Look At Arthritis: America's Leading Cause of Disability by:
arthritis literally means joint inflammation, but it is often
used to refer to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases
that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. The
most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia,
Most forms of arthritis are associated with pain
that can be divided into two categories: acute and chronic.
Acute pain is temporary. It can last a few seconds or a few
minutes but diminishes as healing occurs. Acute pain is associated
with burns, cuts and fractures. Chronic pain, such as that
felt by people with arthritis, ranges from mild to severe
and can last days, months, years or even a lifetime.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most frequent causes of physical
disability among adults. More than 40 million people in the
United States, alone, have the disease. By 2030, according
the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 20 percent of all
Americans -- about 70 million people -- will have passed their
65th birthday and will be at a higher risk of osteoarthritis.
Arthritis limits the everyday activity of 8 million Americans,
and this disability creates huge burdens for the individuals,
their families, and the nation as a whole. Each year, arthritis
results in 9,500 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations. According
to the National Center for Chronic Disease Control, in 1997,
medical care for arthritis (in the U.S.) was $51 billion.
This disease affects each person quite differently. In some
people it progresses quickly and in others the symptoms are
much more serious and painful. Medical practitioners do not
yet know what causes arthritis, but they suspect a combination
of factors including: being overweight, the aging process,
family history, joint injury, and stresses on the joints from
work or sporting activities.
There is no single treatment that applies to everyone who
suffers from arthritis. With your personal input, a medical
specialist will develop a management and treatment plan designed
to minimize your specific pain and improve the function of
your joints. A number of treatments can provide short-term
relief. They include: medications such as acetaminophen or
ibuprofen, the use of hot and cold packs, using a splint or
a brace to protect painful joints, or perhaps using muscle-relaxing
In the long-term, pain relief may be found with: new drugs,
called biological response modifiers, which reduce inflammation
in the joints; corticosteroids such as Prednisone; weight
reduction; dietary changes; exercise (swimming, walking and
low-impact aerobic exercise); and even surgery to replace
a joint that has badly deteriorated. In some instances, nutritional
supplements may be helpful.
The long-term goal of pain management is to help you cope
with this chronic, often disabling disease. You may be caught
in a cycle of pain, depression, and stress. To break this
cycle, you need to be an active participant in managing your
The role you play in planning your treatment is very
important. You and your health care providers must work together
closely to develop a personalized and effective treatment
program. Research has shown that patients who are well informed
and participate actively in their own care, experience less
pain, make fewer visits to the doctor and lead a much more
is a retired history teacher having taught 33 years at Hobson
High in Hobson, Montana. He is currently Vice President of
Elfin Enterprises, Inc. an Internet business dedicated to
providing information and resources on a variety of topics.
For a therapy room full of accurate information and valuable
resources to assist you in finding answers to your most demanding
questions about arthritis, visit: http://www.ArthritisAide.com.