Most Americans Over 50 Have Some Type of Joint Pain (Survey)

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By Cara Murez HealthDay reporter
Health Day Reporter

Tuesday, September 13, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Joint pain is common in people over 50, but it’s still important to talk to a doctor about it rather than endlessly self-medicate, experts say.

Now, a new University of Michigan survey breaks down joint pain, its impact on those who responded to the survey, and how they chose to respond to this painful condition.

According to the University of Michigan’s National Healthy Aging Survey, 70% of people over the age of 50 experience at least some joint pain. About 60% were said to have some form of arthritis.

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

“If you experience frequent joint pain or it interferes with your normal activities, you don’t need to go it alone,” said Indira Venkat, senior vice president of AARP Research. The organization was one of the supporters of the survey. “Talk to your doctor about how to manage your joint pain and what additional strategies may help.”

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

About 66% do this 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), which is derived from marijuana, while 9% use marijuana.

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

“Many of these treatment options come with significant risks, especially when taken long-term or in combination with other medications. Still, 60% of those who took two or more substances for their joint pain said their doctor hadn’t discussed risks with them or they couldn’t remember if this was the case. And 26% of those who take oral steroids have never spoken to a provider about the unique risks these drugs pose,” 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 that providers urgently need to talk to their patients about how to manage their joint pain and the interactions and long-term risks that may arise when using medications to do this,” Wallace said.

Guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology for osteoarthritis and the less common rheumatoid arthritis aim to reduce the risk that may arise with long-term use or for those taking multiple medications affecting the stomach, liver, blood pressure, blood sugar, and gastrointestinal tract May affect patients’ 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 use of heat, cold, or topical pain relievers aching joints.

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

About 64% of those with joint pain exercise and 24% have received physical therapy. Far less used non-drug options like braces.

Certain groups of older adults appear to be more likely to suffer from worse joint pain, said survey leader Dr. Preeti Malani, a Michigan medical doctor with training in infectious diseases and geriatrics.

“Those who say their general health is fair or poor were twice as likely to report having moderate or severe joint pain as those in better health. The difference between those who said their mental health was fair or poor was almost as big as those who said they had better mental health,” she said in a Michigan Medicine press release.

“And older adults, in good or poor physical or mental health, were much more likely to agree that there’s nothing someone with joint pain can do to relieve their symptoms, which we now know aren’t true,” Malani said. “Health care providers need to address the issue of joint pain in their elderly patients and help them create a treatment plan that might work for them.”

The telephone survey was conducted in January and February 2022 among 2,277 adults aged 50 to 80.

More information

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

SOURCE: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, press release, September 12, 2022

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Most Americans Over 50 Have Some Type of Joint Pain (Survey)
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