With aging often comes the cricks of arthritis in your joints. Ages 45 to 63 is generally when arthritis begins showing up. Factors that play into osteoarthritis are excessive weight, muscle weakness, repetitive movements, joint injury and family history.
“We don’t have anything to prevent the disease or the progression of this disease over time, but exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are the best chance to reduce your risk factors,” says Dr. Najia Shakoor, a rheumatologist and researcher at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Controlling your diet and exercising regularly will keep your weight down plus exercise provides movement, which is key. Lifting weights or working with a personal trainer will help you get stronger if your muscles are weak – which can add more stress to the joints.
Look out for repetitive stress. If you’re a constant texter (repetitive movements) you’re setting yourself up for thumb arthritis. Continually looking down at your phone or laptop causes stress in the neck, which can predispose you to neck arthritis. Repetitive movements, such as running on pavement, exposes the knees and hips to degradation of cartilage. Whether it’s small or large movements be mindful of overuse – it adds stress to your joints and with time wears on the cartilage.
“Anybody over the age of 40 probably has some osteoarthritis, though it may not yet be causing symptoms,” says Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, a rheumatologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Most of what we see is low back and neck pain. We see a lot of hip and knee pain as well. Hands, shoulders and toes can also become arthritic.”
It’s important to keep your bones moving so the joints stay lubricated. Stretching in the morning from head to toe can help work off the morning stiffness. Start by turning the head to look over your shoulder, then rotate the head in circles, in both directions. Work your way down – shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers, moving the joints in circles, back and forth or whatever feels good. Next move and stretch your spine, hips, knees, ankles and toes. This should only take ~15 minutes to get the synovial fluid flowing. If you don’t have time to do your whole body, just move the joints that hurt or are stiff.
Also if you’ve got a job that requires sitting in front of the computer for long hours, you want to be sure and add stretch breaks to your day. No matter what you do everyday it’s important to add in joint movement and stretching a minimum of 1 time per day. Lubricate your joints. Whether its just stretches you do on your own, yoga or Pilates class or working out at the gym, when you’re moving, stretching or exercising your helping to keep your joints healthy and arthritis pain down. Next month I’ll cover 4 ways to soothe arthritis pain. Until then remember to keep on moving!