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Arthritis Health Center

Coping with Arthritis in Its Many Forms

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Use It or Lose It continued...

Support groups and arthritis education can help people learn how to listen to their disease, and cope with it. "The psychological aspects are very important because that's what changes people's lives," Ginsburg says.

Participants learn practical things, such as how to: get up off the floor after a fall, protect joints with careful use and assistive devices, drive a car, get comfortable sleep, use heat and cold treatments, talk with their doctors, and cope with emotional aspects of pain and disability. They may also learn to acquire and maintain what health experts have long touted -- a positive attitude.

Health education not only improves quality of life, but also lowers health-care costs, and the benefits are lasting, according to studies at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif. Four years after a short Arthritis Self-Management Program, participants still reported significantly less pain and made fewer physician visits, even though disability increased. The benefits came, not from the specifics taught, but from improved ability to cope with the consequences of arthritis -- in other words, confidence. "It's the same thing that any good coach tries to instill," says Halsted R. Holman, M.D., Stanford University.

Avoiding Fraud

Learning to understand their disease can also help make people less likely to fall victim to fraud. Because they have a painful, incurable condition, people with arthritis are among the prime targets for fraud and spend nearly a billion dollars annually on unproved remedies, largely diets and supplements.

A claim describing the relationship between a nutrient or dietary ingredient and a disease, such as arthritis, cannot be made on the label or in labeling of a food or dietary supplement unless the claim is authorized by FDA. In order for FDA to consider authorizing the use of a health claim, there must be significant agreement among qualified experts that the health claim is scientifically valid. As of December 1996, FDA had not authorized any health claims for a relationship between any food or dietary supplement ingredient and arthritis. Sometimes, however, food or dietary supplement products are found on the market with unauthorized claims.

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