Addressing Arthritis

By Abigail Haller, Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan

Most people know the term arthritis and the general definition of painful inflammation and stiffness of joints. But what does it truly mean to have arthritis? There are three common types: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. The most common type, affecting 27 million Americans according to Harvard Medical School, is osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis and is sometimes referred to as degenerative disc disease. However, the two are different although it is common for someone to have both. According to the Arthritis Foundation, osteoarthritis is when the cartilage between the discs starts to break down and can cause joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. The wearing down and deterioration of the disc itself is degenerative disc disease. The Cleveland Clinic states there are primary and secondary types of osteoarthritis. Primary is commonly found in the spine, hips, knees, and hands while secondary usually results from injuries, pre-existing inflammatory conditions, hypermobility, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Another form of arthritis that affects approximately 1.3 million Americans is rheumatoid arthritis (RA) according to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the inflammation in the joints is chronic and healthy joints are attacked by the body’s immune system. A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic revealed that RA can lead to other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease or can be brought on by pre-existing conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis, but there are treatments. Depending on the severity and the type of arthritis you have, there will be varying treatment options. Always speak to your medical team before starting any treatments.

There are many healing modalities and treatments that may slow the progression of arthritis and ease the current pain. Medications, exercise, and even emotional therapies can all help when used in the appropriate combination. Careful consideration and planning are needed when deciding what treatment combinations to use. The Mayo Clinic has a resourceful list of varying treatments that can be referenced and integrated into your daily life.

A few of the mentioned remedies are as follows:

  • Proper use of medication. Overmedicating vs under medicating
  • Low impact exercises: Yoga/Walking/Swimming, etc.
  • Harmful exercises: Running, plyometrics, and other high impact movements
  • Weight management/Diet (Anti-inflammatory)
  • Massage and compresses
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

If you or someone you know was recently diagnosed with osteoarthritis, talk to your medical team to find the best treatment plan for you. You may need to adjust your treatment along the way; simply take it day by day. Arthritis is a lifelong condition, but you can still live a full and happy life.

Abigail Haller is a Screening Integration Coordinator for MiCAFE at Elder Law of Michigan. She has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since October 2018. As a Screening Integration Coordinator, Abigail helps seniors in Michigan apply for benefits so they can feel comfortable with the application process.