How To Prevent Arthritis Progression

4 Simple Ways to Keep Healthier and Mobile Longer

arthritis exercise
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Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis, is the most common form of arthritis affecting over 30 million Americans.

Persons diagnosed with osteoarthritis often worry about the progressive nature of the disease and wonder if they will one day end up needing joint replacement surgery. By making a few, simple changes in your life, you can greatly avoid these concerns. Here are four simple fixes that may help:

1. Lose Weight

Obesity is one of the most significant contributing factors to arthritis progression. The cause is relatively simple: the more stress you place on already damaged joints, the greater the inflammation will be. Over time, this can further deteriorate the structural integrity of the joint, increasing pain and interfering with a person's mobility and range of motion.

By losing just five to 10 percent of one's body weight, people will often experience dramatic relief of their symptoms. And, while exercising with painful joints can be difficult, there are a number of fitness routines that are well suited for people with arthritis. These would focus on three exercise components:

Weight loss will also involve changes in your diet which include the reduction of saturated fats, the moderate intake of carbohydrates, and the avoidance of excess salt, sugar, and alcohol.

A dietician may be able to help tailor a sustainable, well-balanced diet plan to trim those extra pounds.

2. Modify Your Activities

The rule is simple: if you feel pain when doing an activity, it is not good. While you can often strengthen certain muscles to help bolster painful joints, you shouldn't push yourself excessively.

In the end, you may cause more damage than good.

There may be times when you will need to modify your routine activities to preserve the mobility that you have. For example, impact sports may be something you enjoy, but the damage they can cause may only help accelerate the progression of arthritis.

If faced with this reality, try to focus on finding low-impact activities you can enjoy such as cycling, swimming, kayaking, cross-country skiing, rowing, rollerblading, pilates, and yoga. Trading in the running shoes for a NordicTrack may be tough but will allow you to build up a healthy sweat without the needless stress on your ankles, knees, and hips.

If, on the other hand, you live a more sedentary lifestyle, you may want to start by meeting with a physical therapist. A therapist can teach you how to safely stretch and strengthen vulnerable joints and provide you a structured program to gradually wean you into routine exercise.

3. Use Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Arthritis is defined as the inflammation of the joints. It, therefore, makes sense to do whatever you can to reduce the inflammation that can't help but accelerate joint damage.

If your doctor has already prescribed medications to treat chronic joint pain, take them as directed.

If not and the pain is affecting your mobility or keeping you up at night, speak with your doctor about prescription and non-prescription options. Among them:

  • Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs taken orally or injected directly into the inflamed joint.
  • Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in the body and can be injected into a joint as a shock absorber and lubricant.

    4. Use a Supportive Device

    People with arthritis will often avoid walking aids because they make them feel old and frail. But the fact is that people who do so often walk less because they are either unsteady on their feet or afraid to place weight on a swollen joint. As such, avoiding these devices can make your condition worse faster.

    Supportive devices are no longer limited to canes and walkers. People with knee arthritis can sometimes turn to a device known as an unloader brace which selectively relieves pressure on the most damaged side of a joint. There are even rolling walkers (rollators) that allow you to move more freely without the fits-and-starts of a standard walker.

    While these newer devices won't work for everyone, it may be worth speaking to your doctor to see if they are the appropriate choice for you.

    Source:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Osteoarthritis." Atlanta, Georgia; updated July 6, 2017.

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