Part 2 -- Osteoarthritis Prevention Strategies
The best medical strategy is to prevent disease. In the previous post and in this one I discuss preventive strategies for osteoarthritis. These are very effective, but obviously cannot protect against osteoarthritis completely. One can only do so much in following this advice: injuries are never completely preventable, lifestyle is seldom perfect, even for the most determined, and to some degree osteoarthritis is genetically determined. Nevertheless, following this advice will make a very substantial difference in your health in the future.
I discussed the role of weight control, diet, Vitamin D, calcium and exercise previously. Now we will discuss the following:
Posture, Diet And Avoiding Injury
Good posture is very important for the health of your spine. Osteoarthritis can damage your spine very badly and can lead to a life of pain and disability. Poor posture will often cause changes that result in accelerated osteoarthritis. Keeping your chin pulled back a bit (not to an extreme) keeps your neck in a good position and encourages you to straighten your entire spine. There are other strategies. This page from the American Physical Therapy Association will provide detailed information on posture.
There is no specific diet for osteoarthritis, but the same healthy diet that benefits your general health will also help your skeleton, muscles and joints.
The next step is to avoid injuries where possible. Injuries are major risk factors for later osteoarthritis in the joints affected directly or indirectly by the way injuries may change how you use your body.
There are some strategies that help:
- Avoid high impact aerobics, like running on tough or uneven surfaces or with poor technique. Walking briskly is just as beneficial for your health as running but much kinder to your joints. Treadmills, exercise bikes and other such equipment are usually much gentler on your joints as well.
- Repetitive strain disorders, such as occur in computer work or in jobs that require frequent bending or working on bended knees, also can cause damage. There are many sources on work ergonomics (how you physically position yourself, etc.) that can help prevent these kinds of problems.
- Proper lifting techniques and sleeping conditions help prevent spine injuries.
- Athletes who wish to push themselves to their maximum or to compete at high levels often pay a price: each injury increases the risk of osteoarthritis developing in that joint at a later age. Small injuries, some even nearly microscopic and often ignored or unrecognized, are very common and may also contribute to OA later on. Injuries and their consequences may be a price worth risking for those so inclined, but be prudent. Do not push yourself beyond your limits, listen to your body when it is complaining, warm up, stretch as indicated, cool down properly, watch your field conditions, avoid fatigue and distraction and so on.
- Attend to injuries immediately and listen to your doctor's restrictions and guidance. Professional athletes know that they must protect their most precious asset, their bodies, but so should amateurs and folks in every day activities. Joints supported by well-developed muscles are less prone to injury. Smoking, excess alcohol, and drug abuse also increase the risk of joint damage for those who survive those habits long enough to develop OA.
For those with diseases or defects present at birth or acquired later, which often predispose them to OA, there are additional strategies and they should work closely with orthopedists and physical therapists.
We will discuss glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate later because they are used so widely and hyped so much. Unfortunately, their value is questionable.
Often confused by the similarity in names, Osteoporosis (OP) is not osteoarthritis or arthritis of any kind. It means a loss of calcium from bone that predisposes to fractures. We will discuss OP, a surprisingly complicated subject, in later posts.
A few ounces of prevention can save a lot of unnecessary aches and pains.
Please feel free to post comments, suggest topics and ask questions, but I cannot respond to them directly. At times I will address a reader's question or comment within a posting. As with all such sites as this, it is not intended to give individual advice, to advise on your treatment or to substitute for your own doctors. It is intended to give you some insight and background that I hope will help you understand the disease better.