Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., affecting one in four people. In Tennessee there are an estimated 1.5 million adults and about 6,000 children who suffer with some form of arthritis. Joint inflammation that causes pain and stiffness can affect anyone at any point in their lives, not just as adults age. There are over 100 forms of arthritis, but the most prevalent is osteoarthritis that typically occurs from overuse of a joint or a sports injury. It’s seen a lot in athletes as well as military veterans.
The Arthritis Foundation strives to find a cure but also change the mindset of people to say that arthritis isn’t acceptable. “Folks just assume it’s an old person’s disease,” said Michelle Dooner, West Tennessee executive director of the Arthritis Foundation. “I’ve met a lot of children who have arthritis under the age of 10. As a parent I can’t imagine my 2-year-old having pain trying to learn to walk or climb and not knowing how to help them. It’s difficult to diagnose a child with arthritis but we want to make the pediatric community more aware.”
Some of the things the Arthritis Foundation does for children with arthritis includes raising money to send them to a camp outside Nashville called Camp AcheAway. It’s an opportunity for them to spend a week away from home with other children who also suffer with various forms of arthritis. Newly diagnosed children also receive a JA Power Pack, a free kit of youth-geared information, as well as a teddy bear filled with rice that can be heated or cooled and used for relief when the child has a flare-up.
Arthritis Foundation serves those with arthritis in a number of ways, including providing resources that can help individuals live a more pain-free life between their doctor’s visits. It also provides free educational events to help patients better understand how to make the most of a visit with their rheumatologist. The foundation works with human resources and workplace safety professionals in various companies throughout the city to educate them on the impact of arthritis in the workplace.
The foundation also invests in research. That includes a grant-funded researcher in Memphis who is doing a study on early detection of osteoarthritis. “That’s a feather in our cap to say stuff we’re doing here in Memphis could impact veterans and athletes across the country,” Dooner said. “An investment in research is really key. Whether it’s research conducted in Seattle or California, the end result will benefit people across the country.”
There are a variety of ways the community can help fund the research and efforts of the foundation to provide education and support to those suffering with arthritis in the community. The Jingle Bell Run is held Nov. 17 at Overton Square, and early registration with special pricing is now available at JBR.org/Memphis. Patients and caregivers can find information, as well as make a donation, at arthritis.org/Tennessee. For more information about efforts to help children with arthritis, go to kidsgetarthritistoo.org. And you also can contact the local office at 901-341-4145.
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