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Osteoarthritis typically starts out as some minor pain after you’ve put a joint through its paces. So, you ignore the discomfort and figure it’s just temporary. Before you know it, that ache in your joint has become a constant companion, and you need to place some limits on your life.
This is a typical example of how osteoarthritis progresses for the more than 32.5 million adults in the United States who have the joint disease. If we were to flash forward, the story above ends with a joint that’s too painful to use, forcing you to consider joint replacement surgery.
While joint replacement is an effective solution, the team here at Western Orthopaedics wants to provide you with a few tips for avoiding or delaying this outcome.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is referred to as a wear-and-tear disease — overusing the joint to the point where the cartilage breaks down. The problem is that cartilage doesn’t regenerate itself, so once the cartilage is lost, your joint pain and inflammation won’t improve.
At the first signs of trouble, we recommend that you heed the warning and alter your activities so you’re not placing more degenerative wear and tear on the joint(s). For example, perhaps your knees are starting to ache, in which case you should give up literally pounding the pavement and take up an activity that’s easier on your knees than running, such as swimming or cycling.
Notice in the above that we don’t recommend simply giving up being active. The benefits of an active lifestyle extend to every area of your health, including your joints, which are meant to move.
So, if you’re tempted to hang up your tennis racket in favor of couch surfing, we suggest that you head to a pool instead, which is one of the best exercises for joints since there's no pressure on them.
If you’re carrying extra pounds, this additional weight is placing stress on joints that aren’t designed to carry it. One of the best ways to slow the progression of OA is to ensure that you’re at a healthy weight for your musculoskeletal structure.
At the core of joints are the two (or more) bones that come together, but they hardly work alone. Your joints rely on muscles for support, so you should strengthen those muscles to take the pressure off of your bones (and cartilage).
A great way to get started is to see one of our physical therapists who can design a specific strengthening regimen that will deliver the most benefit to your arthritic joints.
With a little effort on your part, there are ways to slow the progression of OA, which should also relieve much of your discomfort at the same time.
If you’d like more information on managing your osteoarthritis, please contact one of our offices in Arvada or Denver, Colorado, to schedule an appointment with an arthritis specialist.