It seems that we are in the throes of an osteoarthritis epidemic. It used to be that we would see people in their 60’s and 70’s starting to get osteoarthritis. Now we are seeing it at age 40 and 50 and even younger. Is it because we are more active and thus stressing our joints more? Quite the opposite. Our waistlines are expanding, and being overweight or obese is far and away the biggest risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions joints breaks down. Without that protection, bone rubs against bone, which causes pain and stiffness. It happens most frequently in the knees, but can also affect the hips, fingers, neck and toes. Studies have been done on athletes that are running or doing weight bearing exercises and it has been found that these people do not have any greater risk of developing osteoarthritis than non runners. If people could control their body weight adequately, we could reduce the prevalence of osteoarthritis by 40% to 50%. There is a tendency to fight the symptoms of osteoarthritis with drugs, but more and more physicians are now advocating lifestyle changes. It’s incredibly important to try to reduce your weight. As you start to take those extra pounds off, it reduces the load on the joints and you will have a decrease in inflammation. A modest loss of just 5% of body weight will improve your walking, reduce your pain and raise your quality of life. This would equate to a 200 pound man losing 10 pounds, or a 150 pound woman losing 7.5 pounds. Also strengthening the muscles around the joints can help decrease the pain. Yoga, cycling, swimming, walking and even Tia Chi are just a few ways to exercise yet taking it easy on your joints. Exercise is a matter of life or death for cartilage cells. Cartilage is a tissue with living cells but no blood supply, so it has problems getting oxygen into its cells and waste products out. The solution is to move the joint. Without exercise the cells die. So here we are yet again, preaching the same story. You want to feel better about yourself both mentally and physically? Honor your body: eat smart and exercise wisely.
Dr. Liz Smith D.C., FIAMA
Smith Family Chiropractic & Acupuncture