How to Maintain Healthy Joints
How to Maintain Healthy Joints
Did you know that over 31 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis? According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this number will only increase as the aging population grows. Although there are several types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is considered the most common. Are you at risk of developing osteoarthritis? Can you minimize your risk? For those that have osteoarthritis, what strategies help manage it to improve your lifestyle?
Let’s explore osteoarthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Our knees, elbows, wrists, and ankles are examples of joints. Between each joint is a cushion-like tissue called cartilage that helps to protect and support movement in your joints. You can think of cartilage like the tire on a car. If the tire were to wear away and you were driving on the solid metal rim, do you think your car would get far?
Osteoarthritis is when the cartilage in your body starts to breakdown. As the cartilage wears away, the bones have less of a supportive barrier between them. The weaker the cartilage becomes, the more inflammation you’ll experience in your joint. Eventually, as the condition worsens, a bone-on-bone sensation will occur, creating soreness, pain, and difficulty with mobility.
The risk factors for osteoarthritis are largely wear and tear, along with some genetic inheritance.
Other factors include the following:
- Overuse: Overusing a joint or taking a join through a repetitive motion (e.g., tennis elbow)
- Injury: A direct injury to your joint can dramatically increase the risk for osteoarthritis
- Weight Mismanagement: Extra weight from obesity can place extra stress on the joints, increasing the risk for osteoarthritis
- Age: General Wear and Tear over the years
- Gender: Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Think you may be developing or suffering from osteoarthritis? Here are the most common symptoms of the condition that directly impact your joints (e.g., ankles, wrists, and hands):
- Decreased Range of Motion
How to Manage Osteoarthritis Symptoms
Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoarthritis; however, there are ways to manage the condition that can lower swelling, increase mobility, and improve your overall lifestyle.
Physical Activity: It may seem tough at first, but increasing how active you are can help to alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis. You can even start with physical therapy or personal training, allowing your doctor or trainer to take you through muscle-strengthening exercises.
Lose Weight: As we mentioned above, extra weight can increase the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Losing weight can help to mitigate the symptoms.
Supplements and Medications:
Natural supplements are available that can help reduce inflammation such as Turmeric, Ginger, Boswellia, Cat’s Claw, Pycnogenol, Bromelain, Quercetin, and Omega-3s. We are happy to discuss supplementation options at your next visit.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as NSAIDs and prescription drugs are also an option, but keep in mind that these medications can come with a list of side effects.
Mediterranean Diet or Anti-Inflammatory Diet
A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods as well as eliminating foods that cause inflammation such as processed foods, salt, sugar, and alcohol can make noticeable improvements.
Check out some of our favorite anti-inflammatory foods here!
How to Prevent Osteoarthritis
If none of these symptoms currently apply to you, we want to make sure it stays that way. Here are some ways to reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis:
Exercise: Daily physical activity goes a long way when it comes to lowering your risk for osteoarthritis. The CDC recommends a bare minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise, or a combination of both each week. Resistance training using body weight or weighted exercises is an excellent way to promote proper bone health and strengthen joints.
Check out our blog on Beginning a Strength Training Program.
Weight Management: Excess weight can place a tremendous amount of stress on your knees and ankles, promoting the development of osteoarthritis. By losing excess fat mass and maintaining a healthy weight, you can dramatically decrease your risk of osteoarthritis while improving cardiovascular health and increasing longevity.
Lower Occupational Risk: If your job requires a great deal of bending, kneeling, or repetitive movements such as hammering, find ways to alleviate this occupational stress. Take stretch breaks every hour, mix and match tasks so that you aren’t doing the same thing and using the same arm or leg, and allow yourself plenty of time to rest if you notice inflammation forming.
Get an Osteoarthritis Treatment Plan
If you are experiencing any of the osteoarthritis symptoms listed above or would like to start a program to reduce your risk factors, please contact us at 773-878-7330 to set up a consultation. Our staff will be able to effectively diagnose the issue and recommend a course of treatment that will help to prevent or manage your osteoarthritis.