Arthritis in the Elderly-Osteoarthritis
Do you have trouble dialing the phone? Do
your knees ache after sitting through a
Sunday afternoon football game? Do you
wake up with a stiff neck almost every
If so, you are likely among the millions of
people who suffer from arthritis. This is a
disease that affects people of all ages,
although it affects older adults and women
more often. It causes stiffness, pain and
tenderness around the joints. It is most often
found in the hands, feet, knees, and hips.
There are more than 100 different types of
arthritis. The most common is osteoarthritis.
While the symptoms of osteoarthritis can
vary from person to person, each person
with osteoarthritis has joint breakdown. In
addition, osteoarthritis is progressive-
meaning the joint breakdown and symptoms
will typically get worse over time. The most
common sign of osteoarthritis is pain.
In the early stages, you may have joint pain
that gets worse with activity and is usually
eased with rest. In more severe stages, joint
pain may also be present during rest.
Weight bearing joints (knees, hips) may
“lock” or “give way” due to wear and tear
on the joints. Stiffness in the morning or
after long periods of rest can also occur.
The stiffness rarely lasts more than 30
Other symptoms may include:
· Swelling and/or redness around the
· Snapping of the joints
· Loss of movement
· Bony growths at the joints or gnarling
ξ Age: Osteoarthritis may increase
due to simple “wear and tear.” The
older you are, the more you have
used your joints.
ξ Obesity: Increased body weight adds
stress to your lower body joints. For
every pound you gain, you add 4
pounds of pressure on your knees
and 6 times the pressure on your
ξ Injury or Overuse: Athletes or people
whose jobs perform the same motion
over and over have more stress on
ξ Muscle weakness: Weakness of the
muscles around joints is linked to
arthritis. This is why exercising is
Even though arthritis is not reversible, the
symptoms may be helped with several
treatment choices. Finding a treatment that
works for you may take time. Talk to a
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 1/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5725
member of your health care team to find
out which choices are best for you.
Over-the-counter pills: Are often taken to
ease the minor pain of arthritis. They can be
bought without a prescription, but have side
effects and can cause problems for you if
taken in large doses or for a long period of
time. Be sure and discuss with your
pharmacist and/or doctor before taking.
ξ Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol ) relieves
ξ Anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g.
Ibuprofen/Advil , aspirin/Bayer ,
naproxen/Aleve ) relieve pain, and
reduce swelling of the joints. These
anti-inflammatory drugs should be used
only after checking with your health care
Herbal or alternative therapies may also
help you, but it is important to talk to your
health care team before adding more pills to
your daily routine.
For best results, medicines can be combined
with other methods of pain relief that you
can use on your own. These include:
Hot and cold therapy. Use hot packs to
relax stiff muscles. Use cold packs to ease
muscle spasms and dull pain.
Diet. Try to eat healthy. Make sure you get
enough calcium in your diet (1200 mg/day
for men and women over 50).
Exercise. Walking, water aerobics, biking,
and stretching are best to loosen stiff joints.
Maintaining a healthy weight is also
Assistivetools . Cane, walker, and/or use of
Relaxation. You may want to explore
techniques to help you relax.
· Deep breathing
· Guided imagery
Using these methods regularly and getting
enough rest is the key to long-term
Living with arthritis
Arthritis does not need to stop you from
your normal daily routines. There are things
you can do to help yourself live more
· Plan your day. Do the most important
things first when you have the most
energy. Plan only for what you can
handle. This helps reduce stress and
· Keep moving. Do not sit for long
periods of time. Sitting may cause your
joints to become stiff.
· Avoid fatigue. Take short naps or rest
periods during the day. Switch between
heavy and light tasks.
· Have good posture. This reduces stress
on your joints.
· Use more of your body when lifting.
Use your palms instead of fingers. Carry
objects closer to your chest.
Making sure your plan works for you is
important for the quality of your life. If a
given treatment is not working well for you
or is causing unpleasant side effects, talk
with your health care provider. He or she
can help you find other options.