Aging and Osteoarthritis
One of the many problems that worsen as we age is the function of our joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and afflicts an estimated 27 million Americans. It is more common than rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition of our joints where the normal cartilage that serves as a lubricated sliding surface begins to wear out. As the cartilage thins, becomes less lubricated and deteriorates, then the bone surfaces that the cartilage shield begin to rub. The result is that there is less mobility and function in the joint. If allowed to persist the condition can cause disability. Weight bearing joints are affected like the knee, hip, neck and lower spine, but hands also are commonly involved in this process that is associated with age.
People who are older (80 percent of the over-65-year-old population have radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis) are likely to have some early to severe osteoarthritis. Women are more likely than men to have it although one of the major contributors to this is injury that occurs in athletics, like football. Obesity is also associated with osteoarthritis. Finally, occupations that require repetitive weight pressure on joints or motions of the hand are known to contribute to osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
The usual symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain on movement, tenderness, stiffness, loss of flexibility, locking, grating sensation and more rarely swelling. The symptoms and the history of them are usually diagnostic, but x-rays are a definitive way for the diagnosis to be made.
Exercises for Osteoarthritis
As with many diseases, regular exercise is useful in preventing or controlling the symptoms of osteoarthritis. The goals in regular exercise in patients with osteoarthritis are to maintain muscle function that can protect the joints, preserve joint mobility and range of motion by moving it appropriately, improve sleep, attain and maintain a healthy weight. The types of exercise for osteoarthritis are flexibility and stretching, strengthening with weight lifting or other aids, and endurance that do not stress joints like swimming or bide riding. These exercises can be prescribed by a physician or physical therapist.
Because osteoarthritis can be debilitating and it is common as we age, it is important to prevent the progression with exercise. If this is unsuccessful, then it is time to consider some medications and possibly surgery. Naturally, this is done after consultation with your physician. By paying attention to your joint aches and pains it is possible to extend their use for your entire life!
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For more information consult MUSC Med-U-Nurse or your physician.