Sunday, February 8, 2015

Pain in the...

For more than 20 years I cared for critically ill patients; repositioning, turning, transferring, and transporting them...not once, did I experience back pain or discomfort. Now that I have a desk job that requires sitting more than 8 hours a day, I'm hampered by lower back pain and stiffness. After rising from the office chair, it takes at least 10 steps before I can straighten up completely and get into my normal pace and stride.  Sadly, I'm not alone. 

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease approximately 27 million Americans age 25 and older have osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative disease that affects joint cartilage. Osteoarthritis commonly affects joints in the fingers, thumbs, neck, lower back, knees and hips. 

Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis

  • Joint stiffness; especially after getting out of bed or after prolonged sitting
  • Joint swelling
  • Crunching feeling with joint movement
  • Sound produced by bone rubbing on bone


A variety of techniques are used to diagnose osteoarthritis including symptom history, physical examination, X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, joint fluid analysis, and blood tests to eliminate other possible causes.

Treating  osteoarthritis

An individualized treatment plan should take the patient's health, lifestyle, and current needs into consideration. The treatment plan may include a variety of interventions:
  • Exercise, such as walking, swimming, water aerobics
  • Weight control
  • Rest
  • Assistive devices 
  • Heat or cold application
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Over-the-counter pain relief aids, such as acetaminophen
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 
  • Opioids
  • Corticosteroids
  • Other medications
  • Surgical intervention

Key to living success

Self-care is the key to living well with osteoarthritis. People who engage in their care report fewer physician appointments, less pain, and a better quality of life. Self-care success requires:
  •  learning about the disease and treatment options
  • staying active and engaging in an exercise program
  • eating healthy foods 
  • controlling weight
  • getting plenty of sleep
  • enjoying life
  • maintaining a positive attitude.

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