More than one in four adults in the United States suffers from arthritis, which the Arthritis Foundation reports as the leading cause of disability. Nearly 172 million workdays each year are lost because of arthritis and arthritis-related conditions. In 2013 alone, total medical costs and earnings losses from arthritis totaled more than $300 billion. The numbers today are much higher.
The Arthritis Foundation reports:
- Conservative estimates indicate 54 million adults and almost 300,000 children have doctor-diagnosed arthritis or another type of rheumatic disease.
- As many as 91 million Americans may really have arthritis, but have not been formally diagnosed.
- An estimated 63 percent of adults under the age of 65 (both men and women) have doctor-diagnosed arthritis and/or report joint symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of arthritis.
- Almost 50 percent of adults 65 years or older have arthritis.
- Arthritis is more common in women than men.
- Nearly half of those diagnosed with arthritis have activity limitations.
- Arthritis is more common among adults who are obese – one-third of obese adults also have arthritis.
People who suffer from arthritis often experience other health conditions, called co-morbidities. It’s believed that arthritis likely comes first and results in these other health problems. Among people with arthritis:
- Twenty-five percent also have heart disease.
- Nineteen percent also have chronic respiratory conditions.
- Sixteen percent also have diabetes.
- Eighteen percent suffer from major depression.
- Thirty percent of those age 45 or older report feelings of anxiety and/or depression.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is not a single disease; rather, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions, which affect people of all ages and genders. Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go and can be mild, moderate or severe, and typically progress and worsen over time. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) isn’t just a disease that affects older adults; it’s the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 30 million Americans. Anyone who injures or overuses their joints, including athletes and people who work physically demanding jobs, may be more susceptible to developing this disease as they age.
OA can affect any joint, but occurs most often in the knees, hips, lower back, neck, small joints of the fingers and the bases of the thumb and big toe. Currently, there is no cure for OA.
In normal joints, cartilage covers the end of each bone, providing a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion and a cushion between the bones. In OA, the cartilage breaks down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint.
As OA worsens over time, bones may break down and develop growths or spurs. Bits of bone or cartilage may chip off and float around in the joint, causing inflammation and damage. Eventually, the cartilage wears away and bone rubs against bone, leading to joint damage and more pain.
Massage for Arthritis Suffers
Moderate-pressure massage helps to stimulate the pressure receptors under the skin that convey signals to the brain to alleviate pain and relax. Stress-reducing neurochemicals like serotonin are released, which cause the heart rate to slow, blood pressure to decrease and tight muscles and soft tissues to relax.
Arthritic joints will not “heal” completely with massage, but they can feel better. Recent studies on the effects of massage on arthritis symptoms have shown that ongoing massage can lead to improvements in pain, stiffness, range of motion and hand grip strength; decrease anxiety and stress; increase the overall function of the joints.
Massage is not medicine; rather, it is a complement to your doctor-prescribed arthritis treatment. Massage should make your arthritis pain and stiffness feel better, not worse.
Communication with your doctor and massage therapist beforehand can ensure that massage is right for you and will provide beneficial results. Check with your doctor before scheduling a massage and then tell your therapist that you have arthritis. Be specific about where your arthritis affects you (knees, hips, back, etc.) so your therapist can use care when applying massage to those areas or avoid them all together. Communication ensures you receive a massage that is both relaxing and therapeutic. QCBN
By Mark Love
Mark Love is the Franchisee of Massage Envy Spa Flagstaff, located at 1235 S. Plaza Way in the University Plaza Shopping Center next to Safeway. To schedule an appointment with a massage therapist, visit MassageEnvy.com or call 928-526-ENVY (3689) and follow on Facebook at Facebook.com/MEFlag. Schedule an appointment online – your time; your convenience; your massage.