Wellness Words May 2019

Wellness Words May 2019

HealthLink Littauer’sAlicia DeRuscio-Head


Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.

Community Education Assistant



According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 54 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of arthritis, affecting 26% of women and 19.1% of men. Due to its wearing effects, about half of those with arthritis are limited in their abilities to perform everyday tasks. 

What is Arthritis?

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases defines arthritis as joint inflammation. However, the term “arthritis” can be used to classify any disorder that affects the joints.  A joint occurs where two bones meet, such as your ankle, knee or elbow.

There are many different kinds of arthritis but the most common forms include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis. 

Causes of Arthritis

The cause of arthritis depends on the type of arthritis a person is diagnosed with. Some arthritic conditions, like osteoarthritis, are caused by everyday wear and tear on the body while others, like rheumatoid arthritis, are caused by a flaw in the body’s immune system.

Research shows that certain genes can also increase the risk for developing arthritis.  If you have a gene connected to arthritis, often times something in your environment will trigger the onset of the condition. Environmental triggers may include a virus, a stressful situation or an injury. 

Symptoms of Arthritis

Common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain, redness, heat or swelling in your joints
  • Difficulty moving around
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rash or itch  

Many of the symptoms of arthritis can also be symptoms of other conditions. If you experience any of the above symptoms, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider.

Living with Arthritis

Arthritis is a chronic condition, meaning it is long-term and cannot be cured. If you are diagnosed with arthritis, there are many things you can do to help manage your symptoms including:

  • Educating yourself:  Learn more about your condition and the steps you can take to be a good self–manager. HealthLink Littauer offers two evidenced-based programs that will help you learn the tools to better manage your arthritis including the Chronic Disease Self–Management Program and the Pain Self–Management Program. These cover everything from nutrition and physical activity to stress management and problem solving.
  • Taking medications as prescribed:  Taking medications exactly as they are prescribed can help prevent complications and promote effectiveness.
  • Exercising:  Exercise can help reduce joint pain and stiffness.
  • Using heat and cold therapy:  Use of heat or cold therapies can reduce joint pain and swelling.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques:  Relaxation techniques may help relax your muscles and reduce pain.
  • Utilizing splints, braces or other assistive devices:  Splints and braces aid in supporting your joints while assistive devices can help you perform everyday tasks like putting on shoes or opening a jar.

Remember to speak with your healthcare provider about treatment plans and options. They can give you the best plan of action to manage your condition.

For more information, contact your healthcare provider or HealthLink Littauer. If you are interested in attending a Chronic Disease Self–Management or Pain Self–Management Program, call us at 518-736-1120.  You can email us at healthlink@nlh.org or visit our wellness center on 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown.  We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

Wellness Words January 2016

HealthLink Littauer’sCarol Tomlinson-Head


Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS

Community Health Educator

4 Ways Exercise Helps Arthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation, physical activity is the best non-drug treatment for improving pain and function for people with osteoarthritis. The good news is that you don’t have to run a marathon or become an Olympic competitor to help reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Even gentle exercise can help maintain joint function, relieve stiffness and reduce pain.

Along with your current arthritis treatment program, exercise can:

  • Strengthen the muscles around your joints
  • Help you maintain bone strength
  • Give you more energy to get through your day
  • Make it easier to get a good night’s sleep
  • Help to control your weight
  • Improve your sense of well-being

If you have arthritis, you want to be sure your exercise routine has these goals in mind:

  1. Better Range Of Motion (improved joint mobility and flexibility): These exercises involve moving your joints gently through their normal range of movement, such as raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders forward and backward.
  2. Stronger Muscles (through resistance training and strengthening exercises): Fancy equipment is not necessary, but you should ask your doctor or physical therapist to recommend exercises to give you the most benefit with the least aggravation to your joints.
  3. Better Endurance: Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming and bicycling strengthens your heart and lungs and thereby increases your endurance and overall health. Stick to activities that don’t jar your joints, and avoid high-impact activities such as jogging.
  4. Better Balance: Improving your balance is the key to preventing injuries from falls. According to CDC research, Tai Chi for arthritis is one of the most effective fall prevention activities. Movements are slow, relatively simple and joint sparing. They are designed to strengthen your core, improve balance and even memory.

Start slowly to ease your joints into exercise if you haven’t been active for a while. Move joints gently at first to warm up. For example, you might begin with range of motion exercises before moving on to strengthening or aerobic exercise.

Remember – arthritis doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying life. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the bottom line is that mild to moderate exercise is beneficial for people with osteoarthritis. However, everyone’s circumstances are different, so having a discussion with your doctor is important. Together with your doctor and/or physical therapist, you can design an exercise program that is right for you.

HealthLink has certified Tai Chi For Arthritis instructors and offers ongoing classes. For more information on these, call 736-1120. You can e-mail us at healthlink@nlh.org, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our NEW wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

Wellness Words May 2011

HealthLink Littauer’s


Submitted by Ryan Wille, B.S.

Community Health Educator



Arthritis is a group of conditions involving damage to the joints of the body, which leads to joint inflammation. Inflammation is one of the body’s natural reactions to disease or injury and includes swelling, pain and stiffness. Inflammation that lasts for a very long time or recurs, such as in arthritis, can lead to tissue damage.

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Different types of arthritis have different symptoms and the symptoms vary in severity from person to person. Symptoms may include fatigue, fever, a rash and signs of joint inflammation. The signs of joint inflammation are pain, swelling, stiffness, tenderness, redness and warmth. Three of the more common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form and occurs when the cartilage covering the end of the bones gradually wears away. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but most often affects the hands and weight-bearing joints due to age and overuse.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-lasting disease that can affect joints in any part of the body, except the lower back. In this form, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself and causes the joint lining to swell. The inflammation then spreads to the surrounding tissues, and can eventually damage cartilage and bone.

Gout is a painful condition that occurs when the body cannot eliminate a natural substance called uric acid. The excess uric acid forms needle-like crystals in the joints that cause swelling and severe pain.

The causes of most types of arthritis are unknown. Although the exact causes might not be known, there are several risk factors that increase an individuals chance of developing a form of arthritis. These risks include:

  • Age – The risk of developing arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, increases with age.
  • Gender – In general, arthritis occurs more frequently in women than in men.
  • Obesity – Being overweight puts extra stress on weight-bearing joints, increasing wear and tear, and increasing the risk of arthritis.
  • Work Factors – Some jobs that require repetitive movements or heavy lifting can stress the joints and cause an injury, which can lead to arthritis.

If arthritis is diagnosed early, most types can be managed and the pain and disability minimized. Early diagnosis and treatment may be able to prevent tissue damage caused by arthritis. The goal of arthritis treatment is to provide pain relief and increase joint mobility and strength. There are several treatment options and treatment plans may involve more than one of these options. Treatment options include medication, exercise, hot/cold compresses, use of joint protection and surgery.

Along with treatment, there are preventative measures that can be taken. Although it may not be possible to prevent arthritis, there are steps to take to reduce the risk of developing the diseases and to slow or prevent permanent joint damage. These preventative steps include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight – Excess weight puts strain on joints.
  • Exercising – Stronger muscles can help protect and support joints.
  • Using joint-protecting devices and techniques at work – Proper lifting and posture can help protect muscles and joints.
  • Eating a healthy diet – A well balanced and nutritious diet can help strengthen bones and muscles.

For more information, contact the Arthritis Foundation at 1-800-420-5554 (www.arthritis.org). Littauer’s Physical Therapy Services at 773-5541, or HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at healthlink@nlh.org, see our website at www.nlh.org, or visit our wellness center at 213 Harrison Street Ext. in Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.