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October 12th, 2011 by Dr. Phil

World Arthritis Day

arthritisToday, October 12, is World Arthritis Day — a chance for us to show our concern and support for all those affected by rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. It’s astounding just how many of us are affected by arthritis. In the United States alone, more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions rob at least 50 million adults and 300,000 children of living life to its fullest. I am one of the 27 million Americans who battle a particular form of arthritis called osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease.

Even before I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis — and for me it’s all in the knees — I was deeply interested in the reality of chronic disorders and long-term injuries for which we have no cure; no pill, no “silver bullet” fix. A lot of my education, professional training and subsequent practice was in an area of psychology called Behavioral Medicine, a specialty in which we helped patients with such diseases and disorders as arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diseases of the central nervous system, diabetes, head and spinal diseases and disorders, chronic organic-based pain, obesity and other conditions for which there is no cure. We helped these patients learn how to cope and manage — often with very good results.

It is not always a simple answer. Chronic diseases often interact and complicate one another, which makes it really interesting sometimes. And arthritis is one of those conditions that can be greatly impacted by other disorders such as obesity. Obviously, if you have an arthritic condition and are seriously overweight, it can present challenges. By the way, if you recently heard me discussing obesity and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), another devastatingly painful form of arthritis, on Dr. Phil or The Doctors, I actually misspoke. I meant to say obesity can complicate RA, not that it can cause RA, which is, of course, an autoimmune disorder that is systemic, affecting the whole body, not only joints, but soft and connective tissues and, in some cases, organs.

arthritis2I think the reason I got so interested in this subject so early in my career is because I am one of those people who believe we have to focus on the things we can control rather than anguish over the things we cannot control. Once we decide to do everything we can do to maximize our health, we become change agents in our own lives. When I met cancer patients who believed themselves to be terminal, I would always say, “Stay alive even one more day. Fight to survive even one more day, because one of those ‘one more days’ is going to bring a breakthrough, a cure, a new strategy that will make a difference.” I believed it every time I said it and I believe it now. But it costs money to do the research that discovers new treatments, and we all have to be willing to give to the causes that need funding the most.

Back in 1979, I wrote my doctoral dissertation at the University of North Texas titled Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Psychological Intervention. Clearly, the research we were excited about then is outdated, and I hope that we all take today as a reminder that there is important research to be done now. Some young researcher who’s obsessed with this subject like I was back then needs funding to find answers — and I encourage all of us to do what we can.

That’s why I am very thankful we have a day like World Arthritis Day. We need more information, more research, and far more public attention about what is happening; because this disease is not slowing down. Within 20 years, if things stay the same, without improved treatments, an estimated 67 million Americans (one in four adults) will have some form of arthritis. That is a scary forecast. For those of you looking for more information about the various forms of arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis, check out MyRACentral.com.  And go to WorldArthritisDay.org to show your support on World Arthritis Day.

I hope you will join me in raising awareness of arthritis.

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68 Responses to “World Arthritis Day”

  1. Lori says:

    Dr. Phil,

    Great Post! I am 28 years old and have had RA since 11, but it took them over 5 years to diagnose me, because it was not in my blood! Come to find out, it don’t have to! Living with RA is difficult. Older people look at me if I say something hurts and they say wait until you get old sweetie, what they don’t understand is I do feel OLD and didn’t get the chance to feel young! However, I make the best of it and go to work and live my life with a smile, the best I can. Medicines have come a long way overtime and so have I. The meds worry me a little with the side effects, but I tell people you cant live life worried about the side effects, I just want to enjoy mine while I have it. So many people do not get how serious RA is, it has deformed joints, ruined my flexibility, I have anxieties and depression and don’t think I will ever have a baby because of risk off my medicines and never being able to afford adoptions. I probably need to see a pyscologist, but I watch you every day and I consider that my session…lol! Even have my husband watching, we DVR it. I love you and your show!! Keep up the good work! I love you even more know now you care about RA :)

  2. I am lucky that in my 40’s I dont experience any joint pain, but both my parents have pretty severe cases for which they are prescribed pain medication rather than anything that may help fix it.

    I am also a dog walker and know that a lot more vets are also diagnosing and treating pet dogs for arthritis. For many owners its only a matter of giving glucosomine and hoping for the best – if that doesnt work they often put dogs down. I just hope that when the day comes that there is a magic bullet, that it is affordable and that our faithful dogs will be allowed the relief too.

