LEXINGTON, Ky .— May is Arthritis Awareness Month, and in the Commonwealth nearly a million people currently suffer from the condition. Doctors right here in Kentucky and across the nation are exploring the topic and why it’s linked to COVID-19 infections.
Nobody thinks they’re going to need physical therapy in their lifetime, but some need it. Jim Nelson is one of many, taking each day one step at a time through the help of physical therapy. It’s a journey he started a few months ago after struggling 10 months with osteoarthritis.
“Very little pain whereas six weeks ago quite a bit of pain doing this size step,” said Nelson.
Like millions of other Americans, arthritis causes Nelson’s pain. He attends physical therapy sessions twice a week for an hour at Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy in Lexington. Researchers from the National Center of Biotechnology say what Nelson is experiencing could be linked to COVID-19. Marc Wynstra holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy, serves as Nelson’s physical therapist but he’s one of many doctors exploring the link between COVID-19 and arthritis.
“There’s several studies that have come out that have talked about that link between COVID-19 and arthritis and definitely inactivity can worsen arthritis,” said Wynstra.
The studies show COVID-19 can cause reactive arthritis, meaning the form of arthritis can be triggered by infection. Nelson takes exercise seriously but still managed to come face to face with arthritis.
“Active my whole life, played basketball three or four times a week, no problems. Then all of a sudden I got out there and couldn’t even run,” said Nelson.
Nelson hasn’t been infected with COVID-19 to his knowledge but says the link scares him. Nelson deals with a type of arthritis called osteoarthritis, which will last a lifetime. The former college basketball player was shooting hoops when he felt excruciating pain in his legs and knees almost 10 months ago.
“It came on all at once, and once you get it… it never goes away,” said Nelson.
Knowing there’s no cure, Nelson says he’s focused on improving his quality of life. Knee bends and jumping exercises have been most helpful. Nelson is hoping these sessions can get him back on the court and help him stay active for his daughter to see.
“To think about having to give something you’ve done your whole life [basketball]. I guess it makes you feel immortal. It makes you feel your age. It’s something I don’t want to have happen,” said Nelson.
Even though the arthritis is slowing him down, Nelson says he’s going to remain positive. Orthopedic and sports physical therapy in Lexington confirms with us they have seen an increase in arthritis patients needing physical therapy.