Mental Health and arthritis: a complex relationship
In the latest issue of JointHealth™ insight, Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) reports on the important relationship between mental health and arthritis. People with inflammatory arthritis are more likely to experience mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and “brain fog” than the general population.
This issue of JointHealth™ insight will cover the following:
Relationships between depression, “brain fog” and inflammatory arthritis
Burden of depression
Recognizing and managing depression and anxiety
Prevent depression and anxiety
Love, sex, and arthritis*
*Please be advised that the content in this section contain graphics of “joint friendly” positions during sex and may not be appropriate for you or others in your household. The graphics are excerpted from the book, “Rheumatoid Arthritis: Plan to Win”, by Cheryl Koehn, Dr. John Esdaile and Taysha Palmer published by Oxford University Press, 2002.
Much has been said and written about the importance of exercisefor our health and wellbeing. However, for people with arthritis, it also can help manage symptoms. While people with arthritis may be reluctant to exercise fearing joint damage, exercise is especially crucial for people living with all forms of arthritis disease. In fact, exercise is a vitally important part of a well-rounded arthritis treatment plan.
For people living with arthritis, pain, body weight, age and lack of knowledge about appropriate types of exercises may be hurdles to getting started on an exercise program. Another barrier is the lack of recommendation and referral for exercise by physicians. A Canadian study of osteoarthritis patients showed that only one third had been advised to exercise by their doctor. However, exercise has numerous physical and mental health benefits and there are no specific exercises that should be avoided by people with arthritis.
One of the most important benefits of exercise is weight management, which helps to improve body image and can improve the symptoms of arthritis, especially of osteoarthritis. If a person is heavier than their ideal body weight, even a small amount of weight loss can help reduce both the risk of developing certain types of osteoarthritis and the chances of osteoarthritis worsening with age.
For everyone, exercise helps to improve heart and lung function, but for people living with arthritis, a variety of types of exercise can help to reduce joint pain and control joint swelling. These include:
Range of motion exercises help to keep the joints mobile and are also useful for helping to prevent injuries.
Weight bearing exercises can decrease bone loss, keep weak joints stable, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Aerobic exercises, such as walking, help with weight loss. As well, exercise can help make it easier to fall asleep and to sleep more soundly.
In addition to improved physical health, exercise has many psychological benefits. Pain can seem more pronounced when we are unhappy or upset and exercise can help reduce depression. Additionally, it can improve self-esteem and self-confidence, improve the ability to relax, improve mood and wellbeing, and promote a good body image. Exercise also provides a good outlet for dealing with stress and anxiety.
Research suggests that most types of physical activity do not cause or worsen arthritis. In contrast, a lack of physical activity is associated with increased muscle weakness, joint stiffness, reduced range of motion, fatigue and overall reduced physical fitness.
Once a regular pattern of exercise has been established, it is important to maintain this pattern.
In order to get the benefits of exercise, it is vital to stay active.
Research shows that in people with osteoarthritis, once exercise stops, the reduced pain and disability they were experiencing ends.
To ensure that you keep up with a routine of exercising, consider joining a group program or bringing a friend or family member along to motivate you.
Eight ways to get started exercising:
Try to choose a type of exercise, or an exercise program, that you enjoy. It will be much easier to stick to the program if you like what you are doing. Most types of activities are helpful for people living with arthritis, so feel free to do your favourite things such as walking, swimming, golfing, or gardening. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or boring to be good for you.
Community centres can be a terrific resource. Flip through the lists of classes offered at your local community or aquatic centre to find activities that best suit your interests and physical abilities.
You may find that having a partner to exercise with will be more motivating. Research tells us that people are more likely to stick with exercises if they bring along a friend or family member.
Sometimes, having a detailed list of activities and realistic goals will help motivate you, so it may be useful to get a referral to a physical therapist to create an appropriate exercise regimen that suits you and your body. Also, keeping an exercise log can help you and your therapist monitor your progress.
For some, assistive devices such as splints or orthotics may be helpful for protecting your joints while you exercise. An occupational therapist can be a good resource.
Before beginning a new exercise program, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor or health care provider to determine the most appropriate exercise or activity for your needs and capabilities. Also, be aware that during flare-ups it is important not to over-stress and over-work joints, which may cause more pain. For this reason it is important to speak to your doctor about exercise and the types of exercises most suitable.
Try setting a firm goal and then rewarding yourself when you achieve it. For example, set a goal of swimming 5 laps. When you reach that goal, reward yourself, and then set a new goal of swimming 10 laps. Rewards can be anything that is meaningful to you: setting aside time for yourself, treating yourself to a massage or a good book, or going out for a meal with friends.
Acknowledge your effort. Be proud of yourself for taking an active role in your health care.
Register for this free event to hear and learn from inspirational women living with arthritis and leading health professionals!
300,000 Canadians live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and women are affected two to three times more often than men. For many people living with RA, career continuation and advancement can seem out of reach.
To bring attention to the triumphs and challenges of people working with chronic diseases like RA, Women in Biz Network and Eli Lily Canada are partnering on a nationwide series of empowering events called #RAMATTERSATWORK.
Join them for an evening of lively discussion between inspirational women living with arthritis and their health experts. Speakers will share stories of difficulty and triumph while thriving in the workplace, and challenge the negative beliefs and self-doubt associated with living and working with a chronic disease. Stay tuned for panelist announcements!