  3. Brian says:

    I think the last paragraph made the most impact of the entire article. Only as the population increases and the older population makes up a big proportion of people on earth, and money and time is spent on finding a cure, will we turn the corner on this.

    Its one of those non-sexy diseases that gets overlooked, but has people the world over living in pain on a daily never ending basis. Good luck to the doctors out there working for us!

  4. papi says:

    Two weeks ago I started waking up with stiffness in one finger and pain if I tried to bend it. It would get better throughout the day, but now the finger is completely stiff 24 hours a day. It has spread to another finger quite badly, and I can feel it a bit in two others. No other joints have stiffness or pain, just the middle knuckle of the fingers. I started taking vitamins and Omega 3 from a highly rated “premium” supplement company 3 weeks before the problems started. Stopped taking all vitamins today after reading posts on fish oil. I also type on the computer frequently but can only use 1 finger now. Any ideas? Thank you!

  5. Ed Brooks says:

    Is Arthritis a problem as one gets older? I have been suffering pain in my shoulder and arm down to my elbow. I felt it was a bad sleep day, however, it has been ongoing for more then a month.

    Should I be concerned about arthritis or will this problem go away with time. My fingers legs and arms seem to work pain free, except this one shoulder issue. I am 59 years young and looking forward to a pain free life. Are my aspirations valid. Thanks

  6. Kathy Borders says:

    I am 52, I have developed arthritis in both knees, both hips, ankles and feet. I am very overweight at 240 pounds. I visit doctors and they say “lose weight”….my response dahhhh.

    I am a compulsive over-eater, I have 12 years of sobriety from alcohol, I’m in treatment for gambling addiction. I am an addict. When a doctor says lose weight, I hear just flip a switch you stupid woman. It’s so not that easy.

    I understand that my joints may hurt less if I weight less. But how does someone so deeply addicted to food lose weight?

  7. Nancy Salisbury says:

    I have had RA for probably 30 years and I am now 63. I have had both knees replaced and my hand are severly deforms from the disease. I didn’t have RA in my background. For years I tried to figured out what exactly did I do to bring this on myself. I think I discovered some of it. I married a farmer/rancher and have lived in rural Oklahoma for 35 years. Living in a rural area anyplace has it’s ups and downs. I have always worked hard, running tractors in the field, taking meals to the field, at the same time raising my two children. Living with my husband is another set of issues, as he requires everything to be done right the first time, take little if any time off, and don’t spend any money! I think the stress of trying to keep one very demanding husband happy and raising two children, one with special needs due to a premature birth, and losing twins at birth due to prematurity has taken it’s toll on me and my health. Now that I have obvious problems from the RA, I get little if any understanding. I’m expected to carry on as usual doing things I did when I was 20 or 30! I do the best I can and do as much as I can without asking for help, but I know there will come a time when I probably won’t be able to do simple things. I get depressed for sure, but I know I have to push on because I know I can’t shut down either. I know there are others who are suffering even more then myself and all I can do is hope and pray there will be some relief for us sometime before we become a burden to our families. There is still alot of living ahead for me I hope. Medical researchers know alot about RA, just not how to prevent it or cure it. I do know I would have managed my stress better. Thanks Dr. Phil.

  8. Joan Palmer says:

    I too have RA, am 48 yrs old and not overweight. I can manage the joint pain but it went into a Rheumatoid Lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans. This basically is making it harder and harder to breathe for me. I was hospitalized 5x last year for a total of approx 10weeks.
    Stress does seem to affect it as I was doing ok until my husband, who was terminally ill, passed away on 1/15/12. Now it’s wheezing attacks every day again.
    Not a fun disease! Autoimmune diseases run in my family as my 25 yr old son was diagnosed with MS at age 19 and my 24 yr old daughter has Celiac.
    Thank you for posting this info on arthritis. Some don’t realize how bad it can get.

