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Fact Sheet

Arthritis affects one in every seven Americans.  The word Arthritis means "joint inflammation" and is used to describe many different diseases which affect the joints.  Joints that are damaged by disease with inflammation can undergo permanent changes.

There are over 100 different types of Arthritis.  The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythmatosis and gout.

  • Osteoarthritis - a degenerative joint disease which leads to the breakdown of joint cartilage (a tough tissue located at the ends of bones which absorbs shock)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis - believed to be an autoimmune systemic disease which can affect the internal organs as well as joints
  • Systemic Lupus Erymatosis - another systemic disease which also greatly affects the joints
  • Gout - a very painful condition which is caused by crystals of uric acid attacking the joint (most commonly occurring in the big toe)

Defeating Arthritis

For some curious reason, the idea lingers that "nothing can be done for arthritis".  The very opposite is true.  You have much more control over your arthritis or rheumatism than you may think.  You do not have to be a victim.  Rather, you can defeat these problems and lead a full, satisfying life.  You need to become a arthritis self-manager.

By taking an active part in managing your arthritis, you can help prevent some of the deformities and debilitating effects of arthritis.  Proper exercise, rest, weight management, posture and positioning are all vital in maintaining your joint integrity and increasing your quality of life.  Consult your healthcare professional before engaging in any type of exercise.

How To Protect Your Joints

Arthritic joints are affected by inflammation and swelling which make them more prone to damage than normal joints.  Pressures from outside and inside can contribute to deformity; Therefore, learning new ways of doing things will not only avoid pain but will also protect your joints.  The following are some principles and techniques of joint protection.

  • Never attempt an activity that cannot be stopped immediately if it proves to be beyond your power to complete it. For example: Slide vs. carrying a pot of hot water from the stove to the sink.
  • Respect pain as a warning signal.  For example when you experience pain:
    1. Change your method of doing things.
    2. Use equipment or tools if necessary.
    3. Take intermittent rest periods.
  • Use the strongest joints available for an activity.  For example:
    1. Use your legs for lifting, not your back.
    2. Use the palm of your hand or crook of elbow instead of fingers for grasping while carrying.
  • Avoid stress toward a position of deformity, such as when the fingers drift toward the little finger (flexion or ulnar deviation). For example:
    1. To open a jar use your right hand.  To close it use your left hand.
    2. When cleaning, place your fingers and palm flat against a cloth vs. gripping the cloth.
  • Avoid activities that need a tight grasp.  For example:
    1. Writing, wringing and unscrewing.

Arthritis is manageable with  proper care, caution and prevention.  Also, assistive devices or tools are available that can help you in your daily activities. With your therapist's or doctor's recommendation check your pharmacy or medical supply store for availability.  

    Thanks to the Departments of Physical and Occupational Therapy
    of the Musculoskelatal Program at MossRehab Hospital for providing this information.

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