Join us and the conversation at #RAMATTERSATWORK
Toronto Event Date: February 25, 2019, 5:45pm-8:30pm Location: Westin Harbour Castle 1 Harbour Square Toronto M5J 1A6 Free Registration:ramattersatwork.eventbrite.com
Montreal Event Date: February 26, 2019, 5:45pm-8:30pm Location: AC Marriott Montreal Centre-Ville 250 Lévesque Blvd W Montreal H2Z 1Z8 Free Registration:ramattersatwork.eventbrite.com
Do you want to travel pain-free? Do you wish there were more ways to help people living with arthritis? Share your wish list with us this holiday season!
For this year’s holiday campaign, Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) is asking you to share your arthritis wish list using our campaign hashtag #MyArthritisWishList. ACE will do the same, and hope that through continued community sharing, research and medical advances are possible. Here are a few wishes from last week:
“I wish my family doctor would make arthritis resources available in the waiting room.” – ACE Subscriber, #MyArthritisWishList
“My daughter lives with rheumatoid arthritis and buses to school every day. She gets dirty looks when she asks for a seat. I wish people understood that arthritis is an invisible disease.” – Concerned mother, #MyArthritisWishList
To participate in the #MyArthritisWishList campaign, please:
Send an email to email@example.com and tell us your arthritis wish or wishes
Share your wish on our Facebook or Twitter and include the hashtag #MyArthritisWishList
Share, like, and comment on #MyArthritisWishList posts
We will provide a #MyArthritisWishList summary on January 8, 2019, and promise to use it as ACE’s guiding light for our advocacy, research and information programming over the next year.
Here’s to speaking out and working together to make everyone’s arthritis wishes come true!
The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”.
Pain is your body’s warning signal, letting you know that something is wrong in your body. When part of your body is injured or damaged, chemical signals are released that travel from nerve system cells (called neurons) to your brain where they are recognized as pain.
For many people living with arthritis, “I’m so tired” is an often spoken phrase. Fatigue is their constant, very unpleasant companion. It is a symptom which is often overlooked or overshadowed by other concerns when treating arthritis, but it can be life-altering to people living with the disease.
Often, research into treatments for arthritis has focussed on other disease symptoms, sometimes leaving out the importance of managing fatigue. Some recent research, however, has focussed on fatigue, why it is harmful, and how it can be better treated.
In an article published in Clinical Care in the Rheumatic Diseases, Basia Belza and Kori Dewing examined fatigue in arthritis and described some strategies for dealing with fatigue and minimizing its impact.
This article cites other research to conclude that 80 – 100% of people living with certain types of inflammatory arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia, live with fatigue. Most types of arthritis are associated with some fatigue, and it can be one of the most difficult symptoms to live with, and treat.
Fatigue has been defined as “usually or always being too tired to do what you want” (Wolf et al). For people living with extreme fatigue, completing even the simplest tasks, or participating in normal day to day activities, can feel nearly impossible. People who face fatigue as a symptom of their disease can simply feel “too tired” to do the things they want or need to do in their lives.
Causes of fatigue
There are several causes of arthritis-related fatigue, which very often occur together. Belza and Dewing note several causes of arthritis-related fatigue, including: Continue reading →
The most recent EULAR recommendations for pain management in inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis (OA) include physical activity and exercise as a part of a patient’s treatment plan. Physical activity has been shown to significantly ease joint pain and increase mobility, for this reason, exercise is increasingly being prescribed by physicians and other healthcare providers.
Some examples of well-known and effective exercises for people with arthritis include walking, biking and swimming. These are low-impact aerobic exercises, meaning they will generally be easier on the joints and cause your heart rate to increase. Are there other activities that could also benefit people living with arthritis, such as yoga?
Despite the lack of scientific proof, stem cell therapy is becoming increasingly popular, with dozens of clinics open across Canada and hundreds in the United States. These clinics are offering treatment for a wide range of diseases including asthma, multiple sclerosis, crohn’s, osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis. A recent study found that Canadian businesses are making strong and unproven claims about the benefits of stem cell therapy. Advertisements intentionally use scientific language which can mislead consumers into thinking they are science-based therapies. While there are credible facilities that do stem cell transplants for conditions such as cancers of the blood, there isn’t sufficient research to support the safety and efficacy for treating other diseases such as osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis. As stated by researcher Leigh Turner on CTV news, “you have a lot of companies and clinics setting up shop and there’s this pretty big gap between the marketing claims they make and the current state of stem cell research.” A different article exploring the boom of stem cell clinics in America, found that advertisements use patient testimonial to appeal to consumers, which may just be a result of the placebo effect.
This year’s ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting will include 450 educational sessions. More than 700 speakers hailing from more than 20 countries will present as many as 3,000 abstracts to gain firsthand knowledge and access to new scientific and clinical findings.
Session topics will include newly proposed treatments for systemic lupus erythematosus and osteoarthritis, updated classification criteria for large vessel vasculitis and a look at current controversies regarding arthritis diseases and bone. Continue reading →
How Arthritis Impacts Lives – #MyWorldWithArthritis
Arthritis affects an estimated 6 million people in Canada and 54 million in the United States; it can significantly impact daily activities, work, relationships, school and the way people see themselves. With over 100 types of arthritis affecting people of all ages, the patient community is incredibly diverse and so are their experiences.
For World Arthritis Day, we asked our subscribers: “How has arthritis changed your world?”. Our aim was to bring attention to the prevalence of the disease and the different ways that it can impact the lives of individuals. In just a few days, we received 36 responses!
Thank you to everyone who generously shared their stories with us, your participation has helped spread awareness about the seriousness of arthritis and shown others living with the disease that they are not alone.
You can find all of the quotes we received below. To learn more about arthritis, please visit Arthritis Consumer Experts’ Disease Spotlights section.