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Managing and Preventing Arthritis

Facts about arthritis

  • Arthritis is one of Canada’s most common chronic conditions affecting more than 4 million Canadians. The Arthritis Society predicts that the number of people diagnosed with arthritis will increase at a rate of 1 million per decade, at least until the year 2031.
  • There are more than 100 forms of arthritis. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, gout and pseudogout, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Most forms of arthritis cannot be cured, but treatment can prevent or reduce disability.
  • Between 1991 and 2021, the number of 45- to 54-year olds diagnosed with arthritis will nearly double to 738,700 from 418,100. The number of 55- to 64-year olds affected is projected to more than double to 1.4 million from 645,900.
  • Arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases ranked second among the four most costly illnesses in Canada in 1993. Arthritis is the most common cause of long-term disability in Canada. “Half of those of working age who have arthritis disabilities are not in the labor force due to their disability.”

Occupational therapy works …

  • To decrease inflammation, prevent deformity and maintain function for persons with arthritis.
  • An occupational therapist will evaluate self-care, childcare, home management, work and leisure activities.
  • A home or work-site evaluation may be helpful to analyze your tasks and recommend modifications.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Considering the projections from the Arthritis Society, everyone could benefit from taking care of their joints- before they reach the vulnerable age of 45!

Try the following occupational therapy strategies…

1. Joint Protection

Proper body mechanics should be used in all daily activities to reduce joint stress, decrease pain, prevent deformity and conserve energy. For example:

  • Avoid tight grasp and pressure along the thumb side of the hand that may contribute to deformity, i.e. pick up a cup or bowl using two hands.
  • Reduce muscle effort and increase strength by using tools with built-up handles; for example, scissors, utensils.
  • At work, pick up books or files with straight fingers or between palms rather than grasping with bent fingers.
  • Locate work directly in front of you, not to one side. Avoid twisting movements by centering your body to your work.
  • Avoid prolonged standing or sitting positions to minimize muscle stiffness, pain and fatigue. Use a timer to remind you to change position.
  • Use the strongest joints available for the activity; lift with leg muscles not your back. Roll objects rather than lift them and use a trolley.

2. Planning ahead

Organize your tasks to save time and energy, and reduce fatigue; for example:

  • Identify priorities in work, home and leisure activities. Schedule your activities throughout the week to ensure a balance of activity and rest, light and heavy tasks.
  • Pace yourself to prevent overdoing activity. Determine your realistic tolerance for activities. Learn to alternate work with short, frequent rest breaks.
  • Keep a schedule on the refrigerator to remind you and your family of everyone’s responsibilities.
  • Plan your activities first to avoid extra trips; for example, create a grocery list according to the aisles where the products are located to prevent unnecessary walking.
  • Discuss options for flexibility in work schedules and tasks with your employer to allow you to plan for changes in function that come with arthritis.

3. Modifying your environment

An occupational therapist can work with you to find the right assistive device and method to make any activity easier to do; for example:

  • The layout of a workstation should be organized so that frequently used objects are located between shoulder and hip level. Heavier items should be located at waist level.
  • Dycem, a non-slip plastic material can be used to stabilize objects such as a mixing bowl or plate.
  • A reacher can compensate for loss of movement; for example, to retrieve clothes from the dryer.
  • Lightweight equipment such as kettle, iron, and cookware can reduce the energy demands and compensate for weak muscles.
  • A raised toilet seat and bath bench can make it easier and safer to stand up.

Additional information

The Arthritis Society is an excellent resource. Call 1 (800) 321-1433 for the local office in your area. Visit its web site for information on the Types of Arthritis, Tips for Living Well, Programmes, Resources, and Arthritis Research.

Quotes:
Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do so you will be certain to find something you have never seen before.Alexander Graham Bell
How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.Coco Chanel
To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must not drift or lie at anchor.Oliver Wendell Holmes
All limits are self imposedIcarus
No one is ready for a thing until he believes he can acquire it.Napoleon Hill
Do not let what you cannot do; get in the way of what you can do.John Wooden
Occupational Therapy builds skills for the job of living.
Man from the use of his hands as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health.Mary OReilly
Occupational therapy – the difference between life and living.
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