Even though Osteoarthritis is listed as one of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting approximately 27 million people in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is still no cure for it. All is not bleak though as there are a number of things that can be done to help prevent Osteoarthritis and treat it and many of these are things that we can do ourselves.
Before getting into the things that you can do about Osteoarthritisis, it’s important to understand a little more about this painful condition, beginning with what it is exactly. Osteoarthritisis a chronic condition that causes cartilage, which is the cushion between your joints, to break down. When this happens, you end up with bones that are rubbing against each other which can cause pain and stiffness as well as decreased range of motion. This can be felt in any of your body’s joints, causing symptoms in your neck, back, hips, and knees. For some the pain comes and goes while others develop chronic pain. The pain can range from mild to severe and impact your quality of life.
Why it happens is still unclear, with primary osteoarthritis having no apparent cause. Secondary arthritis on the other hand is usually the result of a previous joint injury or repeated wear and tear. Our risk of Osteoarthritis goes up as we age and carrying excess weight puts us at a higher risk because of the added pressure on our joints
Ideally, preventing Osteoarthritis in the first place is what we strive for. Even with age working against us when it comes to our joint health, we can still help to stop or slow the onset of Osteoarthritis with the following:
Maintain a healthy weight. Keeping your weight down lessens the amount of stress on your joints, particularly your hips and knees. According to the Arthritis Foundation, losing one pound is the equivalent of four pounds of pressure off your joints. Work with your physician or nutritionist to come up with a balanced diet that safely reduces your calorie and fat intake.
Keep your joints moving. Though regular exercise is best, even those who are unable to participate in regular physical activity can still help to keep their joints lubricated by using them as often as possible. Low impact activities, such as swimming or aqua fitness are excellent options. A physical therapist can also help you if your ability to exercise is limited.
Limit repetitive motions. Repeating certain motions over and over again can increase your risk of Osteoarthritis. Though this is most often a problem with certain jobs or for those who participate in high-impact activities regularly, you could be putting yourself at higher risk through certain hobbies. Change up your routine and take breaks when engaging in something that is causing a joint to perform the same movement over and over.
If you have been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis, slowing the progression of the condition and keeping your symptoms to a minimum is possible. Along with the anti-inflammatory medications that your doctor will recommend or prescribe, you can also use the suggestions above to help manage your symptoms and slow your condition. As well, consider the following:
Reduce the amount of high-glycemic foods you eat. Researchers at Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Research for Optimum Health recently found that diets that contain a lot of high-glycemic foods as well as saturated and trans fat stimulate inflammation. They found that Mediterranean-style diets, which include higher amounts of olive oil, fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, and whole grains, can reduce inflammation.
Physical therapy to increase strength. Weak muscles can make it difficult to get the activity you need to be able to properly support and use your joints. Physical therapy can help you build strength for better movement and pain management.
Use heat and cold. Heat helps relieve the pain of Osteoarthritis as well as relax muscles and lessen tightness. It can also help your range of motion. Applying cold to the affected joints can also help because it reduces swelling and lessens pain. A warm bath or shower as well as warm packs can give you the heat you need to relieve symptoms while a store-bought cold pack or even just a bag of ice or frozen vegetables can be used for cold. Avoid using heat on a swollen joint.
Join an arthritis support or patient education program. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) suggests joining an arthritis support group and/or patient education program in order to learn more about your condition and gain more control over it. Talking to others about what you’re going through and learning more about it can help reduce stress which can also affect your symptoms
If you would like to learn more about osteoarthritis, including the latest news and research, as well as ways to prevent or treat it, click here.
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she's not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.
Arthritis-Related Statistics. (August 2011). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved on March 5, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis_related_stats.htm
Thompson, Andy, MD, FRCPC. (2011). Osteoarthritis. The Arthritis Society. Retrieved on March 5, 2014, from http://www.arthritis.ca/page.aspx?pid=941
Osteoarthritis. The Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved on March 5, 2014, from https://www.arthritis.org/conditions-treatments/disease-center/osteoarthritis/
Drake, Victoria J, Ph.D., Gombart, Adrian F, Ph.D. (2010). Nutrition and Inflammation. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Retrieved on February 24, 2014, from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/inflammation.html