Painful and inflamed osteo-arthritic joints affect millions of Americans every day. Millions fight a daily, uphill battle to reduce their pain associated with arthritic and degenerative joints.
While the symptoms of arthritis may come on quickly, it is important to realize that the process has been going on for years.
Arthritis is degenerative in nature. Arthritis is the slow wearing down and breaking down of a joint over time, usually years. Arthritis will usually form in an area of the body where there was a trauma in the past. If someone was in a car accident and had whiplash along with pain in their neck and shoulders, they will be susceptible to arthritis in their neck and shoulders later on in life. If this person works in front of the computer then the chances will be even greater that that person will develop arthritis in their neck and shoulders. They will probably also have pain and irritation, on and off, in their neck and shoulders in the years leading up to the formation of the arthritis. However, sometimes I have seen people who claim to have no pain or irritation leading up to the onset of the arthritic symptoms.
Arthritis will form over years. If a muscle is injured and the person suffers from whiplash, the neck and shoulder muscles will be injured and torn on a microscopic level. The muscles will be sprained or strained. This will cause them to fall into a neurological pathway of spasm and inflammation. This pathway can stick around for years. This pathway can cause the muscles to fall back into these patterns of spasm and inflammation on and off over the years. Especially if the person does something for a living, or something repetitive, that involves the previously injured muscles, the repetitive use of these previously injured muscles will cause the muscles to be chronically inflamed and irritated and therefore much more susceptible to re-injury over the years.
When a muscle or muscle group is re-injured over the years and chronically inflamed and irritated, it will be tight, spasmed, and inflamed. It will pull on the joint it is attached to and cause it to move a little differently than it was designed to. This imbalance will slowly cause other muscles to have to compensate for this lack of balance. This compensation will slowly cause the other muscles to get irritated over time, until the compensating muscles become so tight that they get pulled, or sprained/ strained, and then they become spasmed and inflamed.
When tight muscles are irritated and pulling on a joint, they will cause the joint to wear down differently than it was designed to. This will cause the joint to wear down quicker than it would otherwise. Ostseo-arthritis is a degenerative process. It is the slow degeneration of a joint. Tight, spasmed and inflamed muscles will contribute to the degeneration of, or the breaking down of, a joint, speeding this process along.
High impact activities and sports will also cause joints to break down faster and bring on arthritis quicker than it would otherwise. Activities like running and jogging, step aerobics, tennis, football, wrestling, grappling, martial arts, lacrosse, cheerleading, gymnastics are all high impact activities that will bring on arthritis early in life.
I can’t tell you how many people I see who are only in their 30’s and have participated in one of those activities when they were younger. Most of them will already have lots more joint pain than someone who didn’t participate in one of those sports. Many of the people who did those sports when younger will come to my office with some type of pain that they remember getting for the first time when they were younger and had an injury while playing that sport. Since then that pain has come back on and off throughout the years.
This is how arthritis is formed throughout the years. In an area of previous injury. In an area that is overused in daily life presently. It commonly happens.
Many times the symptoms on an x-ray or MRI won’t correlate to the physical symptoms. Someone with severe shoulder pain can have an MRI and it can show very mild osteo-arthritis. Then someone with mild shoulder pain can have an MRI and it can show severe osteo-arthritis. Sometimes the symptoms just don’t correlate to the findings on the MRI.
Once you have arthritis, it is not as important how you formed it. It is more important how you treat it. Arthritis is a progressive, degenerative disease. Once you have it you cannot get rid of it. But there are things you can do to slow the progression of the arthritis and also steps you can take to actually even reduce the symptoms and pain associated with the arthritic and degenerative joint.
Once you have arthritis it is very important to stay away from high impact activities like running and aerobics. Exercise will be essential to stabilizing these irritated joints. The stronger the muscles are that surround the arthritic joint, the more stable that joint will be, and the more use you will get out of that joint. You just want to make sure to do low impact exercises.
If you want to control the symptoms, pain, and loss of motion that accompanies osteo-arthritis, exercise and stretching is the best option. If you want to prevent, or put off, a joint replacement, exercise and stretching is the best option.
The stronger and more flexible the muscles that attach to a joint are, the more stable and useful that joint will be. The joint will cause less pain and wear down more slowly than it would otherwise. Exercise and stretching will give you the best chance of avoiding the pitfalls of surgery after surgery.
Stretching will help to prevent muscles from getting tighter and causing the loss of range of motion that accompanies aging and osteo-arthritis. Stretching on a regular basis will prevent what I call our daily accumulation of tightness that we all get from our repetitive motions. We all have our repetitive motions that slowly cause muscles to tighten up over time. This tightness in the muscles accumulates over time until the muscles become so tight that they tear on a microscopic level and become sprained and fall into a pattern of spasm and inflammation that can last months to years.
Exercise and stretching won’t get rid of arthritis, and won’t make it pain free. But it will prevent the arthritis from getting worse. Exercise and stretching will make it hurt a little less. Exercise and stretching will maintain range of motion, strength, and balance as you age. Loss of these can be prevented as you age. You can slow down the deterioration of your range of motion, balance, and strength.
Eating right will also help to decrease some of the pain associated with arthritis. Eating processed foods, foods high in saturated fats, and artificial sweeteners cause an increase in inflammation throughout your body. If you have arthritis then the muscles surrounding the irritated joints will be inflamed. Eating badly is like adding fuel to a fire. It will not create an injury, but eating badly will make an injury worse.
You can prevent, or slow down the progression of, osteo-arthritis. It is possible to decrease your arthritic joint pain. Controlling arthritic symptoms through eating right and exercise is the Pain Free Way.