Oct 31, 201801:01 PMBlog

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Arthritis and Self-Advocacy

Arthritis and Self-Advocacy

There are over 6 million people in Canada living with arthritis including 24,000 children as young as one-year-olds who suffer from the effects of arthritis – that’s 1 in 5 Canadians – and in just over 15 years, those numbers will grow by another 2.5 million people. 1 in 4 Canadians will have arthritis by 2035. Janet Yale is the President and CEO of the Arthritis Society. She recently came on THE TONIC Talk Show and Podcast to discuss arthritis awareness and advocacy. The following is taken from the interview which can be uploaded at thetonic.ca


What is Arthritis? Arthritis has two main forms. One is generally speaking much more serious than the other. Of the 6 million Canadians suffering from arthritis today, the vast majority have something called Osteoarthritis - which is joint specific pain, and is thought of as “wear and tear”. It leads to bone on bone painful swelling of the joints and difficulty in movement. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease of inflammation that can attack your entire body. This should be diagnosed and treated quickly, as within 90 days damage can be permanent.


How do you know if you have Arthritis? Going to your family physician is a good place to start. Also, on our website, arthritis.ca we have something called a symptom checker. It walks you through steps that you can take, at the end of which it will say “are you likely to have arthritis or not?”.


How is chronic pain from arthritis managed? There are strategies that are not addictive that people should ask their family doctors for. We need to  teach people to be their own champions with their health care professionals and really get the support they need. We have a self-advocacy tool kit on the website that’s designed to make sure that people don’t just take no for an answer when the doctor says “just live with it, there’s not much you can do”. We recommend medical cannabis as one option. It is less addictive than other kinds of chronic pain management therapies. Over 50% of people who use medical cannabis use it for the alleviation of arthritis pain. And yet there are still many doctors who are not comfortable authorizing it because they don’t know and understand it. Opioids are really more appropriate for acute pain, post-surgical, and issues that are temporary as opposed to chronic pain. We obviously don’t want people addicted to their pain therapy.


What specific types of self advocacy do you recommend? There are many ways that people can help themselves. One is that they make sure to think of their life plan. For example, what is a safe type of exercise for someone with arthritis? What are the diet choices to make? People have lots of questions when they’re diagnosed. We want them to be comfortable to go to their health practitioner and get answers. Your health outcome is how you feel as a person, not whether your disease from a symptom perspective is managed. We think it’s important to look at your life holistically to make sure that your emotional and physical needs are being met.

Jamie Bussin is the Publisher of Tonic Magazine and Host of THE TONIC Talk Show and Podcast.

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