or occupational therapists can be very helpful in teaching you how to modify activities and accomplish daily tasks more easily in order to manage arthritis. But there are simple things you can do for yourself, starting today, reports Harvard Medical School. Here are five of them:
- Keep moving. Avoid holding one position for too long. When working at a desk, for example, get up and stretch every 15 minutes. Do the same while sitting at home reading or watching television.
- Discover your strength. Put your strongest joints and muscles to work. To protect finger and wrist joints, push open heavy doors with the side of your arm or shoulder. To reduce hip or knee stress on stairs, let the strong leg lead going up and the weaker leg lead going down.
- Plan ahead. Simplify and organize your routines so you minimize movements that are difficult or painful. Keep items you need for cooking, cleaning, or hobbies near where they are needed (even if that means multiple sets of cleaning supplies, one for your kitchen and each bathroom, for example).
- Take advantage of labor-saving devices and adaptive aids. Simple gadgets and devices can make it easier to perform daily activities such as cooking, gardening, or even getting dressed. Long-handled grippers, for example, are designed to grasp and retrieve out-of-reach objects. Rubber grips can help you get a better handle on faucets, pens, toothbrushes, and silverware. Pharmacies, medical supply stores, and online vendors stock a variety of aids for people with arthritis.
- Ask for help. People with arthritis often worry about the possibility of growing dependent on others. But only a very small percentage of people with arthritis become severely disabled. Still, the emotional burdens of managing arthritis can be considerable. Educate family members and friends about how arthritis affects you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.