Arthritis Awareness Month – Blog

Observing Arthritis Awareness Month Through a Personal Lens

Active older adults stretchingMay is Arthritis Awareness Month. Arthritis is a condition that presents in different ways and causes pain, aching, stiffness in and around joints. In the United States, more than 53 million people are living with the disease. According to the 2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which surveys adult health, approximately 1.9 million adults in Virginia have been diagnosed with arthritis.   

The Virginia Department of Health has partnered with the Arthritis Foundation to offer a program called Walk With Ease (WWE). Walking and other physical activities that are performed daily can decrease pain and improve symptoms caused by arthritis. It’s easy to register for the program. You can sign-up by yourself or form a team for the six-week free program.  

VDH asked a couple of people about their experience with WWE. Daphne in Virginia Beach said, “physically I needed a challenge, the Walk With Ease program provided me with motivational tools and structure.  The forms, such as the walking diary enabled me to write my goals down which helped as a visual aid each week.” 

Pattie in Chesapeake told us that “WWE helped her with her balance. “The information about where to look when you walk, meaning you look ahead of you instead of down when you are walking. “The stretching and strengthening exercises in the book helped me to get stronger.”  

Another physical activity that has proven success is Tai Chi. There is growing evidence that the low-impact, slow motion exercise has value in treating health conditions such as arthritis. Marissa from the Harrisonburg area teaches a 16-session class specifically for arthritis and to help with fall prevention. Marissa says that “Tai Chi can be modified for all abilities, and it is pretty easy to follow along with the directions. “I have heard from participants that (after taking the class) it is easier to walk the stairs or get up from a chair.”  

Along with the activities mentioned, VDH works with organizations that help Virginians manage chronic conditions, like arthritis. Kathleen from Culpeper explains more about the benefits of the nationally recognized program Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP). “The program is full of simple, doable activities that can be incorporated into someone’s life, allowing them to see things differently and to adopt and practice coping skills as they deal with life as a person with a chronic condition.” 

Bonnie, who is a Chronic Condition Self Management educator says, “I’ve found that people often have a health problem that maybe they don’t think merits doctor’s appointment or medication, but it still nags at them and disrupts plans. “CDSMP gives some ideas for self-management, but also explores ways to better communicate with their healthcare professionals, so it can become a patient-doctor partnership to keep healthy.”  

There are several proven approaches to reduce arthritis symptoms. Talk with your health care provider to explore what might be best for you. You can also visit the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.