As we age: Act on arthritis sooner, not later

Don't wait, getting early treatment can help with long-term condition

For many years, my mother knit socks, scarves, hats, sweaters and a few other items that she either sent to relatives or donated to the various church sales that went on throughout the year.

When she wasn’t reading, she was knitting.

I guess that explains why we never had a cat.

I moved from home before I was out of my teens, so I have no idea when that changed, but at some point I remember noticing that she wasn’t knitting anymore.

When I asked her, she simply said she couldn’t  because her fingers were too stiff.

When she held her hand up, I could see some deformity in her fingers.

She explained that she had some rheumatoid arthritis and it made the knitting difficult and painful.

Like most who don’t understand the condition, I figured that overuse of her joints for years had caused the arthritis.

In fact, arthritis is a bit of an umbrella term that covers somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 different diseases.

The common denominator is that they all tend to cause inflammation in the joints and pain is the common symptom.

While osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and tends to be related to age, even teenagers can develop forms of arthritis caused by autoimmune disorders.

While many forms of arthritis are not related to lifestyle choices, obesity is definitely a contributing factor to the severity of symptoms.

It makes simple sense that additional weight placed upon joints that might already be inflamed will create even more inflammation.

There are many myths about arthritis, the greatest one being that exercise will make it worse.

In fact, the very thing that provides the greatest non-medicinal relief is exercise.

It not only strengthens muscles that support the joints, but exercise creates endorphins that actually relieve pain through the nervous system.

Naturally, such exercises should be properly selected and properly executed to avoid unnecessary joint pressure – arthritis in the knee will not be relieved by jogging on cement roads.

Like so many medical conditions, the sooner arthritis is acted upon, the more likely an effective treatment plan can be devised.

Persistent joint pain, in any joint, is a cause for concern at any age and should be investigated with a medical practitioner.

It may not be possible to eliminate the issue entirely, but it is possible to reduce its impact on the quality of life.

We tend to think of arthritis as a minor annoyance, but certain forms of it and chronic suffering caused by waiting too long to treat it, can result in serious mobility and dexterity issues that can leave someone disabled.

In fact, in Canada, one in every six people has a form of arthritis, and in the next 10 years that will go to one in five.

Sixty percent of those who contract arthritis are in the working force and 25 per cent of those will leave the workforce early due to a disability related to the disease.

It will cost the economy billions, but even worse, it will affect the quality of life of an individual 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When it comes to arthritis, getting help sooner rather than later is as important as it is for heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.


Graham Hookey writes on education, parenting and eldercare (

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