Moving against arthritis
BY JULIE DELCOUR Associate Editor
Sunday, May 20, 2012
5/20/12 at 3:16 AM
On May 9, 1863, only 10 months after enlisting in the Missouri Militia, Cpl. James N. DelCour lost his job as a wagon driver supplying Union troops in southeast Missouri.
The young teamster in Company B of the 32nd Regiment was deemed "unfit" for continued service by Dr. John Bell, a Civil War examining physician for troops in Potosi, Mo. Bell diagnosed DelCour, only 23, with the sudden onset of a severe, inflammatory arthritic condition that generally strikes its victims much later in life.
Sent home, DelCour, a farmer and newlywed, did not stay idle long. On Sept. 15, 1864, shortly after Confederate Gen. Sterling Price began a brutal and destructive push across the Show Me state, DelCour re-enlisted. His military tenure, however, again was short-lived.
On Nov. 1, 1864, Price's Missouri Raid came to an ignoble end when the general's Confederate troops were driven into Arkansas. On that same day, in Pacific, Mo., DelCour took an enemy minie ball in the leg, which again sent him home - this time for good.
Descriptions of his two stints in the military and his medical problems are detailed in a 1911 government pension application. Eleven years later, the Civil War veteran died at 81 in the Federal Soldiers Home near St. James, Mo.
For that era, DelCour had lived an extraordinarily long life. Yet it is a safe bet that he did not outlive his arthritis, which likely afflicted him throughout his life and worsened with age.
In trying to draw public attention to National Arthritis Awareness Month, I didn't have to reach back 150 years to find evidence of arthritis in a family tree. It's all around us. Nearly every family has a relative - or several - who suffers from arthritis. Arthritis affects 50 million Americans, about 22 percent of the adult population, and 300,000 children.
Comprising more than 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions affecting joints and tissues, arthritis causes many Americans serious pain, aching, stiffness and swelling. At least 850,000 Oklahomans suffer from arthritis.
In my own family, both my parents, now in their 80s, suffer with severe arthritis. My father, the great-grandson of James N. DelCour, battles crippling rheumatoid arthritis and regularly receives chemotherapy to treat it. Neither parent can move about easily. They no longer exercise.
Arthritis sufferers often have disease-specific barriers to being physically active that include pain, worry about worsening their condition, lack of knowledge about the best type and amount of exercise and fear of injury.
Yet, exercise and other physical activity, experts say, usually help decrease pain, delay onset of disability, improve physical functioning and independence and enhance the quality of life of many arthritis sufferers. Despite these known benefits, the prevalence of no leisure-time activity and exercise is much higher among adults with arthritis than those without arthritis, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Burdens of arthritis
"The burden of arthritis is staggering, both for our economy and in terms of the physical and emotional toll it takes on individuals with the disease," Susan Carter, chief executive officer of the Arthritis Foundation's South Central Region (Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico), said last week.
"Because physical activity can help individuals with arthritis manage the condition, it is important that our communities take steps to make it more accessible."
Toward that end, the Arthritis Foundation on Wednesday released a new report, "Environmental and Policy Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Adults With Arthritis," a resource that calls for communities to make physical activity convenient and accessible for adults with arthritis. (To view the report, go to www: arthritisfoundation.org).
Developed by a wide cross-section of experts, the report aims to motivate health agencies, businesses, recreation facilities and others to provide physical activity opportunities that meet the needs of people with arthritis.
Arthritis is exacerbated by epidemic levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease - all of which often afflict those with arthritis - and which can be helped or prevented by better diets and more exercise.
Arthritis sufferers often face physical, psychological, social and environmental barriers to increasing and sustaining physical activity levels.
Up until now few strategies existed that addressed those barriers and how to promote physical activity in a way that is safe, accessible and effective for adults with arthritis. As the leading cause of disability in the U.S., the need to tear down those barriers has never been more pressing.
Original Print Headline: The enemy within: Moving against arthritis
Julie DelCour, 918-581-8379