Most of us have heard a concern about aching joints from aging parents and can often see changes in joints such as knobby knuckles or swollen knees. Arthritis may be the cause. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America, effecting more than 50 million adults. It is most common among women and occurs more frequently as people get older (http://www.arthritis.org/).
The symptoms of arthritis may include swelling, pain and stiffness. Symptoms can be severe enough to change a person’s ability to do daily activities such as bathing and dressing. Although some changes caused by arthritis can be visible, often the damage can only be seen on X-ray. There are many types of arthritis and some types also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common type that effects the elderly and occurs when cartilage, the tissue that cushions the ends of the bones within the joints, breaks down and wears away http://nihseniorhealth.gov/osteoarthritis/whatisosteoarthritis/01.html).
Symptoms can be managed by using hot and cold therapies, using assistive devices like a cane, walker or a reacher, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers. The pain is real and more movement is probably the last thing on a person’s mind when there is a flare up, but research has shown that exercise is the most effective non-medication way to manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Strengthening the muscles around the joint add support to the joint. The Arthritis Foundation is a helpful resource and have arthritis friendly exercise videos available at http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/videos/.
Remember to keep your parent’s doctor involved in their care. Talk to their doctor about symptoms of arthritis and any exercise or other interventions they are using to manage the pain. Ask about a referral to a rheumatologist to further diagnosis and manage arthritis.