Canadians who never have their joint pains and aches examined by a doctor could be making the problem much worse, The Arthritis Society warns. The Society is encouraging people during Arthritis Awareness Month in September to complete a short quiz at www.arthritisquiz.ca to help them determine whether they have osteoarthritis (OA) and prevent long-term joint damage.
“Joint pain is a daily reality for millions of Canadians, but unfortunately many never follow up with their health-care provider. Some think it’s an inevitable part of aging, others hope it will go away,” says Steven McNair, President and CEO of The Arthritis Society. “Learning more about what lies behind your joint pain is a major quality of life issue. Establishing an early diagnosis of osteoarthritis is critical to the outcome of the disease, since it only gets progressively worse and therapies work best when started as early as possible.”
OA is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than three million Canadians. While anyone can get OA, it is more common as we age. It occurs when cartilage, the tough elastic material that covers and protects the ends of bones, begins to wear away. The result is pain, stiffness, swelling and bone-on-bone movement in the affected joint. Joints commonly affected are the end joints of fingers, the middle joints of fingers, hips, knees and the neck (cervical spine). Over 90 per cent of the more than 58,000 annual joint replacement surgeries in Canada result from the end stage of joint damage caused by OA.
While there is still no cure for OA, appropriate treatment and a healthy lifestyle can allow someone to take control of their disease. “Managing body weight through physical activity and a balanced diet is one of most effective ways of reducing joint pain,” Dr. Joanne Homik, Chair of The Arthritis Society’s Medical Advisory Committee, explains. “Losing 10 pounds reduces the pressure on each knee by 40 pounds. Being overweight puts an extra burden on your weight-bearing joints, such as the hips, knees, ankles and feet.”
Every September, The Arthritis Society aims to heighten awareness of the prevalence of arthritis in Canada and to raise much-needed funds for arthritis research and programs. In addition to useful resources, such as the toll-free Arthritis Information Line (1.800.321.1433) and website (www.arthritis.ca), The Society offers the Arthritis Self-Management Program and Chronic Pain Management Workshop, programs that inform participants on how to handle pain and stress, eat healthy and exercise with arthritis.