Poll: Most Americans Over 50 Suffer Some Type of Joint Pain

Poll: Most Americans Over 50 Suffer Some Type of Joint Pain

Aching joints are common for people over 50, but it’s still important to talk to a doctor about it rather than endlessly self-medicating, experts say.

Now, a new poll from the University of Michigan breaks down joint pain, its impact on those who responded to the survey and how they’ve chosen to react to this painful condition.

Findings from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging include that 70% of people over 50 experience joint pain at least occasionally. About 60% have been told they have some form of arthritis.

Among those who have arthritis symptoms, about 45% said they have pain every day and 49% said it somewhat limits their usual activities.

“If you are feeling joint pain frequently, or it interferes with your normal activities, you don’t have to go it alone,” said Indira Venkat, senior vice president of AARP Research. The organization was one of the supporters for the poll. “Talk with your health provider about how you are treating your joint pain and additional strategies that may help.”

About 80% of those with joint pain said they had at least some confidence they could manage it on their own.

About 66% do so with over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). About 26% reported taking supplements, such as glucosamine or chondroitin. About 11% use cannabidiol (CBD), derived from marijuana, while 9% use marijuana.

About 18% use prescription-only non-opioid pain relievers, 19% get steroid injections, 14% take oral steroids, 14% use opioids and 4% use disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.

“There are sizable risks associated with many of these treatment options, especially when taken long-term or in combination with other drugs. Yet 60% of those taking two or more substances for their joint pain said their health care provider hadn’t talked with them about risks, or they couldn’t recall if they had. And 26% of those taking oral steroids hadn’t talked with a provider about the special risks these drugs bring,” said Dr. Beth Wallace. She is a rheumatologist and researcher at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare system, the VA Center for Clinical Management Research and Michigan Medicine.

“This suggests a pressing need for providers to talk with their patients about how to manage their joint pain, and what interactions and long-term risks might arise if they use medications to do so,” Wallace said.

Guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology for osteoarthritis and the more rare rheumatoid arthritis seek to reduce the risk that can happen with long-term use or for those taking multiple medications that can affect patients’ stomach, liver, blood pressure, blood sugar, mood or sleep.

The guidelines for osteoarthritis, which can be caused by wear and tear, emphasize weight loss, exercise, self-management programs with arthritis educators, tai chi, yoga, braces, splints and kinesiotaping, acupuncture or acupressure, cognitive behavioral therapy and applying heat, cold or topical pain relievers on aching joints.

For medication, the guidelines focus on short-term use of over-the-counter medications in low doses, along with steroid joint injections in appropriate patients. They recommend against most supplements, opioids and other prescription drugs.

About 64% of survey respondents who have joint pain do use exercise and 24% have had physical therapy. Far fewer used non-drug options such as braces.

Certain groups of older adults appear to be more likely to experience worse joint pain, said poll director Dr. Preeti Malani, a Michigan Medicine physician with training in infectious diseases and geriatrics.

“Those who say their overall health is fair or poor were twice as likely to say they have moderate or severe joint pain as those in better health. The difference was nearly as great between those who say their mental health is fair or poor than those who reported better mental health,” she said in a Michigan Medicine news release.

“And older adults with fair or poor physical or mental health were much more likely to agree with the statement that there’s nothing that someone with joint pain can do to ease their symptoms, which we now know to be untrue,” Malani said. “Health providers need to raise the topic of joint pain with their older patients, and help them make a plan for care that might work for them.”

The phone poll was administered in January and February 2022 among 2,277 adults aged 50 to 80.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on osteoarthritis.

SOURCE: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, news release, Sept. 12, 2022

Copyright ©2022 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
When Will My Sprained Ankle Heal?

When Will My Sprained Ankle Heal?

A sprained ankle can be painful and debilitating, but luckily your recovery time will usually be short — especially if you take steps to protect your ankle as it heals!

