About Arthritis


  • Arthritis means inflammation of the joint.
  • There are 7 diagnostic criteria that are used to confirm the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • There are more than 100 different types of arthritis affecting the joints, muscles, ligaments, skin and internal organs.
  • That rheumatologist specializes in treating people with these rheumatic diseases.
  • Arthritis is one of the most chronic health problems in the United States making it the #1 cause of disability.
  • About 70 million Americans this is estimated to be -1 out of 3 adults-has been diagnosed with arthritis involving chronic joint stiffness and pain.  In 1990, an estimated 37 million people were reported to have the disease.
  • Over $65 billion dollars is spent in the United States for medical care and lost wages due to arthritis.
  • Osteoarthritis, frequently called “wear-and-tear” disease, affects the cartilage and bone of the major weight-bearing joints, and not necessarily caused by aging.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic chronic disease characterized by acute inflammatory joints and can involve the major organs of the body.
  • The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is still unknown, although there are some factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease.

Chronic debilitating arthritis will change the way you live you life.  When arthritis strikes symptoms may include swollen, reddened, and painful joints that limit range of motion.  As the disease progresses, normal daily activities become difficult and are often eliminated due to pain.  Arthritis is reported as being a major contributing cause of activity limitation. An occupational therapist can help with managing your symptoms and help you lead a more normal life avoiding functional loss.

Occupational therapists specializing in hand therapy work with the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand.  They can assist in the education of the disease process and tools needed to ease symptoms and prolong further deterioration of joints and soft tissue.  They are experts in both the fabrication of custom splints and fitting of prefabricated splints. Splints will vary depending on the need.  Some are used to rest the joints during periods of inflammation and others are used to improve function while protecting the joints.

Occupational Therapists are knowledgeable about the proper use of splints and adaptive devices needed to assist during functional activities of daily living, such as built-up handles and utensils, kitchen devices, keys, and easy to use jar openers.

Arthritis may involve surgery and occupational therapists provide postoperative upper-extremity management for splinting to provide stability to the area, or reduce the inflammation and pain, for joint protection and energy conservation education, functional training and exercise if appropriate.  It is also important to add adaptive strategies to the home and work environment to help cope with the chronic illness and lifestyle changes.

With the help of an occupational therapist people with arthritis can lead functional lives. It is through lifestyle changes and modifications that people with arthritis can optimize their functional abilities directly related to performance areas most important to that person.

For more information about osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis Lynda G. Williamson, OTR/L, CHT owner of Strait Occupational & Hand Therapy at 360-417-0703 or e-mail her at

About Arthritis