Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints or tissues surrounding joints and cause pain and stiffness in the affected areas (Arthritis FAQs, n.d.). The risk of developing arthritis increases with age and in 2015, 49.6 % of older adults reported an arthritis diagnosis. Additionally, a report from the Arthritis Foundation estimates that 92.1 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis or report arthritis symptoms (Arthritis Foundation, 2019). This includes 1.5 million Asian Americans in the United States (Arthritis FAQs, n.d.). There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis. Other common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and fibromyalgia (Arthritis FAQs, n.d.).

Causes and Risk Factors


Despite how common arthritis is, there is still more research that needs to be done. Currently, experts do not know the causes of many types of arthritis. However, researchers are studying elements such as lifestyles, environment, and genetics to determine potential causes and risk factors of arthritis (Arthritis FAQs, n.d.). Some risk factors are controllable, while others are not. Modifiable risk factors include being overweight, joint injuries, occupation, and smoking. Uncontrollable risk factors include age, gender, and genetics. Risk for most types of arthritis increase with age, and women are at higher risk for developing most types of arthritis, although the reasons are not yet known (Arthritis Risk Factors, n.d.).

Arthritis Self-Management

There are different resources and tools available to better manage an arthritis diagnosis and related symptoms. Self-management involves making healthy lifestyle choices and learning to manage the physical and emotional effects of arthritis (Arthritis Foundation, n.d.). Below are recommended self-management tips from the Arthritis Foundation:

  1. Be Organized
    • Keep track of symptoms, pain levels, and medications. Share these with your doctor to determine what treatment plan may work best for you.
  2. Manage Pain
    • Talk to your doctor about the best medications and natural pain therapies you can take to manage your pain.
      • Be sure to monitor any potential side effects from the treatment and share those with your doctor as well.
    • Natural pain therapies can include acupuncture, massage, Tai Chi, yoga, weight loss, physical therapy, and topical gels.
  3. Address the Emotional Side
    • In addition to the physical symptoms such as pain and fatigue, arthritis can also cause overwhelming emotional feelings such as shock, confusion, anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, stress, sadness, and many more.
    • There are a few ways to improve emotional wellbeing:
      • Work with your doctor to get your arthritis under control.
      • Practice self-care through therapy, exercise, healthy eating, massage, and medication.
      • Get or stay involved in social activities to prevent feelings of isolation.
      • Seek professional counseling or arthritis support groups to help you cope with your emotions.
        • The Arthritis Foundation has a nationwide network of social and support groups. More information on groups in your area can be found here.
  4. Tackle Fatigue
    • Fatigue can be caused by arthritis and by the daily stress of living with arthritis.
    • Manage fatigue through exercise, drinking enough water, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and taking a break to relax your muscles.
  5. Improve Sleep
    • Pain from arthritis can make it hard to sleep. Similarly, poor sleep can worsen pain. Some studies suggest that this is due to increased inflammation throughout the body.
    • To improve sleep, try to keep a regular schedule, exercise, and manage stress.
    • Learn more about sleep and how to improve it by reading our fact sheet here.
  6. Exercise
    • Exercise strengthens the muscles that support your joints and keeps them mobile, which can help lessen pain.
    • Exercise also helps improve sleep, boosts mood, and aids in weight loss to lessen stress on the joints.
  7. Balance Activity With Rest
    • Be sure to rest and take breaks, especially when your joints feel painful, swollen, or stiff.
    • Pace yourself during the day and ask for help when you need it.
  8. Eat a Balanced Diet
    • Healthy eating is a key component of maintaining a healthy weight.
    • Eating anti-inflammatory foods with antioxidants can also help to control inflammation.

Arthritis affects millions of Americans, especially older adults. Approximately 15 %of adults over age 60 have osteoarthritis, a specific form of arthritis, and affects women more than men (Arthritis Foundation, 2019). Arthritis is linked to increased rates of other chronic disease such as diabetes or heart disease. These, coupled with arthritis, can lead to chronic pain, depression, and injury (Arthritis Foundation, 2019). Therefore, it is important to be aware of what arthritis is, and to work with your doctors to effectively manage it.

Although some risk factors for arthritis cannot be changed, there are different lifestyle changes that can help reduce risk of arthritis. Exercise, sleep, healthy eating, and smoking cessation are a few habits that can reduce risk, as well as aid those who are already diagnosed. Having a chronic condition like arthritis can be overwhelming and stressful. However, keeping track of symptoms, working with your doctor, and managing pain can help individuals self-manage arthritis.


Arthritis Foundation. (2019). Arthritis by the Numbers: Book of Trusted Facts & Figures. Retrieved from Arthritis Foundation.

Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). Arthritis Self-Management: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Arthritis FAQs. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Arthritis Risk Factors. Retrieved from