Ways To Counter Osteoarthritis
By Chance Moore, DC
Physical aging thankfully occurs slowly; a common sign is injuries suffered and recovered during youth slowly starting to reappear. Change within the joints of the body is called arthritis, with the most common type being osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative joint disease. These types of arthritis cause discomfort for more than 20 million Americans, and is more common in women than in men.
Osteoarthritis is the break- down of cartilage within the joint. The resiliency of cartilage differs by person. Family history of osteoarthritis, being over- weight, lack of exercise, and prior joint injuries are considered osteoarthritis risk factors. Many young athletes can develop early-onset osteoarthritis by playing through cartilage injuries. When cellular damage occurs within the joint, the joint’s ability to repair itself is lessened. With time, this causes the cartilage to lose its water content, become thin, and eventually wear out.
Common signs of Osteoarthritis include:
Steady or intermittent joint pain – most common in the knees, hips, and low back, but also in the neck and shoulders; joint stiffness after sitting, sleeping, or otherwise not moving for a long time; swelling or tenderness in the joints; and, a crunching feeling or sound of bones rubbing against each other.
Osteoarthritis differs significantly from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an autoimmune disease and is a type of inflammatory arthritis, affecting 1% of the US population (about 2.1 million people). RA often begins in middle age, although in some rare cases it can also be diagnosed in youth. The immune system attacks the lining of the joint called the synovium. As a result, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain and inflammation influencing joints on both sides of the body. Evaluation from a physician, including imaging and blood work can differentiate between OA and RA.
Many patients who suffer from joint pain avoid physical activity, but a proper exercise routine is extremely beneficial for the management of these conditions. Exercise should be a controlled activity that allows the body to respond by strengthening the muscular support around the joints, as well as improving joint mobility and function. Exercise is one of the best forms of arthritis treatment and prevention. Daily activity helps control and maintain a healthy weight, and empowers an arthritic patient to help take control of their symptoms.
Consider the following exercise tips to help improve arthritic conditions:
- Do not push through pain. Start slowly and see how the body responds the next day. Slowly increase the duration and intensity of exercise. if you are overweight, use extra precaution because of the increased load on the weight bearing joints.
- Low-impact or non-weight- bearing activities, such as walking, stationary bike, elliptical, stair climbing, swimming, water aerobics and light weight training work best for arthritic patients.
- Use light strengthening exercises in the muscle groups that support the affected joint.
- Consider dietary changes to help lose weight and reduce inflammation.
If concerned you have arthritis, make an appointment with a pain specialist for diagnosis. Consider the aforementioned exercise suggestions and make dietary changes.
An anti- inflammatory diet, in combination with an appropriate daily exercise routine, may significantly reduce arthritic pain.