World Arthritis Day on Oct. 12 seeks to raise awareness about the painful set of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases that affect about 175 million people globally.

When people think of arthritis, they commonly think of osteoarthritis, the sometimes debilitating musculoskeletal condition that generally affects people over the age of 60. However, more than 100 different types of arthritis exist that develop in people of all ages and genders. The condition is more common in women and the risk increases along with age, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Although lifestyle modifications such as diet, stress reduction, and exercise often reduce arthritis pain, many people still need expensive treatments or even surgeries that can be difficult to pay for. Advocates say these barriers to effective care are what make it so important to raise awareness and work with government leaders to make sure everyone who needs treatment is able to find it.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a blanket term for diseases affecting the joints. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, and a limited range of motion. Depending on the severity of the condition, pain can be mild or severe. In the most severe cases of osteoarthritis, patients may be advised to consider joint replacement surgery. And while some people’s symptoms plateau without progressing, others find the condition worsens over time.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form, develops when the cartilage that cushions joints wears away. Over time, the cartilage completely disappears, leaving no buffer as bone rubs against bone. Advanced stages of this condition can be very painful and severely limit mobility.

Another relatively common type of arthritis is inflammatory arthritis, which is an autoimmune disorder. This means the body’s immune system attacks itself, leading to severe inflammation, damaged joints, and possibly damaged organs. Rheumatoid arthritis falls into this category, as does psoriatic arthritis.

If these conditions sound serious, that’s because they are. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

What is the story behind World Arthritis Day?

Arthritis and Rheumatism International organized the inaugural World Arthritis Day in 1996. However, today the event is organized by the European League Against Rheumatism, which holds the event every year on October 12. The global campaign seeks to raise awareness about arthritis and influence leaders worldwide to create policies and take steps to make life easier for those living with the condition.

Because arthritis is the top cause of disability in the United States, the economic and social impact is quite large. The upside to the condition’s high prevalence rate is that a vast support network has developed around it. Researchers are actively investigating why arthritis develops and how to better treat it, which means medical resources are also widely available.

World Arthritis Day seeks to publicize this support network and make sure that everyone who needs it, patients and caregivers alike, has access.

Participating in social media

The easiest way to join in World Arthritis Day awareness efforts is to post on social media. The official way to participate is by sharing a photo with the hashtag #WADHigh5 (as in giving someone a high-five) on social media.

Any image you post hashtagged with #WADHigh5 is great, but the organization recommends an official way of participating. They ask that you write the name of someone you wish to support on your hand and take a picture in the high-five position. Then, share a short message about World Arthritis Day or the person you’re supporting, and encourage others to do the same.

Post on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with the hashtag #WADHigh5 and tag the person you’re high-fiving by typing @personsname, if applicable.

A hashtag is a social media tool that helps people connect on specific topics, giving the awareness initiative extra momentum and allowing the people participating to easily connect.

Not active in social media? No problem. World Arthritis Day organizers have made it easy for people to upload images to the initiative’s official website. All you need to do is provide your name and upload a picture with a brief description.

Pictures already on the website feature people from around the world giving virtual high-fives. Even if you can’t read a particular caption because it’s in another language, feel inspired by the broad reach of awareness efforts.

Attend an event

If you’d like to participate in real time, consider attending one of the many events happening around the world. Check here for the official worldwide event directory.

Although most events are happening in Europe and overseas, you might consider organizing one in your local community. Possibilities range from small gatherings with a local health expert addressing ways of treating osteoarthritis pain to larger public events to attract more exposure.

Other ways of connecting to the U.S.-based arthritis community include getting involved with the Arthritis Foundation, which has offices and events—not related to World Arthritis Day—around the country. The foundation organizes bike events, runs, walks, and other activities designed to raise awareness and make change all year long.

Where can I find more information about arthritis?

The World Arthritis Day website has a wealth of information on lifestyle changes people can make to reduce pain and improve quality of life. You’ll find information on healthy living, eating, and physical fitness.

Our website also has an abundance of information. You’ll find specific information about the effects of certain foods on osteoarthritis, ways to connect with others online, and articles exploring the dramatic difference weight loss can make for osteoarthritis patients.

Holistic Pain also has as an informative blog with lifestyle tips and medical news for people with arthritis. You’ll find articles outlining the most gentle, yet effective ways of exercising, nutrition tips, and the low-down on zinc supplements.

Another excellent resource is the website for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

Do you plan to participate in World Arthritis Day?

Image by Jeffrey Smith via Flickr


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