• By Sharon Theimer

New CDC Analysis Finds Nearly 1 in 4 US Adults Has Arthritis

November 7, 2013

It's an epidemic spreading steadily and painfully, joint by joint. Arthritis now afflicts nearly 1 in 4 American adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Thursday. [CDC news release]

It found that 22.7 percent of U.S. adults -  52.5 million people - have arthritis, and that 22.7 million of them say arthritis is limiting their daily activities. In all, the number of adults with arthritis rose 2.5 million during the 2010-12 period studied, compared with the previous analysis, covering 2007-09. Mayo Clinic rheumatologist Shreyasee Amin, M.D., offers these comments on the CDC statistics:

  • “The aging population in general is increasing, and osteoarthritis, which is the most common form for arthritis and which doesn’t get a lot of attention in the media, is probably one of the things that’s contributing to that increase.”
  • “The fact that obesity is certainly an increasing problem in the country and obesity contributes to a higher risk of osteoarthritis in the knees in particular, that might be one of the reasons that we’re seeing this increase.”
  • “It’s sort of a catch-22 or a vicious circle that people run into: If you’re in pain you aren’t physically active, it puts you at risk for other conditions like osteoporosis, it may make you more prone to falling and breaking a bone. If you’re overweight because you’re not active enough anymore, you’re more likely to get diabetes and its complications maybe further aggravate heart disease, and some forms of obesity have been linked to cancer. So I think it really is important for us to recognize arthritis, do what we can and study it better so that we can improve the health of people before they get to that point where they’re into that level of pain and injury.”
  • “I think because arthritis is so linked to other diseases, and physical inactivity that can result from arthritis can contribute to other complications like obesity, leading to diabetes and  further problems with heart disease, I think more attention needs to be drawn to preventing arthritis, understanding the mechanisms that contribute to osteoarthrtis in particular, which is so common, and I hope that helps spur our research dollars to better understand this condition and prevent it.”

Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Amin are available in the downloads. To interview Dr. Amin, Dr. Krych or other Mayo Clinic experts on arthritis, please contact Sharon Theimer in Mayo Clinic Public Affairs at [email protected] or 507-284-5005.

There are more than 100 forms of arthritis: Osteoarthritis, also known as wear-and-tear arthritis, is the most common.

Dr. Amin and Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon Aaron Krych, M.D., offer these tips for preventing and coping with osteoarthritis:

Prevention: Achieve a healthy weight to take a load off your joints.

"Every pound lost can result in up to a 4-pound reduction in the load on the knee," Dr. Amin says.

Other prevention tips: Do exercises to strengthen muscles around joints and preserve your range of motion; use assistive devices such as special grips to open jars and protect finger joints or knee braces or a cane to ease the burden on your knees; maintain overall fitness through low-impact aerobic exercises, such as bicycling and water exercises; and, if you are an athlete, learn techniques to protect your muscles and joints.

"Many people who injure their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are at risk of developing post-traumatic osteoarthritis. The best strategy is to prevent ACL injuries by participating in screening and prevention programs, especially for high-risk athletes," says Dr. Krych, who with other Mayo researchers is taking part in an Arthritis Foundation-funded study to analyze damaged knee cartilage after ACL injuries, before osteoarthritis sets in.

Coping: Water-based exercises such as swimming, walking in water and water aerobics are good ways to get a workout while taking it easy on joints, such as your knees. Tai chi and yoga can strengthen muscles and help maintain balance. Walking, taking care to wear shoes that provide proper cushioning and insoles for your type of osteoarthritis, is another exercise option.

"It could be good to meet with a physical therapist to get a tailored exercise program," Dr. Amin says. "If you're able to do exercises that you enjoy, you're more likely to do them."

Making adjustments to your home and workplace may help with daily tasks. Depending on your osteoarthritis issues, an ergonomic computer keyboard and mouse may make a difference. If osteoarthritis is making life difficult at home or work, making a list of those challenges and working with an occupational therapist can help, Dr. Amin suggests.

Dr. Krych notes evidence that heavy lifting may further harm an arthritic knee. If you must lift heavy objects, he suggests using the following technique:

  • Lift with your legs, not your back. Bend at the knees, never at the waist.
  • Position feet shoulder-width apart, and stand as close as possible to the object you're lifting.
  • Contract your abdominal muscles and breathe out when you lift, to support your back.
  • Hold the object close to your body as you lift.
  • Don't twist or bend while lifting a heavy object.

If your job involves frequent heavy lifting, balance training, body mechanics training, coordination exercises or posture stabilization work may be helpful to maintain range of motion and improve flexibility, strength and endurance, Dr. Krych says.

Media Contact: Sharon Theimer, 507-284-5005 (days), [email protected]

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