  9. Debra Compas says:

    I have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosed at age 19 in 1975!! My first year of college!! I have had both shoulders, both elbows, both hips, both knees, both wrists fused, and 10 knuckle joints totally replaced! I’ve had pericarditis, pancreatitis, diverticulitis, fluid around the lungs, colostomy and reversed colostomy because of the systemic part of the disease!! I was put on prednisone and NEVER taken off of it so now I suffer from side effects of that med, ( hundreds of fractured ribs, osteoporosis, teeth crack apart, exsessive weight gain, easily bruse, etc.)!! I was a high school and college athlete! I was NEVER over weight!! I had plans to become a head accountant (CPA) of a fortune 500 business! I had BIG dreams but my body had its own!! This disease JRA has truly changed my life!! I am now in a wheelchair and need a personal care attendant to help me!! I used to be very independent!! I don’t think people realize how arthritis changes you! It’s actually laughed about as the old age disease-but it’s neither laughable or an only older people disease! It’s crippling not only to your body but to your mind, your heart and your soul!! I still am grateful for what I can do for myself and I enjoy every day!! It’s a choice you make!

  10. Sue Kindred says:

    In some of your shows you send people to a medical center in Dallas TX. I can’t understand the name. I have looked on internet for Dallas TX Medical Centers and can’t find anything that sounds like what I’m understanding. Thanks, I love your show.

  11. Anna says:

    I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis 2 years, what a shock, but that explained the pain, I’m going for hip replacement surgery next week, it’s the 1st of 2, bi-lateral, I’m 47yrs old. This disease is scary, I’m not the person I once was, but hope I can find someone inside me that I like again after these surgeries.
    Good Luck to everyone out there suffering with arthritis.

  12. Terri says:

    I am 41 years old and live in Australia. I just joined this site and watch Dr Phil everyday. I was diagnosed with Spondyloarthritis 2 months ago but have been living with the symptoms since 21. No one could tell me what was wrong. My doctors are still trying to find the right medication. At this point, I’m taking anti inflammatory drugs, my vitamin D levels are extremely low so I’m on double dose of Vitamin tablets, I’m also taking Salazopyrin EN. I can’t sleep well at nights due to pain and spine feeling stiff so I’m also on Endep. I’m not use to taking so many meds but I feel I have no choice. The amount of pain this causes is unbearable and frustrating. I trust my Doctors as they are very upfront and helpful. I just need to power on and wish for the best. I will also start Physio soon (once I start feeling a little better and meds kick in). My heart goes out to anyone suffering from Arthritis. Love your show Dr Phil, keep up the great work, and thanks for giving people a chance to express their feelings.

  13. Hi Dr Phil!
    This is an interesting post. My mother is experiencing a bad situation with her arthritis and we can’t give her the right aid. We’ve visited some doctors and still they advise us to provide milk for my mother. Anyway, this post is very helpful and i am thankful to read this.

  14. Misty says:

    I am 39 years old and have been dealing with the pain of degenerative spinal disease with severe arthritis. I cannot afford to go to all these doctors and have these tests done. We are just now getting the bills from my diagnosis along with the bills from my husbands stroke and heart failure paid. I wondered if others experience the doubt of society in the pain and difficulty in performing daily tasks. I even received an annomynous letter right after I received my handicap parking card stating, “there is nothing wrong with you except laziness.” Even my family did not understand until I lived with them allowing them to see what I hide and hearing what the doctors stated about my condition. Why can’t people understand what they see is me trying to live a semi-normal life and that I pay the price for it with pain and extreme exhaustion? I have no choice but to work because SSD says that I was short a credit. Yet about a year ago they informed me they could go back and use the credits from my youth if I could find one document showing the problems starting when I was 21. They followed it with a letter informing me that although I work part-time and that my job accomidates me the skills required to perform my job disqualify me. I love my job and dread the idea of not seeing those kids every day, but I am trying to fulfill my dream of opening a practice for child/family therapy which is taking its toll on me. Sorry to babble. I just wanted to know if others face the accusations that it is in your head or that you are over dramatizing it?

