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Joint Pain Forum – News you can use!

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If you don't have arthritis now, there's a good chance you will


R. M. Tooker

Millions of Americans are like the Tin Man from ``The Wizard of Oz'' -- much in need of oil for their joints.

Osteoarthritis, not so accurately called ``wear and tear'' arthritis, produces not only stiff joints but also significant pain.

As the baby-boom generation ages, there's a growing epidemic of osteoarthritis. There are now 46 million Americans with arthritis, up from 35 million in 1985.

This means billions of health-care dollars are being spent to reduce pain and increase mobility for the growing number of boomers.

The American College of Rheumatology's recent scientific meeting presented some new and sobering insights for young and old alike. The lifetime risk of symptomatic knee arthritis is one in every two people. I am one of those stiff-knee sufferers. In fact, my joints are becoming my memory book of every football, skiing and backpacking injury that I have ever had.

Wear and tear increases with age and does create risk for advancing arthritis. But new research is starting to point to another culprit: our genes.

It has been well-established that heredity plays a role in hand and hip arthritis. New studies indicate the same may be true for knee arthritis. In fact, our genetic code may program the rate of progression of many cases of arthritis.

Generations ago, people accepted the creeping pain and disability of arthritis as inevitable. But recent generations are increasingly intolerant of the ravages of arthritic joint changes. True to the modern American way, we tend to want an immediate fix to our problems. We want it cheap and guaranteed to work.

This desire for a quick fix has led to a great reliance on pill popping for pain and stiffness, without any other life changes. After all, wonder drugs are being developed all the time. The wonder drug Motrin got its start right here in Kalamazoo.

The latest and greatest new wonder drugs for arthritis, however, have a dark side of increased cardiac deaths. So we must give up our desire for a quick and easy fix and get down to the logic of what will help decrease the onset of osteoarthritis and increase our ability to age successfully with arthritis.

Put simply, we need to move more and eat less. We need to keep stiff joints moving in moderation and lose weight to decrease joint stress.

For those with arthritis that limits work or even activities of daily living, management by a medical-care provider is essential.

But for millions who experience arthritis as an on-again, off-again problem and for those who have fairly constant stiff, noisy and mildly painful joints, relief can be found in the simple prescription to move more and eat less.

Hopefully this prescription sounds familiar because it is the essence of the Michigan Steps Up Campaign. It's no secret that what is good for our heart, lungs, brains and bellies is also good for our joints.

Dr. Richard M. Tooker is Kalamazoo County's chief medical officer

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