Today, the majority of American’s are living longer and are more active than past generations. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common diseases associated with both age and activity, and as such, sufferers approaching the age of 45 need to know tips for how to avoid the pain and complications associated with osteoarthritis.
According to the Harvard Medical School, osteoarthritis is generally defined as the loss of cartilage surrounding the ends of the bones. Without this soft, jelly-like tissue, bones rub against each other, causing debilitating pain, chronic stiffness and decreased motion. In extreme situations, the disease can also lead to deformity and severe inflammation. The most common location for osteoarthritis to occur is in the hips, spine, hands and knees.
Currently, 27 million people between the ages of 45 and 65 years in the United States suffer from osteoarthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and that number increases dramatically for those over the age of 65. The importance of understanding this ailment lies in the realization that by the time 2029 rolls around, the number of people over the age of 65 will double to more than 71 million and will continue to surge until it peaks at more than 80 million by 2050. The United States Census Bureau bottom lines these startling statistics by simply stating that, “by the year 2050, nearly 1 in 5 Americans will be over the age of 65.” Taking these figures into account, it is safe to say that as the American population ages and our culture and continues to embrace exercise and sporting activities, learning how to avoid and minimize the effects of osteoarthritis will become a reality for the majority of Americans.
So what can be done to reduce the causes and symptoms of osteoarthritis? Doctors often prescribe medications like Tylenol, Motrin, Advil, and Celebrex to help ease the pain and swelling of tissue and muscle. Even regular cortisone shots directly injected into the joins have shown to avoid inflammation and pain. If you want a more holistic approach to curbing the effects of osteoarthritis, the answer lies in exercise. “The lack of exercise directly relates to osteoarthritis by causing atrophy of surrounding muscles,” states the Harvard Medical School’s Family Health Guide.
According to Harvard, regular movement of bones and muscles in a non-impact setting substantially improves muscle flexibility, strength, and endurance, thereby slowing the progression of osteoarthritis.
“Make walking part of you’re your routine,” advises Kevin D. Plancher, MD, a New York City based orthopaedic surgeon. “Walking helps you build up the muscles around your damaged joints.”
In addition to simple walking, doctors advise anyone, whether a daily runner or a coach potato, to also practice simple flexibility exercises in order to improve the movement of muscles and prevent the tightening of joints while simultaneously slowing the onset of osteoarthritis.
According to the Harvard Medical School, by engaging in some simple stretching and strengthening exercises, can help avoid the pain and complications of osteoarthritis. Some of the exercises they recommend include:
Inner Leg Stretch – This exercise, according to the Harvard Medical School involves sitting on the floor with knees up and gently pushing the knees apart.
Hip and Lower Back Stretch – Doctors recommend laying flat on the floor, and pulling the legs, while bending the knees, toward the chest by clasping them with both hands. This simple exercise helps stretch and strengthens back muscles.
Double Hip Rotation – Osteoarthritis experts explain that by laying flat on the floor with shoulders flat, arms stretched out wide and knees bent, while gently rolling the bent knees to one side, then return to the center and roll to the other side in the same manner.
To build strength and resistance in your muscles, doctors advise to practice exercises that improve the function of joints and muscles. The Harvard Medical School advises patients to participate the following exercises:
Chair Stand – To strengthen the muscles surrounding your hips, doctors advise sitting in a chair with your back flat against the back of the chair and knees bent. Cross the arms so that the hands touch opposing shoulders, and then slowly lean forward, bringing the body up while keeping the back straight.
Bridge – Experts encourage anyone experiencing the onset of osteoarthritis to lay down flat with the knees bent and palms facing down, and slowly lift the buttocks off the ground as high as possible without using the hands.
Hip Extension – Extend the hip by grabbing the back of a chair while facing forward, slowly lift the left leg behind as high as possible while not bending the knee, and then lift the other leg in the same manner.
By using these basic tips, the symptoms and advancement of osteoarthritis can be curtailed. As an inevitable ailment most americans will face, avoiding many of the complications associated with osteoarthritis will be a nice step on the road to “aging gracefully.”
By Vincent Aviani