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FOR RELEASE: May 9, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Special Classes Help People Cope with Arthritis

One person is able to get out of the door and walk around the block again. Her husband says she is more fun to be around because of the lessons she has learned. Another is able to put away her cane that she used to walk with for the last three years. What two things do these people have in common? Both have arthritis and both have learned to successfully manage the disease through a self-help course.

More than 782,000 people in Oklahoma suffer from arthritis and over 100 related conditions. To help these people take a more active part in their arthritis care, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and Oklahoma Arthritis Network (OAN) are collaborating with the Arthritis Foundation, developer of the Arthritis Self-Help Course, to offer the six-week course statewide.

This public health self-help course is growing in size and popularity as more people with arthritis learn how to gain control of their lives again, say OSDH officials.

“Arthritis is a chronic condition that can be painful and debilitating. Physical limitations caused by arthritis are often accompanied by social isolation, depression, and pain,” said Marisa New, occupational therapist and coordinator of the OSDH Arthritis Prevention and Education Programs. “We hope this course will help those who have arthritis to become more functional by learning new ways to cope with this disease. The course is an effective and positive way for people with arthritis to educate and encourage each other.”

The course is designed to complement the treatment arthritis patients receive from their physician. Class participants use a textbook, The Arthritis Helpbook, which is written in easy-to-understand language. Many of the trained leaders who teach the course have arthritis. Participants are encouraged to assume responsibility for the daily care of their arthritis, including any decisions or actions they must take to keep arthritis under control and to stay as independent as possible. The key subjects covered in the course are:

  • exercise;
  • relaxation;
  • ways to save energy and use joints wisely;
  • the role of medication and nutrition; and
  • coping with depression, pain, and other problems that result from arthritis.

Several local county health departments have begun offering the class. “Our participants in Wagoner County have been extremely enthusiastic about the self-help courses. One woman has attended three sets of classes in a row. She says that the combination of cooperative/competitive spirit she gets from the class members is what keeps her on track towards her goals,” said Linda Born, Guidance Clinic Director.

Studies conducted at the Stanford University Arthritis Center in California show that people with arthritis who have completed the course have less pain, tend to exercise and relax more, and have more overall knowledge about arthritis. The course also has shown to be effective in long-term pain relief. In multiple studies, four months after beginning the course, participants demonstrated increased knowledge, decreased pain, and increased frequency of exercise and relaxation in a comparison with controls on a waiting list. At four years, the participants had a 20 percent decrease in pain and a 43 percent reduction in physician visits.

Pre-registration for the Arthritis Self-Help Course is necessary because class sizes are limited. The next courses will be offered at the following dates and times:

  • May 22, Comanche County Health Department, Lawton, (580) 248-5890
  • June (date TBA), Creek County Health Department, Sapulpa, (918) 225-5531
  • July 9, Wagoner County Health Department, Wagoner, (918) 485-3022

For more information about this course, the OAN, or other statewide arthritis related public health activities, call Marisa New at 405/271-9444, ext. 56410


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