Don’t Take Arthritis Lying Down
The word “arthritis” means “joint inflammation” and is often used in reference to rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases include more than 100 conditions, including gout, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and many more. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a rheumatic diseases, affecting about 1 percent of the U.S. population (about 2.1 million people.)1 Although rheumatoid arthritis often begins in middle age and is more frequent in the older generation, it can also start at a young age.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. Several features distinguish it from other kinds of arthritis:
- Tender, warm, and swollen joints.
- Fatigue, sometimes fever, and a general sense of not feeling well.
- Pain and stiffness lasts for more than 30 minutes after a long rest.
- The condition is symmetrical. If one hand is affected, the other one is, too.
- The wrist and finger joints closest to the hand are most frequently affected. Neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, ankle, and feet joints can also be affected.
- The disease can last for years and can affect other parts of the body, not only the joints.2
Rheumatoid arthritis is highly individual. Some people suffer from mild arthritis that lasts from a few months to a few years and then goes away. Mild or moderate arthritis have periods of worsening symptoms (flares) and periods of remissions, when the patient feels better. People with severe arthritis feel pain most of the time. The pain lasts for many years and can cause serious joint damage and disability.
Should Arthritis Patients Exercise?
Exercise is critical in successful arthritis management. It helps maintain healthy and strong muscles, joint mobility, flexibility, endurance, and helps control weight. Rest, on the other hand, helps to decrease active joint inflammation, pain, and fatigue. For best results, arthritis patients need a good balance between the two: more rest during the active phase of arthritis, and more exercise during remission.2 During acute systematic flares or local joint flares, patients should put joints gently through their full range of motion once a day, with periods of rest. To see how much rest is best during flares, patients should talk to their health care providers.3