Arthritis consists of more than 100 different conditions. These can be anything from relatively mild forms of tendinitis and bursitis to crippling forms such as rheumatoid arthritis.  The southeasthealthline website provides links to services.

“Arthritis” means inflamed joint and is a term used to describe a group of diseases and conditions that cause pain, stiffness and swelling in a person’s joints or other parts of their musculoskeletal (muscle and bone) system (1).  Arthritis is a leading cause of disability in Canada and is most common in older adults (1). 

There are several types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout (1). Most types of arthritis are characterized by pain, aching, stiffness and swelling, which weaken the structure and functioning of affected joints (1).This can make simple tasks a challenge and disrupt daily routines. Osteoarthritis is the most common type experienced by older adults and is usually present in the joints of the hands, knees, hips and spine (2).

Participation in physical activity is necessary for a healthy musculoskeletal system. Low-impact exercise such as walking, cycling and swimming help keep joints flexible and strengthen the muscles that support them (2). Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight will help protect joints by avoiding excess stress on them during daily tasks. The use of canes, grab bars and larger handles can help those living with arthritis manage their daily activities. As part of an arthritis management strategy, physicians might also recommend medication to reduce pain (1). Discuss your needs with your health care team.


(1)  Government of Canada. (2011). Chapter 1: Life with arthritis in Canada: A personal and public health challenge – What is arthritis and how common is it? Retrieved from

(2)  Health Canada. (2008). Seniors and aging – Osteoarthritis. Retrieved from

Arthritis and related conditions are a large group of disorders affecting the joints, ligaments, tendons, bones and other components of the musculoskeletal system.  Arthritis is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in Canada and a leading cause of disability.  The associated pain, disability and disruption of lives due to the condition contributes to a poorer quality of life and places demands on the health care system. As the population ages, the burden can only be expected to increase. (1) (2)

Why is it Important?

  • 16.6% of the adult population in Canada reported having arthritis in Canadian Health Surveys.(2)
  • Compared with other people with chronic conditions, people with arthritis report more pain, activity restrictions and long term disability, are more likely to need help with daily activities, report worse self-rated health , disrupted sleep and depression
  • People with arthritis report more frequent contact with health care professionals, compared to people with other chronic conditions
  • Arthritis becomes increasingly prevalent with advancing age. Among individuals ≥ 65 yr.  females were 50% more likely than males to report a diagnosis of arthritis (2)
  • Individuals with arthritis are more likely to use medications and be multiple medication users (2)
  • Arthritis is associated with falls and fractures (2)

Key Considerations

  • Initiatives to reduce the pain and disability from the effects of arthritis are crucial to maintain and improve the individual’s quality of life. These could include increased physical activity, education for chronic disease self-management, pain relief (including medications), access to assistive devices and environmental accommodations, and medical or surgical interventions.
  • There is no cure. Early diagnosis and treatment (pharmacological and nonpharmacological) can reduce/slow disabling complications and deformities.  Care planning should include strategies to maintain and maximize abilities.
  • People with arthritis are more likely to:
    • report reduction of activities at work or not being in the labour force
    • experience negative consequences including job loss, changing  jobs or reduction in  hours at work, productivity loss (absenteeism, job disruptions) (1)
  • Physical and occupational therapy can prevent loss of physical functioning. Exercise programs for people with arthritis have been shown to yield significant improvements in pain and disability as well as a decrease in the need for medication. (2)
  • Men and women who were obese had higher odds of developing arthritis than did those who reported acceptable weight (2)  
  • Education and health promotion are important and essential components of a comprehensive approach in the management of arthritis and related conditions (1)


1.  Health Canada. (2003).  Arthritis in Canada. An ongoing challenge.  (Cat. # H39-4/14-2003E;
     ISBN 0-662-35008-1).  Retrieved March 2014 from the Arthritis Community Research & Evaluation Unit:

2.  Statistics Canada (2010). Retrieved May 2014 from: