Arthritis care for seniors

Guest Column
Leann Herman
Monticello Nursing & Rehab Campus

     Arthritis is a broad term that refers to over 100 diseases affecting your joints. Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common forms of arthritis affecting 27 million Americans. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that one in two adults will develop symptoms of knee OA during their lives and one in four adults will develop OA in the hip by the age of 85. Although OA occurs in people of all ages, osteoarthritis is more common as we age and is more prevalent in females. Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, previous joint injury, overuse of the joint, weak muscles surrounding the joint, and genetics.

     The primary symptom of OA is joint pain, stiffness and swelling caused by the breakdown or damage of the cartilage surrounding the joint. As the cartilage continues to wear down, your arthritis symptoms may worsen causing chronic pain, the inability to do daily activities, making it difficult to climb stairs or even walk.

     One of the most important ways to manage osteoarthritis is to get your body moving. While it may be hard to think of exercise when your joints hurt, moving is considered a very important piece of the treatment plan. Going for a walk around the neighborhood will not only help reduce pain and stiffness, but is also essential in maintaining a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional stress on weight-bearing joints and fatty tissue releases a protein called cytokines, which cause inflammation throughout the body. Strengthening muscles surrounding the effected joint eases the burden placed on the joint and may reduce pain as well. Studies show that stretching and strengthening movements in yoga and tai chi can help reduce stiffness. Other alternative treatments such as acupuncture, acupressure, relaxation techniques, massage, supplements and herbal remedies may provide some relief, however consult your doctor before you try any herbs or supplements.

     Talk with your doctor about various medications that are available to treat OA symptoms and understand the side effects associated with the long-term use of these medications. Options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen; analgesics such as acetaminophen; corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid, which are injected directly into a joint. As a final option, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair or replace the damaged joint.

     OA is a complex disease with many causes. Choosing a healthy lifestyle is the most important way to reduce your risk or delay the onset of osteoarthritis. Exercising, eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, or managing stress promotes good joint health as well as good overall health.

     For more information of OA and other senior care topics, call Leann at Monticello Nursing and Rehab at 319-465-5415.


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