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Otter with arthritis sets example for seniors

February 22, 2013

Arthritis is one of the biggest obstacles in the path to healthy aging. The pain and discomfort caused by wear and tear on joints can make it difficult to get around, but seniors struggling with the condition can take a cue from an unlikely source - a 15-year-old sea otter named Eddie. A resident of the Oregon Zoo, Eddie has recently taken up  basketball in the water to help manage his arthritis.

The unique treatment method was devised when zookeepers discovered that Eddie had arthritis in his elbows after a routine x-ray. While they recognized that physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce the symptoms of arthritis, Eddie's keepers were unsure how to proceed because sea otters don't typically use their elbows to swim. Instead, they decided to train him how to use a basketball hoop, and it seems to have paid off.

"He's definitely got game," said Jenny DeGroot, the zoo's lead sea otter keeper. "Sea otters have incredible dexterity, so it makes sense Eddie would have this hidden talent. They're famous for using rocks as tools to crack open clams."

Of course, Eddie's example doesn't necessarily mean seniors should head out to their local pool to shoot hoops, but the treatment method does underscore the importance of physical activity in helping reduce arthritis pain. While it may seem difficult to move with arthritis pain, the Mayo Clinic highlights a few exercises that can offer benefits while being easy on joints. For instance, walking, cycling and water exercises are particularly helpful because they can help build muscles around the joints without causing additional pain. It's also important for seniors to focus on stretching and range of motion activities.