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MRC News

Published on January 20, 2002
Lauren Fairburn
Health and Research News Service

JACKSON, Miss.—Nearly 43 millions Americans—young and old—suffer from arthritis or a related condition. A Methodist Rehabilitation Center physician says that with early diagnosis and proper treatment, the signs and symptoms of arthritis can be controlled and the risk of disability decreased.

Dr. David Collipp, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s director of rehab surgery, encourages Mississippians to pay attention to symptoms and seek medical attention if they have pain, swelling or stiffness in or around a joint for more than two weeks.

“Some people believe that as they age their joints should hurt,” said Dr. Collipp. “This is not a part of normal aging like minor aches and pains and early treatment can mean less joint damage and less pain.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, arthritis and its related conditions are the leading cause of disability in the United States and cost the economy almost $65 billion annually. More than 16 million Americans are affected with osteoarthritis and 2.1 million are affected with rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Collipp says that there are hundreds of different types of arthritis and getting the right treatment requires getting the right diagnosis.

“The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr. Collipp. “ Osteoarthritis usually comes with age and affects one or several joints like a finger, hip or knee where there is deterioration.”

Risk factors for osteoarthritis include obesity, heredity, overuse or injury of certain joints.

“Rheumatoid arthritis is the most severe and debilitating type of arthritis,” said Dr. Collipp. “It is an auto-immune disease that causes pain and swelling in the joints. People at high risk are those who smoke and those who are obese.”

Other arthritis-related conditions are gout, lupus, lyme disease, juvenile arthritis, bursitis, viral hepatitis, fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Because there are many different types of arthritis and ways to treat them, the Arthritis Foundation recommends working with a physician and other health professionals to develop an individualized treatment program. Each program will depend on the type of arthritis, the severity of the disease and the joints affected. Most treatment programs include a combination of:

  • Rest and relaxation
  • Exercise
  • Use of heat and warm water
  • Use of cold
  • Joint protection
  • Self-help aids
  • Appropriate medications

“Water exercise is a great way for arthritis sufferers to exercise joints and muscles,” said Dr. Collipp. “It restores and preserves flexibility, increases strength and coordination and gives arthritis sufferers more confidence and a sense of accomplishment.”

Dr. Collipp’s tips for coping with arthritis include:

  • Pay attention to symptoms. See a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment program.
  • Protect your joints. Avoid excess strain on your joints by using larger or stronger joints to carry things.
  • Keep moving. Exercise helps lessen pain, increases range of motion and helps keep your weight down, which decreases stress on your joints and helps you feel better overall.
  • Check out all of your options. There are several Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other arthritis-related diseases.

In 2000, US News and World Report named Methodist Rehabilitation Center one of America’s best hospital’s for its rheumatology and arthritis services.