Arthritis more than twice as likely in veterans over 40

Wear and tear of military work blamed, but simple arthritis treatments can help.

Veterans over age 40 are twice as likely to develop arthritis due to years of intensive wear and tear on their joints.

The Arthritis Foundation says combat injuries and basic training, in which new recruits carry packs weighing 60 to 100 pounds or more, can lead to arthritis by injuring and weakening joints.

While veterans are at an increased risk of developing arthritis, younger people are now struggling with arthritis due to either military work or other labor-intensive occupations, according to Jeffrey S. Stephenson, M.D., orthopedic and sports medicine specialist with Norton Orthopedic Institute.

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Living with arthritis after military service

Dr. Stephenson says you can reduce strain on your joints through weight loss, low impact exercise and stretching.

“Stretching is important, because the joints move by the muscles pulling them in certain directions,” he said. “When those muscles get tight, it can lead to tightness in the joints as well.”

Mitch Bryant, 56, developed arthritis years ago while serving in the Navy. It wasn’t until he retired in 1996 that it really started to impact his quality of life.

“Today, I can’t make a fist or bend my wrists,” Mitch said. “It’s like my joints are fusing together. It’s in my feet, knees, shoulders, elbows and entire hand.”

Mitch has psoriatic arthritis — a rare form of arthritis that causes deformity as the body attacks the joints.

“Mitch’s arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder, but his service likely compounded the wear and tear on his joints,” Dr. Stephenson said.

“There’s no doubt that my military service created a general strain and stress on my body,” Mitch said. “I was standing in combat boots for 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week and carrying heavy equipment — it takes a toll.”

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