  15. Amy says:

    Dealing with people’s perceptions is almost as difficult as the pain and fatigue of RA. I am 34 years old and constantly get sneers & dirty looks when I park in a handicapped space, hang my placard, and get out of my car. I often hear “but you don’t look like you’re disabled”, or “but you’re so young”. I can’t count how many times older, well-meaning folks have told me that they understand because they have arthritis in a knee or a hip. I am always polite, but inside I’m thinking “try having that pain in just about every joint in your body!”. Even my rheumatologist makes me angry! I have seronegative RA. Due to an immune issue that runs in my family (I was blessed with very unfortunate genes), I am unable to make the Rheumatoid factor antibody. My very first Rheumy explained that, just because I can’t make the antibody, that doesn’t mean I don’t have RA. After extensive testing, it was the most obvious answer & when the meds worked so well, he officially diagnosed me with RA. I have since moved & my current Rheumy is not so wonderful. At my first visit, after about 5 minutes of the typical questions & a quick review of my chart, my current Rheumy asked me if I had any psychological issues & if I would be willing to come off ALL of my medications in order to “see what would happen”. He then told me that sometimes seronegative RA just “goes away”. I asked if he had received my x-rays from my previous doc, to which he replied, “I don’t think so, but I haven’t checked”. WOW! Then I asked if he would like to order x-rays so he could see the joint damage my previous doctor saw, and he replied, “neh”. WOW! The sad part is that I am a military dependent & my insurance keeps referring me BACK to the SAME DOC despite my protests. He finally gave up the constant nagging to go off all of my meds just to see what would happen after I came in for an appointment while in the midst of a fairly bad flare. He looked at me with a bewildered look and said, “I guess we shouldn’t take you off your medications. Just keep taking whatever you’re on”. I had to ask him for a course of prednisone, he didn’t suggest it.
    Life with RA is difficult for so many reasons. The pain & fatigue alone is debilitating. When you add in the skepticism and attitudes that you experience from others, it makes what you’re dealing with even more difficult. My best advice is what keeps me going-DON’T GIVE UP HOPE! Research, do your homework, educate yourself about the disease & about YOUR disease! Make it a point to know what your lab results are, what your medications do, and what other options you have! And go easy on yourself, even if others don’t.

  16. Dear Dr. Phil,
    I am 47 and have suffered Chronic Pain with spinal disease for 18 years. I have osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, DDD, DJD, and cervical and lumbar facet dysfunction, Chiari Malformation, Scoliosis, Spondylosis, neuropathy in bilateral hands and feet, neural entrapment in my left arm and I am left handed, multiple schmorl nodes, and forminal stenosis. My husband of 30 years has taken care of me. My daughter’s have abandoned me because I take pain medication. I am ready to get a pain pump, which will diminish the medication 1/300%. *I will be taking 1/300% less than I am taking with, hopefully, the same relief. THAN maybe my children would include me in their busy life. I miss them…I miss their love. I wish there was something to ‘fix’ the problems,instead of something to mask the problems. My problem is I have so many different problems that it would be too much….but I sure would rather FIX them and regain a portion of my life. Standing and walking for more than a minute or two is painful most of the time. Dr. Phil, living like I live, inside my home everyday but when I have doctor’s appointments. Then coming directly home so I can lay down, I am young, beautiful, or at least used to be. And now I am a prisoner in my own home…Remembering the good old days when I was well. Unfortunately, my 22 year old daughter said she does not remember me any other way. I have always been sick all her life…at least as far as she remembers. Dr. Phil, I want to have my family back. Can you help me…PLEASE….PRETTY PLEASE?
    Please advise me of any advise you might have for me. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH! Sincerely, Sharla Kelley

  17. Vicky Wright says:

    I’ve had arthritis since my late teens, due to being diagnosed with double scoliosis at the age of 13. I am now 44 years old and have gone through multiple surgeries, only left with day to day physical and emotional pain. Why doesn’t anyone acknowledge SCOLIOSIS? ???

  18. Susan deMacedo says:

    Hi Dr. Phil,
    Apparently autoimmune disorders run strong in my family. One of my older sisters is a Lupus survivor, and I have RA and Fibro. I was finally diagnosed a few years ago and my doctors and I are trying to find the right treatment for me. My sister has been in remission since the birth of her first child, 12 years ago. She is however dealing with the side effects of her disorder. She gained weight from her steroid treatments and is having issues losing the weight from her decreased mobility because of her knees. She had a surgery in her early twenties to resurface the bone in her knees, it was really bad. Currently she has bone-on-bone in her knees (both) and no cartilage. Because of her age (39), her doctor is refusing to do the knee replacement surgery. But I can’t believe they recommend the only available treatment is cortisone shots. She has two young kids (12 and 4) and her lack of mobility is severely interfering with her home, family, and overall life. Not to be too selfish, but she cannot visit me because she can’t climb the stairs to get to my third floor apartment. She is limited in her activities because of knees, and she cannot lose her extra weight because of her knees. Is there anything you can do to help? She is too young to have to wait 11 years before she can have her full life back.
    Thanks for any assistance!

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