May is Arthritis Awareness Month! Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Arthritis is one of the most widespread health conditions in the US. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Arthritis is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 65, but can develop in children, teens, and young adults. Two of the most common types of arthritis include Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA.) It is estimated that 27 million Americans have some form of Oseoarthritis. 1 in 4 Americans may develop OA in their lifetime. OA affects daily activities and is the most common disability in the US adult population. Factors that may increase risk for OA include; age, genetics, previous injuries, occupation, sports, and obesity. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, such as the soft tissues around the joints. RA affects 1% of the population and can be disabling due to its effects on the immune system. RA causes pain, stiffness, and inflammation. People with RA may have flare ups which may include stiff joints which is worse in the morning, painful and swollen joints on both sides of the body, fatigue, general discomfort, low grade fever, loss of joint function or range of motion, and may have redness, warmth, and tenderness in the joint areas. Physical and Occupational Therapy plays a vital role in treating patients with arthritis.
An estimated 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 250 children are diagnosed annually with arthritis in the United States. More than 100 inflammatory and noninflammatory conditions are categorized as arthritis and affect joints and the tissue surrounding them. The most common arthritic conditions are osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease), childhood arthritis, fibromyalgia, general arthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus). These conditions present with symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, morning stiffness, swelling, and fatigue. Occupational therapy practitioners treat individuals with arthritic conditions to increase or preserve mobility so they are able to perform activities that are necessary or desired in areas such as self-care, home management, work, and leisure and social participation.
What can Occupational Therapy do for you? After an evaluation, your therapist will determine the appropriate intervention strategies to address your wants and needs that are being affected by arthritis.
Interventions may include:
· Physical agent modalities (e.g., heat, cold) to assist with pain management, enhancing the client’s ability to perform daily tasks.
· Techniques to manage or control edema and inflammation, including limb elevation, compression garments, exercise, and splinting.
· Therapeutic activities and exercises to promote gross and fine motor control, range of motion, endurance, and strength, thereby improving functional abilities with daily tasks such as self-care, home management, and work and leisure activities.
· Provision of custom or prefabricated orthotic devices to assist with controlling pain, maintaining functional positions of the hand, and enhancing function.
· Training in the use of joint protection and energy conservation techniques, including the use of adaptive and assistive devices and modified daily routines to ensure adequate rest and to avoid overuse.
· Ergonomic assessment and activity modifications in home, work, and school settings.
These approaches educate clients to plan, simplify, and pace tasks as a way of protecting joints; reducing strain, fatigue, and pain; and avoiding joint and tissue overuse while participating in activities. Modification and adaptability go hand in hand with energy conservation and joint protection. Easy-grip handles, adjustable shelves, grab bars, a raised toilet seat, a chair with arms, and removal of clutter are examples of adaptive equipment and approaches that can be used to positively influence a client’s independence in the environment. These combined strategies address clients’ functional needs and maintain or increase their participation in home, work, leisure, and community activities by accommodating for decreased joint motion, strength, and endurance.
See the link below for a tip sheet about living with arthritis!