For millions of people, the painful effects of arthritis are a daily aggravation. The World Health Organization notes that osteoarthritis, a type arthritis that is particularly prevalent among seniors, is one of the more disabling diseases in developed countries. Conservative figures from the WHO estimate that almost ten percent of men, and nearly double that rate for women, are suffering from a chronic rheumatic condition. In the United States, for example, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a subdivision of the United States National Library of Medicine, lists osteoarthritis as the number one degenerative joint disease for those aged sixty five and above.
Given the widespread nature of the ailment, much research has been conducted in the hopes of establishing tried and tested relief regimens. Physicians are adamant in declaring exercise a key component of any program aimed at providing arthritis relief for seniors.
Exercise Relief for Arthritis
The Center for Disease Control, a public health organization in the United States, lists exercise-based intervention programs as “evidence-based…proven to improve the quality of life of people with arthritis.” There is perhaps a pervasive sentiment that an exercise regimen must be physically intense in order to be most effective. In turn, this may discourage seniors hampered by arthritis to undertake such a program.
However, the soft tissue joints that are invariably ravaged by the progression of arthritis stand to gain the most from consistent, moderate physical activity which promotes a healthy range of movement and increases flexibility. The Arthritis Foundation, a charitable organization with the mission statement of providing “life-changing information…through advancements in science” for those suffering from arthritis, claims exercise to be “the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in patients with osteoarthritis.” In particular, the foundation lists three distinct aspects of physical conditioning that may alleviate arthritis symptoms for seniors, with the most important being establishing mobility in the joints through flexibility training.
Cardiovascular activity and weight-resistant training offer myriad benefits to the human body as well, and can be extremely beneficial in combating the degeneration arthritis causes. The benefits of exercise for those suffering from a chronic rheumatic condition, and especially for seniors with osteoarthritis, can scarcely be overstated.
A popular method for combating the effects of arthritis among seniors is the prescribing of various medications. The National Health Service, the British public healthcare system, notes that though there is no cure, many treatments can “slow down” arthritis’ effects, including “painkillers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and corticosteroids.”
The Arthritis Foundation in the United States takes a similar stance when dealing with the chronic condition, advising flatly to “take your medications.” According to the foundation, drugs such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), methotrexate, and hydroxychloroquine, improve the quality of life for seniors living with the “flares of joint inflammation.” In addition to these particular medicines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly prescribed to alleviate pain.
However, it is important to be vigilant in protecting one’s self from the dangerous side effects of prolonged usage of such medication. Several sources, notably the CDC and NHS both, caution that people over the age of 65 should be particularly wary of using NSAIDS to treat chronic pain. Negative side effects such as severe internal bleeding can develop with continuous usage.
While certainly beneficial, it is recommended to be in strong communication with a primary care physician before taking medication to combat chronic pain. The Arthritis Foundation carefully notes that, in addition to drug treatment, staying “physically active and maintaining a positive attitude about living with arthritis” is just as important as any potential drug treatment.
A Steam Room or Sauna
Providing a more passive treatment, and potentially far more relaxing, than the rigors of exercise or the adverse effect of drug treatments, some researchers recommend a brief stay in a sauna or steam room to provide rejuvenating relief for seniors suffering from arthritis pain. Contributors from Columbia University in New York offer this: “Saunas and steam rooms are…used to relieve some medical conditions like…arthritis,” because of the effect of such environments on blood pressure and muscle tissue.
The alleviating effect of this therapy is to improve a person’s circulation, thus abetting recovery from the damaging nature of inflammation. Saunas and steam rooms should be incorporated as part of a greater arthritis intervention program to reap the full potential benefit. Combined with moderate exercise, judicious application of pain relief, and treatments like steam room visits, seniors living with arthritis can expect lasting, and perhaps even profound, relief for their arthritis symptoms.