National Arthritis Action Month Focuses on What You Can Do to Prevent or Manage this Common Condition

May is National Arthritis Awareness and Action Month -- Knee Joint (image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)In a news release issued May 1, the Arthritis Foundation, a non-profit organization, declared May as National Arthritis Action Month, and “challeng[ed] Americans to begin taking steps to reduce the burden of arthritis, the nation’s leading cause of disability.”

Arthritis Awareness/Action Month is an annual observance, sponsored by the the Arthritis Foundation and recognized nationally by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) in its official list of National Health Observances for the month of May.

About Arthritis

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Arthritis affects approximately 50 million U.S. adults and continues to be the most common cause of disability in the United States.”

“Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 diseases.  It affects 300,000 children and one in five adults—two-thirds of whom are under the age of 65,” the Arthritis Foundation said in its news release.  “In addition, arthritis causes work limitations for nearly one in three people in the U.S. and is a more frequent cause of activity limitation than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Annually it costs the economy $128 billion. Within the next 20 years, an estimated 67 million people will have arthritis if the trend continues,” the Arthritis Foundation said.

According to the CDC, Osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) is the most common form of arthritis. It usually begins after the age of 40 and develops gradually, and “It is characterized by degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint as well as bony overgrowth. The breakdown of these tissues eventually leads to pain and joint stiffness,” the CDC states. “The joints most commonly affected are the knees, hips, and those in the hands and spine. The specific causes of osteoarthritis are unknown, but are believed to be a result of both mechanical and molecular events in the affected joint.”

Treatment for Osteoarthritis “focuses on relieving symptoms and improving function, and can include a combination of patient education, physical therapy, weight control, and use of medications,” the CDC states.

Another common forms of arthritis is Rheumatoid Arthritis, a systemic inflammatory disease which can develop at any age, manifests itself in multiple joints of the body, and leads to erosions of the cartilage and bone and sometimes joint deformity, as well as pain, swelling, and redness, according to the CDC. “Although the causes are unknown, RA [Rheumatoid Arthritis] is believed to be the result of a faulty immune response,” the CDC states.

“There is no cure for [Rheumatoid Arthritis], but new effective drugs are increasingly available to treat the disease and prevent deformed joints. In addition to medications and surgery, good self-management, including exercise, are known to reduce pain and disability,” the CDC notes.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, one of the Top Ten Things you Should Know About Arthritis is that “Arthritis is not inevitable or untreatable.”

Focus on Arthritis Education, Prevention, and Management

This year’s theme for National Arthritis Action Month, “Change the Course of Arthritis,” is aimed to increase awareness of the important things persons can do to live well despite having arthritis, the CDC said in its announcement of the event.

“Arthritis is serious and it is time we move from simply being aware of the disease’s existence to actually doing something about ending the threat,” Dr. Patience White, Vice President of Public Health for the Arthritis Foundation, said in the organization’s release. “Arthritis Action Month is the perfect time to change the course of the disease by knowing the warning signs and protecting your joints to limit the impact.”

Throughout the month, the Arthritis Foundation focuses on dispelling common myths, highlighting warning signs, and educating people on early actions that can protect joints and stave off arthritis.

Warning Signs & Symptoms of Arthritis. “It’s important to recognize the symptoms of arthritis early as many forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause irreversible joint damage, often within the first two years of the disease,” according to the Arthritis Foundation.  “Osteoarthritis, the most common form, can develop within 10 years of a major joint injury.”

According to the Arthritis Foundation, warning signs or symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Occasional swelling and/or tenderness
  • Difficulty moving a joint
  • Redness around a joint

“Because symptoms can develop suddenly, it is crucial to see a rheumatologist if these signs persist for more than two weeks,” the Foundation advises.

Take Action to Change the Course. “Fortunately, there are simple steps everyone can take now to manage or even prevent the onset of arthritis, like protecting your joints, weight control and staying physically active,” said Dr. White, the Vice President of Public Health for the Arthritis Foundation.

“As little as 30 minutes of daily physical activity can help reduce arthritis pain, increase mobility and lead toward a more active, independent life,” Dr. White said.

According to the CDC, “Moderate physical activity (e.g., walking, biking, or swimming) for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (or 150 minutes per week), reduces joint pain and stiffness in 4–6 weeks, and can be done in increments of as little as 10 minutes at a time. These interventions likewise help the many persons with arthritis who also have obesity, diabetes, or heart disease manage these conditions and improve their quality of life.”

The Arthritis Foundation offers the following tips for protecting joints as well as preventing and decreasing the pain and disability of arthritis:

  • Physical activity – Physical activity keeps joints flexible, maintains or improves muscle strength and assists with weight reduction. Being physically active can prevent, delay or reduce the impact of certain forms of arthritis.
  • Weight control – For every one pound of weight lost, there is a four-pound reduction in the load exerted on each knee for each step taken during daily activities. Losing as few as 11 pounds can cut the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis by 50 percent.
  • Joint protection – Protecting joints can prevent strain or stress on painful joints. Keeping the muscles around joints strong can help prevent injury to the joint. Braces, canes and shoe inserts can also assist with pain reduction.”

The Foundation also urges the public to visit the Arthritis Action Zone hosted by the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis.org/action, to find and participate in actions you can take throughout the month of May to help focus attention on arthritis and change the course of arthritis in our nation.

The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org) is a non-profit organization that “is committed to raising awareness and reducing the unacceptable impact of this serious and painful disease, which can severely damage joints and rob people of living life to its fullest.”  The Foundation states that it funds research that has restored mobility in patients for more than six decades; fights for health care policies that improve the lives of the millions who live with arthritis; and partners with families to provide empowering programs and information.

For more information about Arthritis, see:

More Information

See related HelpingYouCare™ reports on:

New Patient Guides & Treatment Decision Aids Provided by AHRQ (including Patient Guides on Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Osteoporosis)

Obesity Alert: Scientists Warn of Alarming Health Costs, Discuss Cures (Obesity is a top contributor to osteoarthritis)

2011 Johns Hopkins Arthritis Whitepaper Released

Arthritis Tutorial (provided by U.S. Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health)

For more information on Arthritis, Osteoporosis & Rheumatic Conditions, see the HelpingYouCare™ resource pages on Arthritis, Osteoporosis & Rheumatic Conditions, including:

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