Managing Arthritis Everyday

Sharon Congleton, RN, BSN

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that from 2013-2015,

an estimated 54.4 million or 22.7 % of adults living in the United States have some

form of arthritis, and by 2040 an estimated 78 million (26%) adults ages 18 and older

are projected to be diagnosed with arthritis. Of persons ages 65 and older 46.9% are

reported to have doctor diagnosed arthritis with the resulting symptoms that often

accompany arthritis. Let’s look at what arthritis is, its symptoms, common treatment

methods and last but not least proven self-management   treatment strategies to

incorporate so that you manage arthritis and not allow it to manage you.  


What is Arthritis?  Arthritis is a disease that causes joint and musculoskeletal pain.

Over time, normal wear and tear on bones and joints causes the loss of cartilage,

(a protective cushion over joints) to wear away; eventually causing bones to rub

against each other, resulting in pain and inflation of the involved bone and

surrounding tissue.   There are over 100 types of arthritis with the most common

form being Osteoarthritis, with a reported 27 million Americans being impacted by

this chronic medical condition. Other types of arthritis include Gout and Fibromyalgia.

 For more information on other types of arthritis go to


Common Symptoms of Arthritis: Symptoms may vary depending on the joint

involved, age, weight, joint alignment, fitness and activity level.

Symptoms include:

  • Persistent, recurrent pain, aching or tenderness in and around  a joint

  • Stiffness and limited range of motion of a joint

  • Mild swelling around a joint

  • Clicking or cracking sound when the joint bends

  • Enlargement or changes in the shape of a joint


Joints Affected by Arthritis

  • Knees

  • Fingers/toes

  • Hips

  • Spine


The Goal of treatment for Osteoarthritis is to control pain, decease inflammation and deformity, and prevent or reduce the onset of disability.


Treatment for Osteoarthritis

 Can consist of several treatment modalities including:   

  • Analgesics: are drugs that relive pain and some also decrease inflammation. Acetaminophen, is the active ingredient in Tylenol™.  Acetaminophen is an example of an analgesic that provides temporary pain relief but does not reduce swelling.

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Also known as NSAIDs are medications that help to reduce swelling and stiffness. Examples of NSAIDs include Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). These medications decrease the production of a certain chemical in the body that can cause inflammation and pain. 

  • Opioid Analgesics: This group of pain medications require a prescription due their potential for addiction and the need for careful monitoring during treatment. These medications are prescribed for short-term treatment of intense pain. Examples of opioids include morphine and hydrocodone.


Always inform your healthcare provider of all medications you take, including OTC medications to assure these medications do not cause undesired effects or interact negatively with other medications you may be taking.


Manage Your Weight: Focus on Eating Healthy: The more weight we carry the greater the damage to bones and joints, thus the greater the discomfort from swollen bones and joints. Here are some tips to follow for healthy weight management. 

  • Eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day: make your plate colorful with green, yellow, red, orange fruits and vegetables.

  • Limit your intake of fat and sugar. Eat lean meats, bake, boil and broil meets, limit your intake of fried foods. Reduce your intake of foods high in refined sugar, fat and white flour. Pastries, cakes, jams and jelly are foods that easily convert to sugar and can lead to weight gain. Eat foods that are low in saturated fat and high in healthier fats like olive, canola, and vegetable oil.  

  • Pay attention to serving size. Read food labels to determine how much of any food is considered a serving. Keep in mind, serving size and portion size are not always the same.

  • Limit the amount of sodium you eat daily.

  • Eat foods that are rich in calcium including low fat or skimmed milk, low fat yogurt, cheese and low fat ice cream.

  • Drink plenty of water. If you are on a fluid restriction, check with your healthcare provider on the amount of fluids you can drink per day.   


For more information on eating health go to or

Exercise: Many people with chronic arthritis pain believe that exercise will cause more pain. This is not the case. Some of the benefits from regular exercise include:

  • Keeps joints and limbs flexible, reduces stiffening and loss of range of motion

  • Improves overall strength and endurance

  • Improves balance and decreases the risk of falls

  • Improves, overall health, decreases blood sugar

  • Helps to maintain a good weight

  • Reduces stress

  • Decreased depression and improves mood

  • Improved sleep   


Always check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. Start off slowly and gradually increase the frequency and time that you exercise. Don’t overdo it! Walking is the best form of exercise. Walking is easy on bones and joints and includes the entire body. If you feel fatigue, shortness of breath or pain, STOP! Contact your healthcare provider to report your symptoms and ask about what types of exercise are best for you.


You have the ability to manage arthritic pain by learning more about this chronic condition, eating healthy, making exercise a regular part of your daily routine and communicating effectively with your healthcare provider about what works and doesn’t work for you in the management of osteoarthritis. You are the one in charge of the daily management of your arthritis. For more information on management of arthritis and the chronic pain associated with it go to