According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 50 million people are affected with osteo-arthritis.
Osteo-arthritis (OA) is a painful and limiting joint disease. It is progressive and gets worse over time. If not managed, then the affected joint will further degenerate as time goes on. OA is the breaking down, or degeneration, of a joint. This can happen from wear and tear, from repetitive motions, from trauma or injury. All of these things will cause OA in the long term. Once you have OA, these issues will cause the OA to progress faster than it would otherwise.
There are many things that you can do to maintain healthy, pain and OA free joints. OA, pain and loss of motion is not an inevitability. If you don’t have OA you can prevent it. If you are already afflicted by OA, then there is a lot you can do to manage the joint and prevent the arthritis from progressing to the point of not being able to use the joint and having to get a joint replacement.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 2 people will get symptomatic, or painful, knee arthritis in their lifetime. With the large, aging baby boomer population, the increased life expectancy of US citizens, and the obesity epidemic, the rising prevalence of OA is expected to weigh more heavily on our already taxed health care system.
A recent study from the CDC estimated that the lifetime risk of developing painful knee OA is 45%. If you have a previous knee injury the risk jumps to 57%. Obesity also increases the risk for knee OA. It was found that 2 in 3 obese people have knee OA.
This can be compounded by the fact that many people who have painful OA are not proactive. This is thought to be because they have the misconception that OA is an inevitable part of aging and that the aches and pains that accompany it are not avoidable.
Once you have OA, you cannot get rid of it. But there are many things that you can do to slow down the progression of it, decrease the pain and achiness that accompanies the OA, and increase your activity. You don’t have to let pain and OA limit your activities, you just have to go about managing the effects of OA intelligently. If you have painful OA and try to go for a run, do step aerobics or high impact aerobics, or lift heavy weights, you will make your symptoms, and pain, worse. High impact exercising will cause the OA to progress quicker. Much quicker than if you were to do low impact exercises that stress maintaining range of motion.
Motion is lotion. Use it or lose it. By far, the best way to manage osteo-arthritis, is to move. Even though the movement may hurt, it is imperative that you keep yourself moving. Numerous studies prove that mild to moderate exercise helps to control arthritic symptoms, reduces pain, and slows down the progression of the arthritis.
Movement will move around the synovial fluid inside a joint, which helps to bring nutrients to the cartilage and bone and helps minor injuries and irritations heal quicker. Movement will maintain range of motion. If you keep yourself moving, it will prevent joints from getting stiffer and stiffer. Eventually if the stiffness and arthritis progresses enough, you can permanently lose range of motion. You have seen older relatives who cannot bend over to pick something off of the ground, or who can’t get out of a chair without pain, or who can’t turn their neck to look at you while talking. Most of this can be prevented by mild and consistent exercise.
If you keep a joint going through its normal range of motion, you will not lose that range of motion. Stretching, cardio-vascular exercise and weight training can all play a role in maintaining that range of motion. Weight lifting, or other strength training exercises can also play a vital role in stabilizing an arthritic joint. The stronger the surrounding musculature of a joint is, the more stabile that joint will be. And if that joint is arthritic, the more you will be able to use that joint.
I’m not talking about spending 5 days a week for 2 hours at a time pumping heavy iron in a gym. All it takes is 30 minutes 2 to 3 times a week. The Pain Free Lifestyle I developed is designed to be done at home (it can also be done in a gym). It is designed to hit the major muscle groups that will stabilize the joints that most commonly become arthritic. Weight lifting will work for you, even if you are 70 years old and riddled with arthritis. You just have to be consistent with the exercise, do the right muscle groups in a balanced fashion, and not go hard.
Losing weight will also take stress off of your arthritic and painful joints, making them less painful. If you exercise consistently, you will lose weight. You may not lose much, but you will lose some. Even if you don’t lose any weight, exercise will keep you healthy and keep you feeling good. Exercise will change your body so that even if you are overweight, you will be metabolically healthy. Meaning that you won’t be susceptible to the health issues associated with being overweight such as: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure. Exercise will also keep you feeling better because your joints will be more stabile. Your body won’t be as taxed when performing normal daily activities such as walking up and down the stairs, getting into and out of the car, and other activities that you take for granted if you can do them. If you can’t do them without pain, then you will not take these activities for granted.
Watching what you eat will also positively or negatively affect your arthritis and therefore your pain level. Osteo-arthritis is not inflammatory in nature. But it does cause inflammatory reactions and compensation in the musculature surrounding the affected joint. Eating a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fats, low in processed foods, and high in whole grains will decrease overall inflammation in your body.
Most people suffer from chronic, low grade inflammation throughout their bodies. This inflammation comes from eating bad foods, not exercising, being stressed out, drinking a lot of alcohol, etc. This low grade inflammation will not create a problem, but it will irritate most problems throughout your body.
Any type of arthritis will affect and irritate the muscles surrounding the affected joint. The surrounding muscles will have to compensate for the affected and painful joint and cause you to move differently than you were designed to. This causes undo stress to be put upon the muscles. It causes the muscles to work differently then they were designed to. Eventually this causes the muscles to get tight and irritated, and eventually causes them to become spasmed and inflamed. A bad diet will further inflame these muscles and therefore increase the pain that you feel on a daily basis.
Eating a healthy diet can decrease the inflammation present throughout so many of our bodies, and help to decrease and control pain levels. It will not cure arthritic pain that has been around for many years. But it will take the edge off of the pain. Going from severe pain that would be rated 8/10 on a scale where 10 is the worst pain you have ever felt, a healthy diet can knock the pain level down to 6/10 if not more.
A healthy diet is just one component of feeling good, reducing pain, and increasing activity levels. Just as low impact exercise is just one component to feeling better, reducing pain and increasing activity. I believe that exercise will affect you more than a healthy diet will. But both of them are essential to controlling pain levels and preventing the progression of arthritis.
In the soon to be released Pain Free Lifestyle program, I list out step by step how to ease your way into an exercise routine that you can do consistently and will be sustainable. I also list step by step how to slowly incorporate healthy eating into your life as well.
Controlling pain and arthritic symptoms without relying on medications is a great thing. Controlling pain and arthritic symptoms through healthy eating and low impact exercise is the Pain Free Way.