The people who don't come in expecting a miracle are the ones who might just get a small one.
Scott Rhien, director of Orem Community Hospital's arthritis treatment center, sees arthritis patients who have not been helped enough by conventional drug therapy."We use medicine, behavioral therapy and physical therapy," Rhien said. "We control the pain we can with drugs, then teach the patients to control as much pain as they can with their minds and live actively with the rest.
"There are no easy miracle cures. We are a management-oriented facility. We take off the edge of pain and show patients how to work for a happier, more active life. We can by no means eliminate the pain in all cases, but patients willing to work with our techniques can improve the quality of their lives."
Rhien said 36 million Americans suffer from arthritis and 1 million new cases are diagnosed each year. Most of the 130 forms of the disease attack joints, causing inflammation and chronic pain. People of all ages can be stricken with the disease. There is no cure, and the cause of arthritis is unknown.
Although many facilities exist that help patients deal with pain, Rhien said Orem Community Hospital's center has the only Utah program dealing specifically with arthritis.
"The sad thing is that many people withdraw from life before learning what options are available," Rhien said.
"I teach people to take it easy on themselves. We live in a very perfectionist society. Maybe a patient thinks she should be able to do all her Christmas shopping and go to four parties.
"If she does, she may have to stay in bed for the next three weeks. But maybe she could go to one party and have a great time."
The center has rheumatologists to prescribe the most effective drugs and a physical therapist to help increase a patient's flexibility and suggest a daily home exercise program for the patient.
"Exercises must be approved by a doctor, but so many people think they can't do anything because they have arthritis. The right exercise will increase flexibility and make the brain release endorphins that will help with the pain."
A positive attitude can also help the brain treat the body's ills, he said.
"Some people say wearing a copper bracelet will help them, and if they are convinced it will, it will. The brain makes it happen.
"It's been said the brain is one of the best pharmaceutical companies there is."
Rhien said he cannot recommend copper bracelets but can provide other psychological tools to help patients take charge of their pain, as well as anger and depression they may feel.
"Patients read brochures, listen to audio tapes and watch videos. They check in for a week and we spend a couple hours a day talking about relaxation exercises, schedule adjustments and attitude changes that can help reduce stress, thus pain."
Rhien said the program is not for everyone.
"Most people just want to take a pill; they don't want to work to change habits. If they can benefit from just medication, they shouldn't be here. We had one woman who said she would not deal with chalkboards, audio tapes or videos. She was a bad candidate for the program, and she didn't stay."
Although the program offers follow-up visits, it is up to patients to keep exercising and to switch old habits and attitudes for more healthful behavior. To the successful patient, the switch could mean a much more active and happy life.
Without treatment or with inappropriate self-treatment, many arthritis patients can damage their bodies further, Rhien said. Arthritis sufferers should consult their doctors for help, he added.
The Orem center also offers free consultations. For information, call 224-4080.