Seniors in Shorewood tackle arthritis

Oh my aching knee… so says someone with arthritis – one of the most prevalent chronic health problems in America. According to arthritis.org, 46 million people suffer from it. That’s one in five adults. That’s a lot.

Arthritis strikes more women than men, and half of those Americans with arthritis don’t think anything can be done to help them. Of course, Baby Boomers are now at prime risk. More than half those affected are under age 65.
Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints which results in pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited movement. There are over 100 different types of arthritis.

Arthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage normally protects the joint, allowing for smooth movement. Cartilage also absorbs shock when pressure is placed on the joint, like when a person walks. Without the usual amount of cartilage, the bones rub together, causing pain, swelling (inflammation), and stiffness.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type and is more likely to occur with aging. It may be felt in any joint, but according to Mayo Clinic, (www.mayoclinic.com)  the most common affected joints are hands, hips, knees, neck and lower back.
Factors that increase the risk of osteoarthritis include older age, gender, bone deformities, joint injuries, obesity, and certain occupations that involve repetitive stress on a particular joint. Also people with gout, rheumatoid arthritis, Paget’s disease of bone or septic arthritis are at increased risk of developing osteoarthritis.

The bad news is osteoarthritis gradually worsens with time, and no cure exists. But osteoarthritis treatments can relieve pain and help maintain an active lifestyle.

The following are ideas that can help a great deal:

  • If you’re experiencing pain or inflammation in your joint, rest it for 12 to 24 hours. Find activities that don’t require repetitive movement. Try taking a 10-minute break every hour.
  • With the doctor’s approval, get regular exercise. Stick to gentle exercises, such as walking, biking or swimming. Exercise can increase endurance and strengthen the muscles around the joint, making the joint more stable. Avoid exercising tender, injured or swollen joints. If you feel new joint pain, stop. New pain that lasts more than two hours after you exercise probably means you’ve overdone it.
  • Being overweight or obese increases the stress on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees and your hips. Even a small amount of weight loss can relieve some pressure and reduce your pain. Aim to lose 1 or 2 pounds a week, at most. Most people combine changes in their diet with increased exercise.
  • Both heat and cold can relieve pain in your joint. Heat also relieves stiffness and cold can relieve muscle spasms. Soothe a painful joint with heat using a heating pad, hot water bottle or warm bath. Heat should be warm, not hot. Apply heat for 20 minutes several times a day. Cool the pain in your joint with cold treatments such as with ice packs. You can use cold treatments several times a day, but don’t use cold treatments if you have poor circulation or numbness.
  • Creams and gels available at the drugstore may provide temporary relief from osteoarthritis pain. Some creams numb the pain by creating a hot or cool sensation. Other creams contain medications, such as aspirin-like compounds, that are absorbed into your skin. Pain creams work best on joints that are close the surface of your skin, such as your knees and fingers.
  • Assistive devices can make it easier to go about your day without stressing your painful joint. A cane may take weight off your knee or hip as you walk. Gripping and grabbing tools may make it easier to work in the kitchen if you have osteoarthritis in your fingers. Your doctor or occupational therapist may have ideas about what sorts of assistive devices may be helpful to you. Catalogs and medical supply stores also may be places to look for ideas.

And finally, learn about living your best life with arthritis. Understand the challenges and changes arthritis brings on and how they affect relationships and families. Find practical solutions to make daily activities easier as well as the information you need to deal with health insurance and the cost of care.

 

 

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