ATLANTA (Reuters) - Arthritis prevents a growing number of Americans from engaging in daily routines like holding a cup, lifting a bag of groceries and walking to a car, a federal report said on Tuesday.
The study also found that lack of exercise exacerbates their suffering, with few engaging in the types of physical activities that can help to reduce pain and improve mobility.
About 54 million U.S. adults, or one in four, have arthritis, which can cause pain, stiffness and swollen joints, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Arthritis is the nation's leading cause of disability.
The number of adults whose arthritis pain was limiting their daily activities increased from 35.9 percent in 2002 to 42.8 percent in 2014, a 20-percent jump, the CDC study found.
Exercise can reduce arthritis symptoms by up to 40 percent, but a third of patients in the study said they do not engage in any physical activity during their leisure time, the CDC said.
"Arthritis is at an at all-time high and alarmingly, more people with arthritis are suffering from it," CDC Acting Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said during a call with reporters.
She estimated that by 2040, the number of arthritis patients in the United States will reach 78 million as the population increases and ages.
Only one in 10 arthritis patients participates in management programs to help reduce their suffering, which can be equally important as exercise, the CDC said, basing its findings on data from the National Health Interview Survey.
About half of all adults with heart disease or diabetes had arthritis, along with a third of those who were obese, the CDC found. Arthritis makes these conditions harder to manage, the agency said.
Patients with arthritis may be reluctant to exercise because they are already in pain. But physical activity such as walking, biking and swimming can actually reduce the suffering, Schuchat said.
"There's a phrase I recently heard that says it all: 'Rest is rust, motion is lotion,'" Schuchat said."
Editing by Letitia Stein and Dan Grebler