“Oh, my aching bones.” It may sound like the words of someone in their 80s, but the feeling is shared by many people including children. Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and impairment of the joints. And it is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
One in five people over 18 years of age experience arthritis and 300,000 children in the U.S. live with it. The risk for developing arthritis increases with age, but other risk factors include weight, injury, family history, and race. Caucasian women have higher rates of arthritis than minorities.
To increase awareness during National Arthritis Month, here’s what you should know about the most common types of the disease.
Exploring the Most Common Forms of Arthritis
- Osteoarthritis: This common type of arthritis affects about 31 million Americans. Osteoarthritis causes an older adult’s hips, knees, neck, lower back, or hand joints to swell and ache. Joints can weaken as the cushions on their bones wear down, so eventually bones rub bones. The result is redness, warmth, and swelling that is often worse in the morning.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): Another type of arthritis that can be disabling, RA affects people of all ages. It creates pain, warmth, stiffness, redness, and swelling, but the cause is different. RA attacks the immune system, usually starting in the hands and feet. This attack creates uncontrolled inflammation. The inflamed cells then trigger an enzyme that eats the bone and cartilage and erodes the joint. The cause? It may be a combination of genetics and environmental factors, such as smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke.
- Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are sometimes related. Flaky skin on the knees and elbows are associated with this type of arthritis. Small dents in the nails may appear. Toes, fingers, ankles, and feet may become swollen at the joints. Patients experience swelling, pain, redness, and limited movement.
- Metabolic arthritis: Also known as gout, this condition occurs when the kidneys do not sufficiently excrete uric acid. The acid builds up and forms crystals in the joints, triggering extreme pain. The cause may be diabetes, psoriasis, obesity, or drinking excessive alcohol.
- Lupus: While technically not a form of arthritis, Lupus is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that can impact joints. It also affects the blood, skin and other organs such as the brain and kidneys. Symptoms include rashes, pain, fever, fatigue, hair loss, and sensitivity to light.
Relieving the Pain of Arthritis
One of the best pain relievers for arthritis is regular physical activity. Exercise can increase muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. Some good forms of exercise for people with arthritis include yoga, dancing, aerobics, biking, stretching, Tai Chi, and Pilates.
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from chronic pain avoid exercise. They do so not only because it can initially cause more pain and discomfort, but also because they may lack motivation. And research shows that lack of motivation can be chemically based.
Scientists have found that chronic pain causes changes to nerve cells in a certain area of the brain. That area is associated with rewards and behavior. Planning actions that improve survival may be reduced by a brain chemical called galanin.
While scientists are still learning, it’s important to be patient with loved ones who experience chronic pain. And to try to help them find ways to boost their motivation to exercise. The Arthritis Foundation has some excellent resources to help people get started. As is true with any new form exercise, encourage your family member to check with their doctor before starting.
Lifestyle360 at Five Star Senior Living
Wellness activities are a part of everyday life at Five Star Senior Living communities across the state of Indiana. They are part of our LifeStyle360 program. These activities help residents live their best life by focusing on the five dimensions wellness every day! Schedule a personal tour to learn more today.