COLUMBIA, Mo. – One in five adults in the U.S. has an arthritis-related illness, with 1.4 million in Missouri alone. A disease of the joints, arthritis remains the most common cause of disability for Americans; yet, symptoms still go ignored and untreated by many people as myth and rumor surround the disease. Now, researchers and health professionals at the University of Missouri are working to combat many of these myths.
The Missouri Arthritis and Osteoporosis Program (MAOP) and the Central Missouri Regional Arthritis Center based at the MU School of Health Professions are creating programming and resources to help people with arthritis take control of the disease. The center is part of a national network of arthritis programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“You don’t just have to deal with it,” said Beth Richards, MAOP director. “People with arthritis often suffer from different ailments and consider their arthritis, although painful and uncomfortable, to be of less concern than other health problems.”
The Arthritis Program helps people in their area find ways to control their arthritis that work for them. MU experts offer four suggestions that can make a difference for anyone with arthritis:
- Determine type of arthritis by visiting a physician. The term arthritis refers to more than 100 different conditions that range from fibromyalgia to gout. Some versions of the disease are more serious than others, and seeing a doctor is the best way to determine condition, severity and treatment.
- Control your weight. Extra weight puts pressure on joints, and studies show that 10 pounds of weight loss translates into 30 to 60 pounds of force taken off the knees.
- Learn techniques to manage arthritis pain. Each program nationwide provides resources and programming that teach specific methods to handle arthritis in the form of health communication campaigns or self-management programs.
- Be physically active. Experts suggest getting the heart rate up by doing a low impact activity at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a day/ five days a week. Studies have shown people with arthritis who start exercising feel noticeably less pain in four to six weeks.
“An old belief is that those who have arthritis should rest their joints, but research shows that exercise is key to reducing pain, fatigue and stiffness,” said Amber Phelps, health program specialist for the Central Missouri Regional Arthritis Center. “Physical activity can reduce pain and improve function as well as reduce risk for serious injuries, diabetes and heart disease.”
Meant to keep people active, enhance the lives of arthritis patients, and led by someone trained in a fact-based program, the free programming is available through arthritis programs nationally. Missouri is the only state to provide programs through a state-wide network of seven regional arthritis centers to better serve different areas of the state. Centers also provide training for leaders of their fact-based programs. While potential leaders should have experience in teaching, the centers look for lay persons as well as people with degrees in physical therapy or physical education.
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430