Aging Well: Moving away from arthritis pain |

Aging Well: Moving away from arthritis pain

Tamera Manzanares

Aging Well fitness instructor Molly McClure leads older adults through a tai chi class at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. Tai chi and other Aging Well classes provide safe, yet challenging fitness options for individuals coping with arthritis.

— Warm weather inspires movement such as long walks, hikes, bike rides, swimming and maybe yoga or tai chi in the park.

Arthritis pain, however, can put a damper on a person's summer outlook. Some individuals, fearing more pain, may avoid exercise altogether while others, accustomed to staying fit, may overdo it.

Exercise does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. The importance of moving and moving correctly is part of the focus of a town hall event tonight at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Organized by the Arthritis Foundation and the Aging Well program of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, the one-hour event will feature local health professionals with experience helping individuals manage osteoarthritis pain through physical therapy, fitness and surgery.

"Our goal and overall message is that there are things you can do for arthritis, and physical activity is one of the best," said Isabelle Stohler, director of programs for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is characterized by the breakdown of a joint's cartilage. With less cartilage to cushion bones, they rub together, causing stiffness, pain and even loss of movement. The condition usually affects joints in the hips, hands, knees, low back or neck.

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Osteoarthritis affects almost 27 million Americans. Symptoms typically begin after age 40 and progress slowly. In addition to age, risk factors include being obese or overweight, having a joint injury or history of overusing certain joints, genetics and muscle weakness or inactivity.

The prevalence of osteoarthritis and a person's ability to minimize its toll on their quality of life fueled the Fight Arthritis Pain campaign, a joint effort between the Arthritis Foundation and the Ad Council.

The campaign, which is sponsoring the town hall meeting and many like it across the U.S., aims to educate individuals about the role of exercise in preventing and improving osteoarthritis.

Helping with that message will be Erin Monger Rosso, a physical therapist in Steamboat Springs who has worked with clients from a variety of fitness backgrounds coping with arthritis. Rosso will speak about adapting exercise to varying levels of arthritis.

In addition to helping clients establish an appropriate exercise routine, Rosso provides guidelines to help them challenge themselves for maximum benefit without going too far.

"I usually always see progress in how they listen to their bodies, know when to push themselves and what feelings to push through," she said. "It makes life a bigger success because they are able to enjoy the benefits of exercise."

The Aging Well program is a local provider of fitness programs developed by the Arthritis Foundation. These include a gentle exercise class aimed at improving participants' strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health, and tai chi, which also facilitates better balance and relaxation.

Aging Well soon will be offering a basic walking class, aimed at individuals looking for a fitness and social outlet, and pole walking, a more demanding class for seasoned walkers and hikers.

"All of our programs are geared toward the needs of those who haven't started exercising to those who want more challenge," said Jeanne Upbin, Aging Well fitness coordinator.

Aging Well tai chi instructor Sarah Healy will speak more about tai chi's benefits and will lead a demonstration of the class after the town hall meeting.

In addition to exercise, arthritis management also might include changes to diet, medication, alternative therapies or surgery. As with any surgery, there are many things to consider when contemplating joint surgeries.

Steamboat orthopedic surgeon Henry Fabian will discuss surgical options and related considerations for improving arthritis pain during the town hall meeting.

Individuals of all ages who have osteoarthritis or might be at risk for the condition are encouraged to attend the event. Light snacks will be provided. For more information, call 871-7676.

This article includes information from the Arthritis Foundation,

Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information, visit or call 871-7676.

Event tonight

“Osteoarthritis: Managing Your Pain,” is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. today at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. Guest speakers will include orthopedic surgeon Henry Fabian, who will speak about surgical options for arthritis; and physical therapist Erin Monger Rosso, who will discuss appropriate exercise. The event will include light snacks. All are welcome. An Aging Well Tai Chi demonstration will follow the meeting. For more information, call 871-7676.


■ The Arthritis Foundation is a valuable resource for individuals who have arthritis or hope to prevent it. Visit or (regional chapter) for information or call 1-800-283-7800.

■ The Fight Arthritis Pain campaign offers more information about arthritis and exercise, including tools for planning and managing a fitness routine. Log onto

■ The VNA’s Aging Well program offers Arthritis Foundation fitness, tai chi and water exercise classes in Routt and Moffat counties. Pole walking and basic walking for fun programs will be offered in Steamboat starting mid-June. Watch the schedule at the bottom of this page for details. For more information, call 871-7676.

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