Dr Hilary Jones     October 12, 2017

The Link Between Arthritis and Falls in the Elderly

Today is World Arthritis Day. You probably do not have to think hard and long at all before thinking of someone you know who has Arthritis. That person you may think of just might be yourself. According to an article by Arthritis Foundation, 50 million adults and over 300,000 children are affected by arthritis. It is a mean, non-discriminating machine. And it has plenty of pain to go around for everyone. The Arthritis Foundation says that there are over 100 different types of this disease. And, as the leading cause of disability in America, arthritis is absolutely a nuisance to all who suffer with one of its many forms. No, it is not lethal. But a chronic form of this disease can make one wish that it were.

The Arthritis Foundation demonstrates with Degenerative Arthritis, Inflammatory Arthritis, Infectious Arthritis, and Metabolic Arthritis that the source of the pain varies depending upon which of these major types of arthritis one develops. While there are many things a person with arthritis may do in order to maintain a healthy, active quality of life, the major focus will have to be pain management. The pain is real. But the perception of that real pain differs from person to person. Dr. Goldner, interviewed by the Arthritis Foundation, expounded on factors affecting the perception of pain. He included age, medical conditions, gender, emotions, and support systems. Perception of pain even trickles into the political arena when it comes to unique challenges in fighting this disease. The Arthritis Foundation leads the charge on that front.

Given that, regardless of the type of arthritis one may have, pain is the most debilitating and prevalent factor, here are eight tips to ease arthritic pain.

Tip #1. Do not be afraid to actually feel your pain. We think we are aware of our pain when we are hurting. But it is very possible that is not the case at all. Like touching a hot stove, the sensation of pain triggers a reaction. That reaction is spastic, quick, and happens without a decision. The body intends to remove us from harm. When the sensation ceases, the body returns to normal and stops the spastic fleeing. But imagine what would happen was the sensation to never go away. Feeling the pain means we become aware of the pain. Jon Kabat-Zinn says we become aware of a part of ourselves that actually is not hurting when we are in pain. When we do this, our perspective of pain remains realistic. That often means it will lessen.

Tip #2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle to reduce other medical conditions. Sure, this one seems obvious. But it really makes a difference. Pain is the most debilitating aspect of arthritis. Everything that reduces pain makes arthritic pain less. Any pain coming from somewhere else or for some other reason increases arthritic pain by magnitudes. Dr. Goldner told Arthritis Foundation about how living with arthritic pain alongside pain from other medical conditions heightens sensitivity to pain.

Tip #3. Alleviate depression. This is a tough battle. Chronic pain can cause depression. Yet it works the other way too. Reducing depression can alleviate pain. Dr. Goldner says that pain and depression share some of the same neurotransmitters. Reducing one should reduce the other. Talk therapy and medication or both can help in this effort.

Tip #4. Surround yourself with people who get it. There’s nothing worse than suffering in ways others do not understand. The place to begin is with your medical professional. Work with doctors who take your condition seriously and who understand the pain you go through each day. Pain increases under emotional distress. Dr. Goldner says just addressing the pain is usually enough to break the cycle in his patients. They no longer feel they suffer alone.

Tip #5. Find a pain medication that work for you. The Mayo Clinic offers some suggestions. Among these are analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), counterirritants, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologic response modifiers, and corticosteroids. Your health professional should be able to identify the particular arthritic disease you deal with each day and suggest one of the variety of medications used to treat specifically the effects of your particular arthritis.

Tip #6. Do bearable exercise on a regular basis. The other most prevalent effect of arthritis alongside the pain is stiffness. The stiffness, as you can imagine, also contributes to the physical and emotional pain. So find some basic stretches and movements that get those arthritic joints in motion. Improving endurance and range of motion will help alleviate pain.

Tip #7. Explore surgical options. The Mayo Clinic gives three examples. Surgeons can perform joint repair, including realignment, restructuring, etc. Another approach is joint replacement, which speaks for itself. A third option is joint fusion, performed mostly on smaller joints. It requires shaving off small sections of bone and fusing the two together until the joint heals.

Tip #8. Similar to tip #1, get back to basics and explore alternative treatments. Even the Mayo Clinic suggests acupuncture, glucosamine, yoga or tai chi, and massage therapy. Acupuncture can target specific painful regions and bring instant relief. Glucosamine, while exhibiting mixed results in lab tests, still works better than nothing. Yoga and tai chi both use mindfulness through body movement to help a person with the awareness spoke about in tip #1. These are things you can actually do to practice. Massage therapy increases blood flow to muscles in the painful regions, relaxing them. This also takes away stiffness and pain due to the constriction of the muscle.

Arthritic pain is also a major contributing factor in elderly people suffering falls. In fact it is estimated that every minute 6 people over the age of 65 suffer a fall in the UK. Watch our latest video from our Ambassador Dr Hilary Jones on how to prevent falls.

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