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 May 2016

HealthLink Littauer’sCarol Tomlinson-Head


Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS

Community Health Educator



According to the Arthritis Foundation, osteoarthritis (OA) is a leading cause of disability affecting more than 27 million adults in the US. Sometimes called degenerative joint disease, OA can affect any joint but it occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers, and the bases of the thumb and big toe.

In normal joints, a firm, rubbery material called cartilage covers the ends of each bone. Cartilage provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion and acts as a cushion between bones. In OA, the cartilage breaks down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space causing more pain and damage.

OA symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain: A joint may hurt during or after movement.
  • Tenderness: Your joint may feel tender when you apply light pressure to it.
  • Stiffness: Joint stiffness may be most noticeable upon awakening or after a period of inactivity.
  • Loss of Flexibility: Affected joints may no longer be capable of full range of motion.
  • Grating Sensation: You may hear or feel a grating sensation when using the joint.
  • Bone Spurs: Hard lumps may form around the joint.

Factors that may increase your risk of OA include:

  • Age: The risk increases with age.
  • Sex: Women are more likely to develop OA, though it is unclear why.
  • Obesity: Increased weight puts added stress on weight-bearing joints, such as hips and knees. Also, fat tissue produces proteins that can cause harmful inflammation in and around joints.
  • Joint Injuries: Even injuries that occurred long ago and seemingly healed can increase risk.
  • Genetics: OA seems to be prevalent in some families more than others.

Currently, the process underlying OA cannot be reversed, but symptoms can often be effectively managed with a combination of lifestyle changes, therapy, medication and at times surgery. Lifestyle changes that can make a significant difference in treating OA include, but are not limited to:

  • Exercise: Increases your endurance and strengthens the muscles around the joint, making it more stable.
  • Lose Weight: Even a small amount of weight loss can relieve some pressure and reduce pain.
  • Pain Medications: Talk to your physician about over-the-counter and/or prescription meds.
  • Assistive Devices: Can make it easier to move and work without stressing your joint. Your doctor or therapist may have ideas about what devices would be most helpful.
  • Attitude: A positive health attitude will greatly affect how well OA is managed.  For example, focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t;  break down activities into small tasks that are easy to manage;  balance rest with activity;  and develop ways to manage stress.

The ability to cope despite pain and disability often determines how much of an effect OA has on everyday life! HealthLink offers “Tai Chi For Arthritis” classes. This gentle form of exercise can safely relieve arthritis pain, improve flexibility, strength, balance, mental focus, and performance of daily activities.

For more information on osteoarthritis, talk to your health care provider, contact the Arthritis Foundation at arthritis.org or 456-1203, or call HealthLink Littauer at 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 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.