Dealing With Arthritis
The University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging recently showed that 60% of adults between 50 and 80 years of age had been told by their family doctors that they had arthritis. Although this is a wide age range, there was similarity in the amount of pain that these adults felt; 31% rated their pain mild, 31% rated the pain moderate, 8% rated it severe, and 30% felt no pain at all.
Of the people who felt pain from their arthritis, 66% took some kind of medication, usually over the counter anti-inflammatories. Interestingly, even more (87%) of these people reported using non-pharmacological means such as exercise, massage, acupuncture or a physical therapy. Most people using one of these therapies found it managed their pain effectively.
Nearly 3/4 of these people believed arthritis was a normal part of aging. However, experts in the fields of aging and of exercise disagree with the idea that arthritis is “part of getting older.” We all know people who are well into their senior years who are very active and don’t complain about joint pain. Perhaps, this is because they have managed to keep the muscles supporting the joints strong to avoid any long-term damage due to improper joint movement. Other factors that increase the likelihood of arthritis are chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes - all of which can be managed with pharmacological prescriptions or life-style modifications.
Do you need an X-ray to diagnose arthritis? Not necessarily. Through understanding your symptoms and assessing the mobility and pain potential in the joint, arthritis can be assumed. As mentioned earlier, nearly 1/3 of people who have arthritis on X-ray don’t feel pain, so the X-ray doesn’t help with diagnosis. In the early phase of arthritis, simply stretching and strengthening the joint can give good results. If there is treatment for an extended period and the pain is not getting better or begins to get worse, an X-ray can be useful to identify how advanced the arthritis is and if it is time to take further steps. More advanced arthritis may require Injections of steroid or possibly surgery can be helpful, but that really is for late stages of arthritis.
Can you avoid arthritis? Perhaps not. But you can try to limit it as much as possible. If you have been injured, getting treatment at recovering from the pain and also rehabilitating the joint so it can be well supported is very important. Whether you have been injured or not, exercise is a major factor in controlling our weight and giving our bodies adequate strength to support our joints from excessive wear. Low impact exercises like cycling, rowing or using an elliptical machine reduce the wear and tear compared to the pounding of other exercises. Strengthening the gluteal, hamstring (back of thigh) and quadriceps (front of thigh) muscles are important for achieving and maintaining the necessary strength.
Developing arthritis is not A GIVEN as we age, so using exercise to keep your joints lubricated and your muscles strong is a good long term investment in your health.
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