May is Arthritis Awareness Month: Why It’s Important to Make It All About You!

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While most people think of flowers and cookouts when they think of May, the month also serves an important medical role. As National Arthritis Awareness Month, May is a time to educate people about the risks and difficulties of arthritis pain, as well as its treatment and prevention. Since it’s also a great time of year to be outdoors and active, May can also be used to spend time on exercises that can help reduce the chance of arthritis for people of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 50 million American adults – about 10% of the population – suffer from the debilitating effects of arthritis pain. As prevention is key, the month of May provides an ideal time to take a walk outdoors, smell the flowers – and actively combat arthritis.

Understanding Arthritis

Arthritis is a blanket term that refers to any one of over 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions. Frequently understood as “joint pain,” arthritic conditions are in truth more than just pain. Generally, the condition is the result of the breakdown or inflammation of cartilage that enables joints to move smoothly and comfortably. Though there are numerous causes and contributors to arthritis, the most common are a broken bone, infection, and general wear and tear of the joint. When a joint is affected by arthritis, bones that meet at that joint either rub together due to the lack of a cartilage buffer, or suffer undue stress as a result of inflammation. Either way, the product is intense pain that can hinder mobility.

The Real Deal About Arthritis

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, a condition characterized by the degradation of joint cartilage. Though this is the most prevalent, other common forms include rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gout. Despite being frequently associated with older patients, arthritis can affect people of any age, including children. Among older patients, the cause is usually natural wear and tear of joints in the body, while younger people are subject to degenerative diseases. This is not to say, however, that younger people are immune to the effects of cartilage degeneration. It’s equally important to protect yourself from potential cartilage damage and the risk of arthritis at a young age as it is at an older one.

Treating Arthritis 

The ultimate goal of arthritis treatment is to go beyond combating the symptoms and improve long-term joint functionality while preventing further joint damage. While arthritis symptoms can be lessened through the proper use of medication, the preferred form of arthritis treatment is making healthy lifestyle changes. Such changes frequently take the form of joint exercises, including low-impact aerobic exercises and range of motion exercises that can improve flexibility. If exercise is not enough, a specialized doctor may recommend physical therapy. For less severe cases, physical therapy usually comes in the form of massage or water therapy. In cases of more advanced arthritis – specifically rheumatoid arthritis – treatment can require the use of splints or orthotics to help support the joint and keep it in a comfortable position.

Preventing Arthritis

Since approximately 66% of Americans suffering from arthritis are under the age of 65, it’s never too soon to begin thinking about arthritis prevention. Just as with arthritis treatment, the most effective form of prevention is implementing healthy lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of developing an arthritic condition, as well as improve overall health and well-being. Such healthy practices include:

  •  Getting plenty of sleep. Sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night can help reduce stress placed on joints and can help maintain joint health.
  •  Avoiding activities that can be stressful to joints such as excessive typing, standing in one place for too long, or continued repetitive movement.
  •  Maintaining a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 can decrease joint stiffness and reduce joint swelling. Foods rich in omega-3 include cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), soybean, and walnuts.
  •  Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. These include vitamins essential to joint health, such as vitamin E.

Another way to help prevent arthritis is maintaining regular exercise. Keeping a healthy weight puts less strain on joints and helps to preserve healthy cartilage longer. Flexibility exercises also contribute to joint health and keep your body functioning in a smooth and fluid fashion. The video below shows some useful exercises for strengthening joints and reducing arthritis pain.

May and its warmer weather offers the perfect opportunity to invite a couple friends for a brisk walk around the park, hit the links or play tennis. Beyond the enjoyment these activities provide, it is indeed gratifying to know that taking an active role in keeping arthritis at bay will greatly help in maintaining long-term health and happiness for years to come.

Don’t let arthritis sideline you from life’s joys. At Arthritis and Joint Replacement Center of Reading, benefit from providers who are experts in the non-surgical and surgical treatment of arthritis. Dr. Kevin Terefenko specializes in care of the knee and hip, and Dr. James Shaffer specializes in the care of the shoulder and elbow. If arthritis has become a major problem in your life, please contact Arthritis and Joint Replacement Center of Reading today.




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Arthritis & Joint Replacement Center of Reading

2758 Century Boulevard, Suite 2
Reading, PA 19610
Phone: 610.376.JOINT • Fax: 610.376.8546

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