SALT LAKE CITY -- Nearly 400,000 Utahns, including 3,000 children, suffer from arthritis, the leading cause of disability in Utah and the nation, according to a new report.
According to the report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Utah Department of Health, it's possible to decrease the symptoms of arthritis pain by walking throughout the week.
However, 50 percent of Utahns with arthritis get no physical activity. "This report is concerning because people with arthritis who don't move much are at far greater risk for being injured and even disabled," said Rebecca Castleton, UDOH arthritis program coordinator.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, gout, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid, said Leslie R. Nelson, vice president over public health programs for the Arthritis Foundation's Great West Region.
The pattern and location of symptoms can vary, depending on the type.
"Generally, people with arthritis feel pain and stiffness in and around one or more joints," Nelson said. "The onset of arthritis symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly."
Arthritis is most often a chronic disease, so symptoms may come and go or persist over time, she said. Limited mobility and even depression can accompany the symptoms.
It's important to learn what type of arthritis you have in order to get the proper treatment, Nelson said. That includes a detailed medical history, physical examination, X-rays and bloodwork.
"The focus of treatment for arthritis is to control pain, minimize joint damage and improve or maintain function and quality of life," Nelson said.
"The earlier you understand your arthritis, the earlier you can start managing your disease and making healthy lifestyle changes to help your arthritis."
The CDC recommends low-impact activities such as walking, dancing, biking, swimming and water aerobics to help diminish the pain of arthritis.
Adults should aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If 30 minutes seems too long, break the workout into two or three 10- to 15-minute sessions.
The Arthritis Foundation Walk With Ease program is a six-week walking program and is ideal for people who want to manage their arthritis, Nelson said.
In addition, the Utah Arthritis Program suggests hand exercises for people with arthritis in their fingers, hands and wrists. These exercises can help improve joint flexibility and range of motion. Heat and ice may also help to provide some relief.
"Research has shown that physical activity decreases pain, improves function and delays disability," Nelson said.
She also said to educate yourself about arthritis, see your doctor, learn how to protect your joints and watch your weight. A loss of just 11 pounds can decrease the occurrence of new knee osteoarthritis, Nelson said.
Christine Weiss, spokeswoman for the Utah Arthritis Program, said it's amazing how much walking helps.
"Walking relieves back and joint pain by improving blood flow and strengthening muscles. It also lowers blood pressure, heart attack and stroke risk, and strengthens bone to reduce the risk of osteoporosis."
To learn more about Walk With Ease, call 801-538-9458.