It’s Not Just Arthritis: Unveiling the Hidden Burden of Arthritis


Keiko and Aya Kataoka © Courtesy of Arthritis Society Canada

For someone with a chronic disease like arthritis, pain is a familiar companion. Simple everyday tasks like getting dressed, walking, or cooking become daunting, diminishing one’s sense of control over their body and well-being.

Arthritis is a chronic and persistently painful disease that impacts people of every age, gender, and ethnic background. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, and there is no cure.

“Arthritis is so much more than just a mild, aching joint. It’s a brutal disease that robs millions of people of their mobility, independence, livelihood, mental and physical health, and overall quality of life,” said Arthritis Society Canada President Trish Barbato. “It has a staggering impact.”

Canada’s most common chronic disease

More than one in five Canadians live with arthritis, making it the nation’s most common chronic disease. It’s not “just arthritis” or a “two Tylenol” condition, but an urgent health concern projected to reach over nine million Canadians by 2040.

“Arthritis is a devastating chronic condition, and six million Canadians are aching for a cure. The time to transform how we understand, prevent and treat this disease is now,” said Dr. Siân Bevan, Chief Science Officer of Arthritis Society Canada.

Arthritis research is underfunded relative to its burden and prevalence, said Ms. Barbato. More Canadians report living with arthritis than diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke combined, yet it remains one of the most under-funded, under-recognized and under-represented diseases. It is a leading cause of disability and work limitations in Canada, yet many still don’t understand how serious it is.

As Canada’s largest charitable funder of arthritis research, Arthritis Society Canada has invested over $230 million since its inception and doubled its annual investment in research since 2020. The organization is urging our government and community to do more.

arthritis society canada
Keiko and Aya Kataoka © Courtesy of Arthritis Society Canada

A mother and child’s arthritis journey

Imagine watching your toddler shuffle slowly in pain instead of running and climbing. This was the reality Keiko Kataoka faced as a mom when her two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with childhood arthritis.

“It was really challenging because we knew something wasn’t as it should be, but we had to rely on observation as she couldn’t communicate her pain with us. I didn’t know that arthritis could impact children, so it didn’t initially cross my mind as the cause,” Keiko said.

Just two years later, shortly after the birth of her second child, Keiko could not lift her child out of her crib because arthritis flare-ups caused weakness and debilitating pain. Along with facing the challenges of being a mother of a child with a chronic disease, Keiko now had to learn how to manage and treat her own pain.

“Because of our experience, I reached out to Arthritis Society Canada for resources and support,” shared Keiko. “It has made such a difference to find a community of people who really understand what it’s like to live with arthritis and it helps us feel less alone in this journey.”

Children and youth suffering from arthritis often feel isolated and alone in their challenges, and there is a great need for connection, support, education and awareness of childhood arthritis. Over the last five years, with the support of our donors, Arthritis Society Canada has invested $4.2 million specifically in childhood arthritis research.

Arthritis Society Canada recognizes the physical, emotional and mental toll of childhood arthritis and is responding by increasing investment in programs for children and families impacted by arthritis. Adapted summer camps, backpacks for recently diagnosed children, virtual support clubs and new resources for young adults empower kids and their families to manage their pain and symptoms so they can live their best lives.

Managing chronic pain

Recognizing the complexity of pain is vital for effective management. Chronic pain is challenging to manage because what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Chronic or persistent pain may require a combination of strategies. Medications are only one part of an overall strategy to help reduce an individual’s pain so that they can better cope physically and emotionally and have improved function and ability to do everyday activities.

It is helpful to use pain management techniques that are active coping strategies, including advocating for yourself in the health system, eating well, staying active, managing stress, participating in relaxation exercises like mindfulness meditation, and seeking social support. Family and friends can offer emotional and physical support and stay informed about your health condition and what works best for you.

This multi-pronged strategy for pain management is proactive and realistic, and helps a person reclaim agency and control over their life. While there is no cure, Arthritis Society Canada is investing in innovation and research to find solutions—and to help people adapt to living with a chronic disease.

Individuals impacted by arthritis can find community, support and the latest evidence-based research through Arthritis Society Canada at

© Courtesy of Arthritis Society Canada

Youth with sports-related knee injuries are more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis (OA). As young athletes look ahead to the future, the following evidence-based recommendations can help prevent the early onset of knee osteoarthritis.

What can you do to help prevent knee osteoarthritis after an injury?

  • Consult with your doctor to avoid further injury.
  • Educate yourself on the risk of knee osteoarthritis and clinical recommendations for prevention after a knee injury to help prevent osteoarthritis.
  • Eliminate thigh muscle weakness.
  • Limit saturated and trans fats and keep fat levels within a healthy range.
  • Meet weekly physical activity guidelines.

Arthritis Society Canada funds cutting-edge arthritis research across Canada. Research into the factors influencing the quality of life of young people with a history of knee injury will help inform knee injury management, rehabilitation, and osteoarthritis prevention strategies. In 2022-23, Dr. Jackie Whittaker’s research and leadership of the OPTIKNEE international consensus group led to eight clinical recommendations on who to target to prevent osteoarthritis after a knee injury, what to do and when. These new recommendations will improve knee rehabilitation programs.

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About Arthritis Society Canada

Arthritis Society Canada is a national health charity, fueled by donors and volunteers, with a mission to fight the fire of arthritis with the fire of research, advocacy, innovation, information and support.


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