Suffering from knee pain? A free pain relief kit may help. Learn More Now!
Baby Boomers -- once the generation of peace and love -- have evolved. Let's just call them the generation of aches and pains.
This group of more than 73 million Americans is heading past middle age, and is starting to get familiar with ailments often associated with the elderly.
At the top of the list: arthritis, the painful inflammation of joints caused by the deterioration of cartilage.
Nationwide, health care providers are preparing for a surge in the number of diagnosed cases of osteoarthritis. One of the oldest and most common forms of the disease, it is triggered simply by years of wear and tear on the joints. The American College of Rheumatology recently announced that by 2030, the overall number of diagnosed cases of arthritis will jump 40 percent, to 67 million, as Boomers join the senior citizen ranks.
"This increase suggests that overall, arthritis will have a growing impact on the health care and public health systems in the future, one that needs to be anticipated in order to provide the early diagnosis and interventions that could help reduce that impact," say researchers at the American College of Rheumatology.
As there's currently no way to replace cartilage, baby Boomers -- people born between 1946 and 1964 -- need to be proactive in identifying and combating a disease that's already the second-most-common cause of disability, says Susan Cuellar, regional vice president of the Florida chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.
"We would like you to not only work with your doctor to deal with the pain, but to also make those lifestyle changes so that down the road 10, 15 years, you don't need to get a hip replacement or knee replacement," she says.Tampa resident Lynda Rix knows that situation too well. The 58-year-old was diagnosed with arthritis more than two decades ago, but was too busy to address the disease head-on. She functioned for years on a regimen of over-the-counter pain medication, weekly massages and yoga. "You name it, I've tried it," she says.It wasn't until Rix retired last year and slowed down a bit that she realized the extent of her pain. The active traveler and pottery artist hopes to regain her normal routine after hip replacement surgery next week. "The crazy things people take for granted, I can't do them," Rix says.Cuellar and Frank Vasey, chief of Rheumatology at University of South Florida (USF) Health, say people of any age who experience joint pain should see a doctor to know what they face. The pain may be bursitis (isolated pain caused by overuse or injury) or one of the many forms of arthritis. A diagnosis can establish a treatment plan and help you stay active, Cuellar says. Often that includes changes to your diet or exercise, from tai chi to water aerobics.
"If you don't have a proper diagnosis, you may be dealing with more than what the commercials call 'mild to moderate' pain," Cueller says.Boomers as a whole won't be averse to seeking medical attention, says Chuck Underwood, a Cincinnati-based business consultant and author of "The Generational Imperative" (BookSurge Publishing) "They're a generation that will not slow down voluntarily. This is a generation that saw many of their parents retire and quickly grow old and feeble."And they're also a group with extreme wealth that's able to take advantage of all the anti-aging science available -- from heavily-marketed pain medications to new knees, the generational expert says."They're willing to pay big money to stay active and stay forever young," he says.USF Health's Vasey says Boomers can remain active if they're smart and don't ignore modest symptoms when they begin. That includes admitting you may need to adapt favorite physical activities to slow down the deterioration of cartilage. Longtime road runners can slow down and walk. Passionate aerobics students can try the same exercises in a swimming pool."You have to be judicious," Vasey says. "You have to do the appropriate level of activity."While Cuellar says exercising more can improve flexibility and decrease the need or desire for pain relievers, over-the-counter or prescription medication likely still will be necessary for all but the most-stubborn Boomers.
Prudent Boomers should research the pros and cons of different arthritis medications and their side effects before taking one, Vasey says. Both over-the-counter and prescription drugs that address pain and inflammation also come with a downside: overuse can lead to upset stomachs or bleeding ulcers.And those aren't the only risks. For example, Celebrex, the top-selling non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in the country, and all similar drugs include warnings that their use may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, says the Food and Drug Administration. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, carry similar warnings.And just last month, Enbrel, a popular drug used to treat moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, updated its safety information, advising patients they run the risk of getting infections, including tuberculosis.Still, you can't underestimate the power of pain relief.It's been a blessing for Lithia, Fla., resident Emily Muecke, a Generation Xer who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for 21 of her 31 years. She swears that a balance of medication, exercise and regular communication with her doctor has enabled her to stay active and pursue a career as a hairdresser.That's right: She's on her feet and using her hands all day.
Muecke, who recently gave birth to her first child, scoffs at the idea that arthritis will slow her down."I can go to aerobic class and I can work a 10-hour day," she says.Boomers Boosting Arthritis Numbers A recent study from the American College of Rheumatology projects a major bump in the number of doctor-diagnosed cases of arthritis. The reason: an aging baby boomer population. Here are some facts:An estimated 21 percent of adults in the United States, or 46.4 million, have self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the 2005 National Health Interview Survey.By 2030, the number of people affected by arthritis is expected to increase 40 percent to 67 million. In Florida, the number is projected to rise 68 percent, to 6.27 million from 3.73 million.Of those now living with arthritis, 29.3 percent, or 20.5 million, fall roughly into the baby boomer generation (ages 45 to 64).The number of U.S. adults with arthritis-related physical limitations is expected to grow to 9.3 percent, or 25 million, by 2030. That's an increase from 2005, when 8.8 percent, or nearly 19 million persons with arthritis, experienced limited physical activity.Suffering from knee pain? A free pain relief kit may help. Learn More Now!Source: January 2008 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism Journal, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Source: Tampa Tribune, Fla. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Powered by Yellowbrix.