Tips for Osteoarthritis Prevention
More than 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis and as baby boomers age, the number will start to soar. Osteoarthritis is among the most common causes of disability in adults. By age 40, 90% of people have some level of osteoarthritis in their weight-bearing joints (knees, hips, feet, back) but they may remain asymptomatic (without symptoms) until they are older. There is x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis in 70% of people age 70 and older.
Clearly, osteoarthritis is a significant medical condition. Can it be prevented? If osteoarthritis prevention were possible, people would likely pay attention to what they needed to do—or would they? Perhaps it’s not so simple, but as the saying goes “nothing good comes easy.”
Recommendations for Osteoarthritis Prevention
A lot has been written about osteoarthritis prevention. It boils down to modifying risk factors for the disease by adjusting certain aspects of your lifestyle.
There are 6 basic recommendations for osteoarthritis prevention. Think about each one and ask yourself if you are doing what you should be doing.
1. Maintain Your Ideal Body Weight
It has been estimated that the force of 3 to 6 times a person’s body weight is exerted across the knee while walking. In other words, being 10 pounds overweight increases the force on the knee by 30 to 60 pounds with each step taken while walking. The force across the hip is, at most, 3 times body weight. Losing weight reduces stress on your joints.
2. Exercise Regularly and Participate in Regular Physical Activity
For optimal joint health, it’s recommended that people perform 30 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise at least 5 days a week. It’s an established fact that regular exercise has health benefits. Lower levels of exercise can also be beneficial, according to study results. It’s better to get some exercise as opposed to no exercise.
3. Protect Your Joints
There are several joint protection principles, which if followed, will help to conserve energy and preserve joint function. The advice is quite simple, but you must be mindful of proper movements and recognize body signals (e.g., pain). Good posture and proper body mechanics are important because protecting your joints is a factor in osteoarthritis prevention.
4. Avoid Repetitive Stress on the Joints
Signs of repetitive stress include too many uninterrupted repetitions of an activity or motion, unnatural or awkward motions, overexertion, incorrect posture, and muscle fatigue. These symptoms usually are associated with your occupation. Try to find solutions at your workplace and avoid prolonged periods of repetitive stress.
5. Listen to Your Pain
This recommendation seems so obvious, yet people don’t always do it. Learning to view pain as a signal that you are overdoing it and that it’s time to rest requires conscious effort. Balancing rest and activity is optimal for healthy joints. It’s part of self-management to learn not to overuse your joints and to learn not to push past your limits. Consider that the pain is like a stop sign.
6. Avoid Injury to Joints
Previous joint injury is recognized as a common cause of osteoarthritis. In joints burdened by improper alignment due to injury, articular cartilage wears away and osteoarthritis can begin to develop. Avoid injury if at all possible—and if you do injure a joint, seek treatment immediately.
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