Physician's Rx: Keep Moving

It may seem counter-intuitive, but moderate exercise is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis.

Growing old is a blessing and a curse: a blessing for the wisdom that comes with age, and a curse for the aches and pains that result from years of living. Osteoarthritis or OA is one of over a hundred degenerative joint conditions that affect nearly forty-six million adults in America alone.

Video: Laser Therapy for Hand Pain Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Known as the "wear and tear" type of arthritis, it's a common effect of aging: a breakdown of the joint's cartilage that causes stiffness and loss of mobility. According to the Arthritis Foundation, osteoarthritis dates back to prehistoric times, and affects about twenty-seven million Americans.

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The importance of a healthy lifestyle

Although there is no known cure, older adults at risk for developing osteoarthritis can minimize its impact by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A proper diet is key, since obesity significantly increases the risk for developing OA. Each pound of weight gain adds three pounds of pressure on the knees and six to the hips.

Since muscle weakness also contributes to the development of the OA, strength training can not only reduce one's risk, but lessen the severity of its onset. Water-based programs such as deep water running and water aerobics allow the body to go through a full range of motion with no impact.

Pilates and yoga are two low-impact activities that promote flexibility and strengthen the muscles at the same time. Walking is also an excellent choice: it requires no special equipment except for supportive shoes, and strengthens the thigh muscles to protect the knees.

Overuse of specific joints, especially the hands, contributes to the development of osteoarthritis. People with jobs that require repetitive movement should consult physical or occupational therapists to learn ways to reduce job-related stress. Exercises that strengthen and increase mobility in these joints reduce the likelihood that they will become arthritic.

Pay attention to pain signals.

While exercise reduces the risk of developing arthritis, it can also increase inflammation in affected joints. Pain is the body's way of sending a signal, to prevent a person from self-afflicted harm. This doesn't mean don't exercise, but pay attention to inflammation and pain.

Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and NSAIDS reduce inflammation, as do certain prescription drugs. But all medications carry risks and side effects, so be sure to consult a physician about any and all drug treatments.

Alternative treatments

Traditional medicine is one of several options for reducing arthritis-related pain. In our office, we can perform manipulations of joints to reduce the severity of symptoms. Since it's important to know the extent to which arthritis has affected the joints, I may prescribe X-rays or a MRI prior to beginning treatment.

In addition, we'll recommend certain stretching and strengthening exercises to stabilize the joints, and restore as close-to-normal function as possible.

Studies show that glucosamine, an amino-sugar, can help to repair cartilage and slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Taking certain vitamins, including C, D and E, may help as well. Consult a physician or pharmacist about possible interactions between any vitamins, supplements, and prescription medications you are taking.

Moderation is the key

Joints exist to allow the body to move. The body likes to be in motion: that's why people who exercise routinely tend to feel healthier. But too much of a good thing can be damaging, especially for people suffering from arthritis.

Sun Lakes has several facilities and excellent fitness instructors who can recommend the proper types of exercise, and set up a schedule for safe, fun, physical activity. While the rest of the country is hunkering down for winter, Phoenicians can look forward to many months of mild temperatures and sunshine. Take advantage of the perfect weather and get moving. Your body will thank you for it.

For additional information on osteoarthritis, log onto the Arthritis Foundation web site: Information on chiropractic treatment for arthritis is available on our web site:

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