Joint sprains are a remarkably common part of life for both athletes and non-athletes alike. With their complex network of ligaments holding them together, ankles are especially vulnerable to sprains. Simply landing awkwardly on your foot can stretch or possibly tear those ligaments, resulting in pain, swelling, tenderness, and a limited range of motion in the joint.

In addition to the pain and discomfort ankle sprains bring, they can also restrict your mobility for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks since you won’t be able to put much pressure on the joint following an injury. Fortunately, most ankle sprains heal quickly with proper self-care, meaning you won’t be off your feet for too long. But if you aren’t careful, you can injure your ankle further, leading to a longer healing process and potentially even a need for medical intervention.

Here’s a look at what to do as you recover from an ankle sprain to ensure a quick and easy recovery.

How Long Will it Take for Your Ankle Sprain to Heal

Your recovery time depends on the severity of the sprain. A minor sprain clears in about two weeks, while a Grade I or II sprain typically takes between four and eight weeks to heal. A more serious Grade III sprain could require three to six months before it’s completely healed. To speed up the healing process, follow the PRICE method as outlined here:

  • Protect the ankle. The first step to healing is to protect the ankle from more trauma. To do that, you may need to tape the ankle, wear a protective boot, or walk on crutches to reduce pressure on the joint.
  • Rest. Make sure to treat your ankle with care and rest for at least a few days after your injury! Avoid activities that could further strain the ankle, whether that’s sporting activities or simply working around the house.
  • Ice. Apply an ice pack to the affected joint several times a day. Make sure to wrap your ice pack and keep it on your ankle for 20 minutes at a time maximum. The cold will reduce the swelling and pain.
  • Compression. Tightly wrapping tape around the ankle will provide stability and prevent further damage as your ankle heals. You can also use an ankle brace or cast for compression if necessary.
  • Elevation. To drain fluids from the ankle and reduce swelling, try raising your ankle above the level of your heart.

If you are looking for pain relief as your ankle heals, try over-the-counter medications.

For more severe sprains, you may also want to look into physical therapy to strengthen the joint and increase mobility. Surgery is rarely recommended for ankle sprains, except in the case of a significant ligament tear that doesn’t respond to conservative treatments.

Preventing Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are often painful and debilitating — at least for a short period of time. Even better than having an ankle sprain heal fast is preventing the sprain in the first place. Here are five ways to keep your ankle strong and less prone to sprains:

Practice Balancing Exercises. Proper balance can keep you from falling and injuring your ankle. To improve balance, stand on one leg as you do simple everyday tasks, such as brushing your teeth or washing dishes, or even when you’re exercising your upper body. Make sure to switch and do these exercises for each leg.

Tape Your Ankle Before You Play. Playing football, basketball, or any other sport that involves running can sometimes wrench your ankle out of position, causing a sprain. Before the game, tape your ankle to give it the extra support it needs.

Strengthen & Stretch Your Ankle Muscles. If your ankle muscles are weak, they’re more likely to sprain. Strengthening exercises designed to build up the muscles can keep them strong and better able to withstand an injury. To increase flexibility, stretch your ankle muscles before you exercise.

Know Your Surroundings. Many ankle sprains occur because people are unaware of the terrain and take a tumble. Look around and see if there are any uneven or slippery surfaces and walk gingerly to protect your ankle.

Get the Proper Footwear. When playing a sport, proper footwear is essential in order to maintain your balance and protect your ankle. You want a shoe that supports your ankle while also providing good mobility. Ask a trainer or orthopedist for recommendations. And save high heels for special occasions only. Tottering on high heels can easily make you trip and fall and hurt your ankle.

Talk to the Ankle Specialists

Are you worried about an ankle sprain that isn’t healing? At Comprehensive Orthopaedics, we have a team of physicians who specialize in ankle injuries and other orthopedic conditions ready to help you get back on your feet. Whether that means surgery, physical therapy, or more of the PRICE method, our experts can help you feel your best fast. Contact us today for more information.

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