Joint Own­er­ship

A lit­tle TLC for your joints today can make for a less painful to­mor­row.

Family Circle - - CONTENTS - By Jen­nifer King Lind­ley

Joints—we take them for granted un­less some­thing goes wrong. And new re­search shows more of us than ever can ex­pect to feel creaky: One of the most com­mon causes of joint pain, arthri­tis, af­fects us in much higher num­bers and at an ear­lier age than pre­vi­ously thought. Close to one-third (31%) of women ages 18 to 64 suf­fer from its chronic aches or stiff­ness. The per­cent­ages climb to well above half for those over 65. Os­teoarthri­tis, the most preva­lent form of arthri­tis, was once thought to be the in­evitable re­sult of wear and tear: Our joints, like the brake pads on a car, would even­tu­ally give out from all the miles we put on them. How­ever, we now know that os­teoarthri­tis is a com­plex con­di­tion in­flu­enced by a num­ber of fac­tors, many of which are within our con­trol. Learn­ing to take good care of your joints doesn’t just help head off arthri­tis—it re­duces the risk of in­juries as well. “When it comes to joint prob­lems, pre­ven­tion re­ally is the best medicine,” says Do­minic King, DO, a sports medicine physi­cian at the Cleve­land Clinic’s Joint Preser­va­tion Cen­ter. It’s never too early to start.

6 Ways to Pro­tect Your Joints

WATCH YOUR WAIST­LINE. “The sin­gle most im­por­tant thing you can do for your joints is main­tain a healthy weight,” says Richard Io­rio, MD, codi­rec­tor of the Joint Preser­va­tion and Arthri­tis Cen­ter at NYU Lan­gone Health. Do­ing so min­i­mizes the load on weight-bear­ing joints such as knees and hips—typ­i­cally the big­gest trou­ble­mak­ers. Be­cause of grav­ity and biome­chan­ics, knees bear a force three to six times your body weight when you walk. If you need to lose weight,

even a small drop can have a big pay­off: Shed­ding just 10 pounds re­duces a woman’s chance of get­ting painful knee os­teoarthri­tis by 50% and re­lieves at least 30 pounds of pres­sure from her knees. “Be­ing over­weight can also cause meta­bolic changes, such as di­a­betes, which in­creases in­flam­ma­tion through­out the body,” says Io­rio. “In­flam­ma­tion can fur­ther de­grade the car­ti­lage.” DRINK UP. Wa­ter makes up 80% of the body’s car­ti­lage, ex­plains King. “Well-hy­drated tis­sue is more com­press­ible and able to han­dle a heav­ier load.” (Imag­ine a wet sponge ver­sus a dry one.) Drink­ing when­ever you feel thirsty is still the sim­plest way to en­sure your body gets all the fluid it needs, says King. If you’re too busy to make drink­ing a pri­or­ity, King sug­gests a hy­dra­tion-re­minder app such as Daily Wa­ter. As a gen­eral rule, wa­ter should be your de­fault, as op­posed to en­ergy drinks or soda.

TAKE A WALK. Move­ment lu­bri­cates joints. If your job re­quires you to sit all day or you love marathon Net­flix binges, stand up at least once an hour and streeeeeeeetch your arms high or do an ex­ag­ger­ated march around the room, bring­ing your knees way up with each step. To keep lim­ber, Lynn Mil­lar, PHD, a pro­fes­sor of phys­i­cal ther­apy at Win­ston-salem State Univer­sity in North Carolina, works from a stand­ing desk and reg­u­larly strolls around her of­fice. “My col­leagues see me roam­ing the halls ev­ery few hours,” she says.

WORK UP A SWEAT. Ex­er­cise stim­u­lates the car­ti­lage (keep­ing it strong) and builds the mus­cles around your joints so they can act as shock ab­sorbers. Shoot for 30 min­utes a day, 5 days a week, of mod­er­ate ex­er­tion such as brisk walk­ing, gar­den­ing or bik­ing. If you tend to log the same old half hour on the tread­mill day in, day out, switch up your rou­tine so that dif­fer­ent mus­cles and joints are en­gaged. “Do­ing the same mo­tion

over and over again can pre­dis­pose a joint to in­jury,” says King. Add in ses­sions that will boost your flex­i­bil­ity, such as tai chi and gen­tle yoga, or ask if your gym of­fers spe­cial stretch­ing and flex­i­bil­ity classes.

EASE INTO EX­ER­CISE. One of the most com­mon rea­sons for de­vel­op­ing arthri­tis is a pre­vi­ous in­jury. In­juries to the knee’s an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment (ACL) are more fre­quent in women than men and can greatly in­crease the chances of de­vel­op­ing knee arthri­tis. “A proper dy­namic warm-up can re­duce your chances of in­jury by al­low­ing joints to move safely and ef­fi­ciently,” says Karen Litzy, DPT, spokesper­son for the Amer­i­can Phys­i­cal Ther­apy As­so­ci­a­tion. Start with a low-in­ten­sity ver­sion of what­ever ex­er­cise you’re plan­ning. Walk for a few min­utes be­fore you run, or move through lift­ing mo­tions sev­eral times be­fore pick­ing up ac­tual weights. Also avoid “week­end war­rior” in­juries by build­ing up to longer or more in­tense lev­els of ac­tiv­ity grad­u­ally over days and weeks rather than tak­ing on that 5K with­out any train­ing.

MON­I­TOR PAIN. Some fa­tigue or mus­cle sore­ness is nor­mal af­ter a good work­out, says Hany Bedair, MD, an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon at Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in Bos­ton. But if you have pain in a joint while ex­er­cis­ing, that could be a sign of trouble. If so, give it a rest and switch to a lower-im­pact ac­tiv­ity you can do com­fort­ably (like swim­ming, bik­ing or us­ing an el­lip­ti­cal ma­chine). If pain lasts more than a few days or in­ter­feres with daily life, see a doc­tor right away. Ex­perts agree that get­ting early, ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment for mi­nor is­sues can help you avoid big­ger prob­lems down the road.

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