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Don't Let Joint Pain Slow You Down

April 21, 2016
If stiff and sore joints make getting out of bed in the morning a chore, and climbing stairs feels like a battle, you may be suffering from osteoarthritis. The most common form of arthritis and the leading cause of disability today, osteoarthritis led to 992,100 hospitalizations in 2015. It is found in the majority of people who are over 65-years-old and 80 percent of people over 75; if you are obese or put prolonged stress on your joints, you are even more at risk.

Osteoarthritis is caused when a joint progressively degenerates, whether knee, hip, ankle, spine or toe. This causes the breakdown of the cartilage cushioning around the joint. As a result, the bones rub together, causing achiness, instability, buckling or loss of function. You may also notice increased boniness, enlargement and/or deformity of your affected joints. These symptoms can develop gradually, be intermittent or slowly fade as you get more active throughout the other day. However, even though your discomfort might not progress past the mild-moderate level or may not seem permanent, you should still address your joint pain with your primary care physician.

Eventually, osteoarthritis could cause you to limit or refrain from exercise, which can put you at risk for a host of other obesity-related complications. Osteoarthritis limits peoples' activity levels more than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. It's a common myth that you should not use or "wear out" a joint. Not only will regular low-impact exercise not increase the development of osteoarthritis, it will help you maintain a range of motion, muscle strength and a healthy BMI.

Avoiding weight gain, or losing weight if you are already overweight, is the single most important factor in preventing and treating osteoarthritis. You may be surprised at the small amount of weight you'll need to lose to take a great amount of stress off your knees: losing just one pound can alleviate between 30-60 pounds of pressure.

Here are some low-impact exercises that are useful for getting (or keeping) your joints moving:
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Zumba/dancing
  • Walking
  • Recumbent cycling
  • Elliptical machine
  • Kettle ball class
  • Rowing machine
Depending on which joints are bothering you, your doctor may also be able to recommend assistive devices to help you stay active, such as shoes with good shock-absorbing properties or a cane. There are also some supplements that are proven to be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis, including glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, Vitamin D and S-adenosylmethionine.Make an appointment with your primary care provider if you have chronic joint pain or think you may need a referral to an orthopedist. If you don't already have a primary care provider, visit to find one who is the right fit for you. Addressing osteoarthritis or other forms of joint pain and inflammation now is a great step to take in preventing weight-related diseases and injuries in the future.
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