Managing the leading cause of disability in the United States
May is recognized as National Arthritis Awareness Month. Arthritis is a disease of the cartilage covering the synovial joint surfaces. It affects people of all races, ethnicities, ages, and nationalities. One in every five adults and one in every 300,000 children across the country feel the impact of this disease. First, let us cover a few factors that increase the risk of developing arthritis:
Age: As age increases, so does the risk of developing arthritis. While this is not a risk factor anyone has direct control over, it is good to be aware of the association that exists between arthritis and age. Overweight and obesity: The greater the weight the lower extremities have to carry, the more stress and force the joints endure. For every pound of body weight lost, four pounds of force is taken off the joints. Managing one's weight decreases the amount of stress the joints are under and sequentially decreases long term joint damage. Joint injuries: When joints are injured due to repetitive stress or traumatic injury, the joint surfaces can easily be damaged. Poor exercise form and excessive high impact exercise places substantial stress on the joints. Occupation: Jobs that demand repetitive knee bending or squatting can increase the risk of developing arthritis. In addition, repetitive lifting, carrying objects for a prolonged period of time, and frequently lifting heavy objects increase the risk for joint injury and, sequentially, arthritis.
Now that we have covered risk factors and ways to mitigate them, let us shift our attention to measures that can be taken to manage and slow the progression of arthritis:
Activity level: Engage in regular physical activity. Exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, and strengthens the muscles surrounding the joints. As mentioned previously, this decreases the force the joints are placed under with each step. Exercise Intensity: The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults aged 18-65 should participate in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days per week, or 20 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise three days per week. These parameters also apply to adults over the age of 65. Body mechanics: Take care to learn and utilize proper lifting, pulling, and squatting mechanics. Always lift with the legs and gluteal muscles. Avoid using the back muscles when lifting heaving objects to mitigate the risk of injury.
Utilizing the information presented above can assist with the prevention and management of arthritis. This condition has a profound impact on the economy, countless individuals, and the healthcare system as a whole. The first step in combating this disease process is taking preventative measures prior to its development. When arthritis is already present, symptom management and slowing the progression becomes the priority.
References: 1) Arthritis Foundation. What is Arthritis? Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis. Accessed May 26, 2021. 2) Healthline. Arthritis. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/arthritis. Accessed May 26, 2021 3) American College of Sports Medicine. Trending Topic: Physical Activity Guidelines. American College of Sports Medicine. https://www.acsm.org/read-research/trending-topics-resource-pages/physical-activity- guidelines#:~:text=ACSM%20and%20CDC%20recommendations %20state,on%20three%20days%20per%20week. Accessed May 26, 2021.
Written by Dr. Rachel Taylor, PT, DPT