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Arthritis and Its Impact on Your Life


What is Arthritis?


Arthritis is a term used to describe a group of joint-related conditions. These conditions cause joint inflammation and pain, resulting in stiffness, swelling, and decreased mobility. Arthritis comes in many forms, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. The precise cause of arthritis varies depending on the type, but factors such as an injury, infection, or autoimmune disorder can cause inflammation. The exact cause of arthritis is unknown in some cases.



Some types of arthritis can affect people of all ages, whereas others are more common in the elderly. For example, osteoarthritis is more common in older people, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is more common in younger people. Furthermore, some types of arthritis, such as gout, are more common in men than women. Arthritis is estimated to affect more than 6 million Canadians, making it one of the country's most common chronic health conditions. While there is no cure for arthritis, several effective treatments can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.



Treatments for Arthritis


The type of arthritis and the severity of the condition determines the treatment type. In general, arthritis treatment consists of a combination of medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs are commonly used to treat arthritis (DMARDs). NSAIDs can help reduce joint inflammation and pain, while DMARDs can slow disease progression. Other medications, such as corticosteroids, may be used to help manage arthritis symptoms in severe cases.


"1 in 5 Canadians live with the many impacts of arthritis." - Arthritis Society of Canada

Physical therapy can also be an essential part of arthritis treatment. Physical therapists can assist in developing an exercise programme specifically tailored to the needs of the individual. This can help improve joint flexibility, strength, and range of motion while reducing pain and stiffness.


Aside from medication and physical therapy, several lifestyle changes can help manage arthritis symptoms. Some examples are maintaining a healthy weight, using assistive devices (such as a cane or walker), and avoiding activities that put too much strain on the joints. Furthermore, some people find that complementary and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and massage, can help manage arthritis symptoms.



How can Occupational Therapists help people with arthritis?


Occupational therapy can be an essential part of arthritis treatment. Occupational therapists assist people in maintaining or improving their ability to perform daily activities such as dressing, bathing, and cooking. They can also assist people with arthritis in adapting to their condition and continuing to participate in activities that are meaningful to them.


One of the primary goals of occupational therapy for arthritis patients is to assist them in managing their pain and maintaining their independence. This could include teaching them how to use assistive devices like canes or walkers to make daily activities easier. Occupational therapists can also assist people with arthritis in developing a personalized exercise programme to improve flexibility, strength, and joint range of motion.



"For 40% of Canadians with arthritis, pain is severe enough to limit their activities." - Arthritis Society of Canada

In addition to these physical benefits, occupational therapy can assist people with arthritis in coping with their condition's emotional and social consequences. Occupational therapists can support and guide individuals experiencing frustration, anxiety, or depression. They can also provide resources and referrals to connect them with other people who have arthritis.


Overall, occupational therapy can be essential to arthritis treatment, helping people maintain their independence and improve their quality of life.



How does somebody with arthritis exercise safely?


Exercise is essential for managing arthritis symptoms and maintaining overall health and well-being. However, it is critical to exercise safely, particularly if you have arthritis. Here are some pointers to help you exercise safely if you have arthritis:


  1. Begin slowly: If you have yet to exercise regularly, begin with low-impact activities like walking or swimming, and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts as your fitness level improves.

  2. Pay attention to your body: Pay attention to your body's signals and don't overdo it. Stop exercising and rest if you experience pain or discomfort.

  3. Use assistive devices: If you have difficulty with balance or mobility, consider using a cane or walker to help you exercise safely.

  4. Warm-up and cool-down: To avoid strain or injury, warm up with some light stretching before beginning your workout and cool down with some gentle stretches afterward.

  5. Collaboration with a therapist: An occupational therapist can assist you in developing an exercise programme that is tailored to your specific needs and abilities. They can also give you advice and support so that you can exercise safely and effectively.


Always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise programme, especially if you have arthritis. They can give you advice and support so that you can exercise safely and effectively.


"Those living with this disease are more than 5 times as likely to have difficulties with mobility" - Arthritis Society of Canada

Remember, it's important to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have arthritis. They can provide guidance and support to help you exercise safely and effectively.


What is lifestyle management, and does it help?


For people with arthritis, lifestyle management is an important part of treatment. Making specific lifestyle changes can help manage arthritis symptoms, improve overall health, and improve quality of life. Here are a few ways that arthritis patients can benefit from lifestyle management:


  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can put extra strain on the joints, exacerbating arthritis symptoms. If necessary, losing weight can help reduce pain and stiffness while also improving mobility.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains: Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce inflammation in the body, which can help manage arthritis symptoms.

  • Quit smoking: Smoking increases the risk of developing certain types of arthritis and makes the symptoms worse. Quitting smoking can improve your overall health and may lessen the severity of your arthritis symptoms.

  • Reduce stress: Because chronic stress can aggravate arthritis symptoms, it's critical to find ways to manage stress and relax. Meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises may be included.

  • Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is important for overall health and can help manage arthritis symptoms. To help reduce pain and stiffness and improve overall well-being, aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.



"Canadians with arthritis are nearly 4 times as likely to say that their general health isn’t good, compared to those without arthritis." - Arthritis Society of Canada




To learn more about arthritis, click or tap the button below to visit the Arthritis Society Canada's website.



References:


Arthritis | CDC. 13 Oct. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/index.htm.


Arthritis Society of Canada. https://arthritis.ca/


Senthelal, Shayan, et al. “Arthritis.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2022. PubMed, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518992/.


Yasuda, Y. Lynn. Occupational Therapy Practice Guidelines for Adults with Rheumatoid Arthritis. American Occupational Therapy Association, 2001.


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