Today, over 20 million Americans suffer from arthritis. The most common form of this joint disease is called Osteoarthritis, and it occurs when bone to bone surfaces become irregular. This condition causes pain and discomfort in your joints – usually including the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Many people don’t realize they have Osteoarthritis and do nothing to treat their chronic pain. However, the key to joint health is not to do nothing, but to stay moving!
Exercise is absolutely crucial when it comes to maintaining joint health. According to Dr. Elinor Mody, MD, “the worst thing someone with Osteoarthritis can do is nothing.” Think of your joints as hinges. Hinges, such as those within a squeaky door, may become rough or rusted over time. The same process can be applied to your joints. Keeping your joints moving prevents this “rusting” and will increase your range of motion.
Another reason why exercise is so important is that it builds muscle. Strengthening muscles around the joints can reduce strain and help prevent the wear and tear effect. However, it is important to build overall strength, and not just in areas surrounding specific joints. Even strengthening your core muscles has been shown to lessen the strain on your knees and prevent injury, according to Dr. Mody.
So ask yourself, has your pain restricted your daily activities? Are you frequently using medicinal drugs in order to do the things you want to do? Has your range of motion decreased? If the answers to these questions are yes, it may be time to consult your health care practitioner. Letting your symptoms continue on without treatment can have irreversible effects on your joints. When left untreated long enough, Osteoarthritis can cause muscle atrophy and joint contracture. This means you may never get back what you’ve lost, and joint replacement therapy could be in your future.
Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to prevent the wearing of your joints and reduce the pain of Osteoarthritis.
-Maintaining a healthy weight is key. Weight loss and maintenance can help reduce tears in cartilage and slow the progression of osteoarthritis over time.
-Exercise, as I discussed previously, helps reduce stiffness and the rusting of your joints. Exercises can be variable and include strength training, light impact aerobics, frequent stretching, and other relaxation exercises such as yoga.
-Icing your joints also helps reduce pain and inflammation, which can cause small cracks within the cartilage. Studies have shown that consuming Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, as well as Vitamin D, can help decrease this inflammation as well and protect your joints.
-Orthotics are also very beneficial in the treatment of Osteoarthritis. These custom made shoe inserts act as shock absorbers when walking, therefore protecting your knees and hips.
Chiropractic care is also excellent for joint health. A trained Chiropractor focuses on the musculoskeletal system and uses gentle and safe methods to align subluxated joints. This type of care alleviates pain, increases the range of motion, improves coordination/circulation, and relaxes tense muscles. A Chiropractor will also recommend the best therapy and exercise plans to fit your needs and, most importantly, keep you moving!