Arthritis support group prepares for summer weather

Jennifer Wohlenberg looks at a laptop with access to the Arthritis Foundation’s online community forums, which will replace using social media when members of the support group are in need of help or have questions related to their particular ailments.
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Away from the sun’s stifling heat, the Arthritis Foundation’s Live Yes! Connect Group met Sunday at the Henry Mayo Health and Fitness Center in Valencia to discuss ways people diagnosed with arthritis — of any kind — can avoid the summer heat.

“When people think arthritis, they almost always think older generational people with osteoarthritis,” said volunteer leader Sarah Nelson. “That’s really not the case. There are a ton of different types of conditions that fall under arthritis. … You’ve got people with more pain and troubles in cold weather, and you’ve got people with conditions that have pain and trouble in hot weather.”

People who are diagnosed from one or several of the 120 forms of arthritis and related conditions can react to the elements differently. Nelson said she finds movement in colder weather difficult for her joints, whereas Jennifer Wohlenberg, a friend of Nelson’s who attended the meeting, has a harder time moving around while the weather is hot.

“For me, I used to not turn on the air conditioning until it was 82 (degrees) in the house to save money,” Wohlenberg said. “Now, the air is on 24/7, and it’s set at 74 because I just know I can’t live like that. When we go out shopping, I try to go when it’s still cooler.”

Nelson and Wohlenberg, who were both diagnosed with lupus, say the meetings help them and others with the same or similar conditions to learn what their triggers are, how to be patient with their bodies and pay attention to foreseeable discomfort. Arthritis does not just knock someone out for a few hours, Wohlenberg said, but can result in days of debilitating pain.

“This is a place where all of these conditions can come together because the one thing we all share is pain — chronic pain,” Nelson said.

The support group also provided updates for those who connect with each other on social media to ask questions or seek help about their ailments. Rather than continue to use Facebook and other social media platforms, the Arthritis Foundation is set to give support group members an online community to join, with message boards and forums dedicated to a variety of arthritis-related topics that are promptly answered by a professional.

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