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Arthritis Questions and Answers

Q. What is arthritis?

A. Arthritis is an umbrella term encompassing more than 100 conditions affecting joints and connective tissue.


What are the five self-management activities everyone can do to take control of arthritis?

A. The five activities are:

  1. Learn arthritis management strategies
  2. Be active
  3. Watch your weight
  4. See your doctor
  5. Protect your joints

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Q. How can someone learn about self management techniques?

A. Learning techniques to reduce pain and limitations can be beneficial to people with arthritis. Self-management education workshops can help you gain control of your pain by teaching you easy ways to naturally reduce pain and limitations. Topics include ways to reduce pain, benefits of exercise and how to exercise safely, how to do more and move more easily, and how to gain control over arthritis.


Q. Are arthritis management intervention programs readily accessible?

A. Interactive workshops such as the Arthritis Self-Management Program and the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program are low-cost and are available in communities across the country. Attending one of these programs can help individuals learn ways to manage pain, exercise safely, and gain control of arthritis naturally. Arthritis appropriate physical activity programs can help people learn to increase their physical activity safely and comfortably. To find out what self management education and physical activity programs are available in your area, log on to or


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Q. Does being active really help alleviate the pain of arthritis?

A. Just 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week - which totals the total of 150 minutes per week recommended by federal guidelines - can help significantly reduce joint pain and improve the ability to move in just 4 to 6 weeks. People can even break exercise into three, 10-minute increments throughout the day for the same impact.


Q. Does physical activity or exercise solely target pain?

A. The health benefits of physical activity go beyond just reducing pain. Exercise can also help reduce the risk of physical limitation. Research shows that among older adults with knee osteoarthritis, engaging in moderate physical activity at least three times a week can reduce the risk of arthritis-related disability by 47%.1


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Q. What does ‘Watch your Weight’ really mean? Is there any guidance as to how much weight actually makes a difference to arthritic conditions?

A. A few pounds can make a big difference. Research shows that modest weight loss (5%, or 12 pounds for a 250-pound person) can help reduce pain and disability, and that losing as little as 11 pounds can cut the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis by 50% for some women. For every one pound of weight loss, there is a four pound reduction in the load exerted on the knee with each step taken.2-4


Q. In light of the benefits of exercise, are people with arthritis exercising more than the general public?

A. No. Nearly half (44%) of people with arthritis are inactive as compared to just over one-third (36 %) of people without arthritis.5


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Q. Should a person exercise if they are in pain?

A. Living with a painful condition like arthritis can make people shy away from physical activity. People with arthritis report unique barriers such as fear of increasing their pain, fear of damaging their joints, and uncertainty about how to exercise safely. Some people experience increased symptoms when starting, but these should resolve in 4-6 weeks. In the long-run, the benefits of physical activity outweigh these risks and fears. Those having severe pain, swelling, or stiffness should see their health care provider.


Q. Arthritis is a chronic condition; does controlling your weight help other chronic conditions?

A. Yes. The benefits of controlling your weight extend beyond reducing joint pain from arthritis. They can lower blood glucose levels, decrease blood pressure, and even decrease arthritis disease progression. A more drastic example of this benefit is the delay or prevention of the onset of type-2 diabetes. If you have pre-diabetes, losing just 10-15 pounds for a 200-pound person can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.6


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Q. What does the phrase ‘Protect your Joints’ mean?

A. It means protecting against injury and oversue, and getting appropriate care when joint injuries occur. Joint injury can lead to osteoarthritis. People who experience sports or occupational injuries or have jobs with repetitive motions are more likely to get osteoarthritis. Avoiding joint injury may reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis.


Q. Where can I go for more information?

A. The newsroom includes a wealth of information, including fact sheets, recent CDC press releases, and testimonials and images from people living with arthritis.


Q. Who can I contact for more information?

A. CDC Media Relations at (404) 639-3286

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  1. Arthritis-Related Statistics
  2. Frequently Asked Questions—General Public
  3. Overweight/Obesity and Arthritis (adult ages ≥18)
  4. Weight Loss Reduces Knee-Joint Loads in Overweight and Obeses Older Adults With Knee Osteoarthritis. Stephen P. Messier, David J. Gutekunst, Cralen Davis, and Paul Devita, Arthritis & Rheumatism, July 2005;52:7;pp. 2026-2032
  5. Arthritis as a Potential Barrier to Physical Activity Among Obese Adults—United States, 2007 and 2009
  6. Small Steps. Big Rewards. Prevent type 2 Diabetes. Campaign

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Related Links

  • Facts about the CDC Arthritis Program’s Five Key Messages
  • Fact Sheet about Arthritis

Contact Us:
  • Arthritis Program
    Mailstop K-51
    4770 Buford Hwy NE
    Atlanta, GA 30341-3724
  • Phone: 770.488.5464
    Fax: 770.488.5964
  • The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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