According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million Americans are impacted by arthritis each year. In fact, it is currently the number one cause of disability in this country. What is arthritis and how can one develop it?
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that causes stiffness and pain. According to Healthline.com, the cartilage in your tissue wears down, not providing the support needed to absorb pressure. It is most common in older adults ages 65 or older, though it can develop in younger adults and youth, as well.
Types of Arthritis
There are two types of arthritis that a person can develop: Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
OA: According to WebMD.com, Osteoarthritis occurs when the joints are overused and they tear over time. Movements become painful in joints that bear the most weight and pressure, such as the knees or feet.
RA: Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease, according to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network. This disease causes your body to attack its own healthy tissues, causing the breakdown of joint tissue between the bones. It has an enormous impact on hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. The disease can also be brought on by environmental factors or genetic factors.
Symptoms for OA can include pain and tenderness, joint stiffness, abnormal sensations in your joints, and loss of flexibility, according to Healthline.com. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to visit our doctor right away. Preventative measures can be taken to prevent further wear and tear.
Though both OA and RA cause similar symptoms, RA includes a variety of other early signs to be aware of. According to Medicinenet.com, early symptoms can include fatigue, joint pain, stiffness and swelling, loss of range of motion, limping, joint deformity, anemia and fever.
Osteroarthritis can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and preventing joint injuries. The added pressure and stress on your joints can cause permanent damage, so the only way to avoid OA is by taking preventative measures.
Rheumatoid Arthritis, however, is environmentally or genetically-caused, and thus is not preventable. According to Heathline, RA is not preventable, but the disease can be slowed down with aggressive treatment options. Thus, it’s important to know you’re the symptoms and talk to your doctor immediately if you suspect the development of RA.
The Harrisburg Area YMCA offers a variety of fitness programs to help those with arthritis stay active. In addition to our low-impact land exercises, we offer water fitness classes that provide low to no impact on the joints. Our water fitness program, the Arthritis Foundation YMCA Aquatic Program (AFYAP), is designed specifically for those with limited joint motion and who suffer from arthritis. The warm water and gentle movements help participants relieve pain and stiffness, while building strength.
Arthritis Foundation YMCA Aquatic Program
This class is offered at our Northern Dauphin County YMCA and West Shore YMCA. When participants in the AFYAP class were asked what motivates them to take the class and how it has impacted their health, answers included:
“My back problems are better. “
“The doctor said to continue with the water exercise, it’s helping my balance.”
“This water exercise is low impact. At my age and ability level, I am not able to do the other activities offered here at the Y.”
AFYAP participant, Sandy, stated, “I tell people it’s my life-line—physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.”
In addition to the physical benefits, participants have found that the class helps them maintain social relationships and encourage one another. The class leader at the Northern Dauphin County YMCA says, “As the leader of the class, I can share that my use of pain medications has decreased. I have had a healthy winter and I credit that to the water exercising I do, and the laps I swim. Being asthmatic, I was always encouraged to swim; it helps expand the lungs. The water supports my joints and allows me to move them with less pain than I could on land! And I, too, always feel better physically and emotionally after participating with my POOL PALS!”
If you are experiencing joint pain and suffer from arthritis, consider joining a class at the Harrisburg Area YMCA! Staying active can help prevent further OA symptoms and water exercise is a wonderful, no-impact way to reduce pain for both OA and RA. For more information on the classes we offer, visit our water fitness page on our website.
–Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator