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The number of people living with various forms of arthritis is now at 21% for U.S. adults, or more than 53 million, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half also report that they are living with another chronic condition such as dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.

A second report found that 220,000 children and adolescents (younger than 18) in the U.S. have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.

Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints and tissues around the joints. As a "leading cause of activity limitations, disability, and chronic pain,” arthritis is linked to opioid prescriptions and contributes heavily to health care costs.

Common symptoms include:

  • Joint stiffness.
  • Pain during activity.
  • “Noisy" joints (cracking and creaking are more common in osteoarthritis, or OA).

The Findings

  • Around 53.2 million, or 21.2% of U.S. adults aged 18 years or older had an arthritis diagnosis.
  • About 88% of cases were in adults aged 45 and up. Around 50% were working-age people ages 18 to 64.
  • Arthritis is more common in women than men and in veterans. Around 20.9% of women, 16.3% of men, 24.2% of veterans, and 18.5% of non-veterans had arthritis.

Arthritis can have substantial impacts on function. Its prevalence is highest among adults who reported no leisure-time physical activity. Regular physical activity can help maintain and improve movement and function. It also can help to reduce joint pain for people with arthritis.

How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

A physical therapist can help you manage the symptoms of OA to preserve and enhance your quality of life. They can help you improve and maintain movement that might be limited by pain. They can guide you through exercises designed to:

  • Enhance joint flexibility.
  • Improve fitness and muscle strength.
  • Manage pain.

Physical therapists also can design a physical activity plan for heart health and weight loss. Losing weight may help improve arthritis symptoms. They develop treatment plans specific to each person's needs and goals.

Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. To find a physical therapist near you, visit Find a PT.

Find a PT Near You

Note: The findings were published Oct. 13, 2023, in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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