The Arthritis Newsletter

Summer 2018

Hear All About It: Highlights from the 2018 Canadian Rheumatology Association Conference

By Katie LeBlanc PhD, Holistic Nutritionist, APAB member


This year’s Canadian Rheumatology Association (CRA) conference took place in a snowy Vancouver landscape. As a member of the Arthritis Patient Advisory Board (APAB) of Arthritis Research Canada (ARC), I was privileged to gain access to the conference. Attending a scientific conference is not new to me, but viewing the conference from the point of view of a patient is a rewarding experience. This year’s conference theme was, Precision and Personalized Medicine in Rheumatology. Topics ranged from discussions around cannabis use for chronic pain management, to exercise, nutrition, and exciting new ways of developing measures to improve patient care.


Exercise continues to be an important topic for both osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis. Aerobic and resistance exercise has been shown to have higher success rates for pain and disability management as compared to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for osteoarthritis. In addition, neuromuscular training can be added to strength training to increase functional stability and may potentially play a role in cartilage regeneration. This requires a conscious thought process about the exercise that is taking place. In other words, thinking about the movements while they are happening is important.


Nutrition was also discussed during the conference. Inez Martincevic, a Registered Dietitian, discussed how arthritis patients are often curious about nutrition, but lack guidance in their current rheumatology care. The science around nutrition and inflammation is building, especially in regard to the role of the microbiome. The microbiome is the important bacteria that lives throughout the body in symbiosis with our own human cells. We actually have 10 times the amount of bacterial cells as compared to human cells, and they play an important role in regulating the immune system and inflammation. Food can help feed the beneficial bacteria, especially whole foods and fibre (i.e. vegetables!). As evidence grows, information on nutrition and arthritis is likely to become more accessible.


Cannabis was a common topic, likely given the timing of legalization and growing interest by patients. Dr. Caroline MacCallum gave an overview of safety when it comes to cannabis use. While there are no industry regulations followed by retail shops, there are quality standards that prevent the use of harmful chemicals in the growing process when cannabis is bought through certified producers online. Cannabis also has more tar than nicotine, so it is best to consume in ways other than smoking, such as vaporizing.


Creating a balanced scorecard to track measurement and improve patient care in rheumatology was discussed by Drs. Claire Barber and Vandana Ahluwalia. This model of care can be used in rheumatology to understand what patients want, what is currently available, and how disease activity is managed in an attempt to assess areas of improvement.


The 2018 CRA was an exciting opportunity to witness the current field and scope of research in rheumatology. If you are interested in attending future conferences as a patient partner, consider joining the APAB team at Arthritis Research Canada. The future of research is in partnership with the patient.

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