Everyone loses bone mass and tends to become less flexible and active as we age. This, along with the onset of arthritis or osteoarthritis, can lead to stiffness, pain or injury that causes us to become even less active. Arthritis includes more than 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions, the most common of which is osteoarthritis. About 27.5 million adults have osteoarthritis - the “wear-and-tear” condition that causes achy joints. This eventually leads to pain that can keep you from your normal activities.
Common Symptoms of Osteoarthritis Include:
- Sore or stiff joints – particularly the hips, knees, and lower back – after inactivity or overuse.
- Stiffness after resting that goes away after movement.
- Pain that is worse after activity or toward the end of the day.
It’s never too late to improve the health of your bones, joints and muscles. Here are some simple things you can incorporate into your daily life that can help maintain or increase your overall joint health.
- Exercise to Protect and Strengthen Your Joints
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis pain makes it difficult to exercise, but studies show that exercise strengthens muscles and tissues around the cartilage, and can significantly reduce inflammation and pain. Twenty minutes of moderate, weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or aqua-aerobics, will help increase muscle strength while reducing stress on your bones and joints.
- Strengthen Your Muscles
Inactivity can lead to muscle stiffness and weakness. Strengthening the muscles around your joints, particularly the knees, helps strengthen the bones and reduces the stress on your joints. This also helps prevent the development of osteoarthritis. Try resistance bands, wall sits and lunges.
- Lose Weight
If you are overweight, losing weight can reduce the stress on your joints and prevent tears and cartilage breakdown. With every 10 pounds you lose, you reduce the stress on your knees by 30 to 80 pounds. It also will help you improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling.
- Are Your Shoes the Right Fit?
Wearing well-fitted, supportive shoes with absorbent soles during your day can reduce the stress on the joints. Often, changing shoes can make a difference in the way you walk, and improve pain in your feet, ankles, knees and hips.
When you have osteoarthritis, pain and stiffness make it very difficult to move certain joints more than just a little bit, which can make even the simplest tasks challenging. Range-of-motion exercises include gentle stretching and movements that take joints through their full span. Doing these exercises regularly – ideally every day – can help maintain and even improve the flexibility in your joints. Daily stretching exercises for all of your joints helps to maintain flexibility - ensuring good range of motion and joint health.
These tips can help you stay stronger, longer. Just a few small steps can keep you on your feet and active. Osteoarthritis can seem like a challenging condition because of how it can affect your mobility. If your hips or knees are causing you pain, and medication and other conservative treatments are not working, surgery may be a suitable option.
Start by talking with your primary care physician and ask for a consultation with an experienced orthopedic surgeon. This is your opportunity to learn more about surgical options to relieve your pain and get back to the life you want to live. For more information on the MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Long Beach Memorial, call 800-MEMORIAL.