Arthritis Sufferers Told ... Get Physical

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"I'm not disabled, so my arthritis isn't terribly severe," said 80-year-old Gene Peck of Payson, offering the most positive assessment he can of the near-constant pain that now makes it difficult for him to walk or pursue his favorite pastime, gardening.

"I hurt my back 25 years ago when I tried to lift something heavy, but it wasn't until the past year that it started to get considerably worse," Peck said. "It wasn't until three weeks ago that I finally saw a doctor for the first time in 20 years."

Sticking with the tradition of how arthritis has been treated since the advent of pain-killing pharmaceuticals, Peck's doctor handed him a prescription.

But he also arranged for a series of physical therapy sessions which is far more in line with the treatment train-of-thought now being promoted by the Arizona Department of Health Services Arthritis Program in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arthritis Foundation.

In fact, this triad of organizations is now in the process of launching a new campaign urging Arizonans with arthritis to take part in physical activity as a healthy and active alternative to taking medication to relieve arthritis pain.

In Arizona, arthritis affects about one in three people, or more than 1.1 million statewide, and costs the state $1.1 billion annually in doctor visits, hospitalizations, and lost wages. According to the CDC, arthritis currently affects more than 43 million Americans, or one out of every six people. It is estimated that in less than 20 years, that number will rise to 60 million.

"One of the most effective ways to reduce pain and maintain independence is through moderate physical activity as little as three times a week," Patrick Mause, ADHS Arthritis Program Manager, said. "Taking a walk or going for a bike ride can do a tremendous amount to help people move easier and feel less pain."

Through radio and print advertisements, the campaign encourages physical activity as a means to reduce pain and improve the quality of life for people suffering from arthritis.

Studies show that physical activity can benefit people with arthritis in several ways. Physical activity reduces pain and stiffness in the joints and increases flexibility and muscle strength. Those with arthritis should be aware of their physical limits and should seek a physician's care before beginning any exercise plan.

Arthritis is a disease that typically affects women, older individuals, those living in rural populations, and those with low education and low income. Arthritis is more commonly found in Caucasians and African Americans, with fewer cases found in Asian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics.

The Arizona Department of Health Services Arthritis Program was established in 1999 through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a public health approach to arthritis.

Arthritis Facts

Arthritis affects nearly 43 million Americans. Inless than 20 years, nearly 60 million Americans will suffer from arthritis. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States and costs the country $65 billion annually.

Statewide, nearly 30 percent, or 1.1 million people, livewith arthritis. More than $1.1 billion is spent annually statewide for doctors visits, hospitalizations and lost wages.

Arthritis is typically found in older persons, women, and in those with low education or low income. The rates of those with arthritis are typically higher in Caucasians and African-Americans, and lower for Asian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics.

Different types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, in which physical damage to the joints and surrounding tissue causes pain and stiffness; and rheumatoid arthritis, which is a potentially disabling auto-immune disease in which the body attacks its own joints and causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in the joints.

One of the most effective ways to reduce pain and disability is through physical activity, strengthening the muscles around affected joints, and simple stretches.

The Arizona Department of Health Services Arthritis Program was established in 1999 through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a public health approach to arthritis.

The ADHS Arthritis Program has been working with the Arizona Arthritis Partnership (AAP) to develop a statewide strategic plan to reduce the burden of arthritis for all Arizonans. For more information on the AAP, contact the ADHS Arthritis Program at (602) 542-7539, or the Arthritis Foundation at (602) 264-7679.

Contact the Arthritis Foundation for more information on arthritis or ways to manage arthritis.

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

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