News January 2019 Issue

In The News: January 2019

Activity Trackers Can Motivate People with Arthritis to Exercise

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People with arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems often restrict their physical activity, even though exercise is beneficial. For a study published in Arthritis Care & Research (September 2018), researchers reviewed 17 studies to assess whether wearable activity trackers, which keep track of the number of steps you take and other activities, increase physical activity among people with osteoarthritis, low back pain, and inflammatory arthritis (which includes rheumatoid arthritis). The wearable trackers were simple pedometers as well as more high-tech devices, such as FitbitŪ. The studies included a total of 1,588 people with an average age of 55. The researchers found a significant increase in physical activity among users of activity trackers over a period of about 14 weeks. The difference between those who used the devices and those who didn't was an average of 1,520 steps a day.

Rates of Anxiety and Depression Higher Among People with Arthritis

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Anxiety and depression are more common among people with arthritis than those without arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which published findings in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (October 2018). The CDC analyzed data from the 2015, 2016 and 2017 National Health Interview Surveys, which included over 93,000 participants who completed a questionnaire. Among adults with arthritis, about 22 percent reported having anxiety and about 12 percent were depressed, compared with close to 11 percent and about 5 percent, respectively, among those without arthritis. The rates of anxiety and depression in those with arthritis were higher among adults ages 18 to 44, people who were unemployed or unable to work, those with chronic pain, and people with other chronic health problems. Successful treatment for anxiety and depression is available, including mental health counseling.

Childhood Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Ups Risk for Arthritis

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Rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease, occurs when the body's immune system goes awry and attacks healthy tissue, especially in joints. Exactly what triggers this to occur is not known, but smoking is a well-known risk factor. New research suggests that even secondhand smoke may be responsible for a higher likelihood of developing the disease. In a study of 71,248 women followed since 1990, 371 of them developed rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers, who published their results in the journal Rheumatology (August 2018), found that current and former smokers were 38 percent more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than nonsmokers. Adding childhood exposure to secondhand smoke raised that percentage to 67. Women who never smoked but had childhood exposure to secondhand smoke had a 43 percent higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than women without such childhood exposure.

Both Surgery and Physical Therapy Relieve Pain from Torn Meniscus

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The knee joint contains two C-shaped pieces of shock-absorbing cartilage between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). Over time, these menisci (the plural of meniscus) can develop small tears. Many people with a torn meniscus also have knee osteoarthritis (the wearing down of cartilage that covers the ends of the bones) and both conditions can cause pain. Treatment may involve physical therapy or surgery to repair the tear. A study presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting (October 2018) examined long-term outcomes for people with osteoarthritis-related knee pain and a meniscal tear. The study included 351 people (average age of 58) who were randomly assigned to have physical therapy, surgery or physical therapy followed by surgery. Pain relief was similar for all groups over the five years of the study.

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