Millions of Americans suffer from osteoarthritis (OA) — about 33 million, or roughly 13% of adults, according to the CDC. OA is by far the most common kind of arthritis, and although the risk of developing OA increases as you get older, it can affect younger people, too — especially athletes and people whose jobs put a lot of strain on their joints.
OA happens when the layer of cartilage that protects the ends of your joints starts to wear away, typically after years of repetitive use. Aside from age, heredity also plays a role in OA — but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to protect yourself from its effects.
While you can’t entirely eliminate your risk of OA, there are several things you can do to delay its onset and slow its progression. As leading providers of arthritis treatment for patients in Plano, Dallas, and Corsicana, Texas, Nina Sandhu, DO and the team at Magnolia Pain Associates help patients take steps to reduce their risks of OA, including the six steps listed here.
The main cause of OA is wear-and-tear on the joint surfaces, so it makes sense that the weight-bearing joints are often the joints most affected by OA and its symptoms. If you’re overweight, dropping those extra pounds reduces strain on your joints, helping to prevent or at least slow the progression of cartilage damage.
Weight loss doesn’t have to be dramatic, either. In weight-bearing joints like your knees, for instance, every pound lost is equal to losing four pounds of joint pressure — which means losing just 10 pounds reduces the strain on your knees by as much as 40 pounds.
Your joints depend on muscles for support. If your muscles are weak, you can wind up with uneven strain on your joints, leading to additional wear on that protective layer of cartilage.
Regular strength-building exercises help build up those supportive muscles to achieve better weight and strain distribution in your joints. (Just don’t overdo it, and ask Dr. Sandhu before starting on a new exercise program — especially if you’ve been leading a relatively sedentary lifestyle up until now.)
Your joints contain lubricating fluid, and every time you use your joints, that fluid bathes the joints to help keep damaging inflammation at bay. If you spend hours sitting every day (like many Americans), you could be setting your joints up for pain and stiffness.
All it takes is a little gentle — but regular — movement to keep joints lubricated. Walking, swimming, and biking are great ways to move your joints without subjecting them to significant impact. Even everyday activities, like gardening or even housecleaning, help keep your joints lubricated and healthy.
Whether you’re kneeling, leaning on your elbows, or resting your wrists on the edge of your desk, your joints are taking an extra beating. Use cushioning or padding when possible to avoid placing too much pressure on your joints, and take frequent breaks from prolonged activity.
Speaking of breaks, your joints benefit from a little rest almost as much as they benefit from physical activity. If your job or hobby involves a lot of bending, twisting, or lifting, work in plenty of breaks to give your joints a rest. If your job entails a lot of sitting, getting up every half hour or so to stretch and move around relieves built-up stress that can make your joints more prone to OA damage.
One of the best ways to ward off the pain and stiffness of arthritis is to ask Dr. Sandhu. As a pain management specialist, preventing arthritis pain is her business — literally. Dr. Sandhu can give you tips and guidance based on your lifestyle and your health history, so you can play an active role in keeping your joints healthy and free from pain.
Ready to learn what else you can do to reduce your risk of OA pain? Then book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Sandhu and the team at Magnolia Pain Associates today.