5 TIPS to help you avoid arthritis

The following tips were submitted by Alyssa Kuhn, a Sentara Healthcare physical therapist.

Whether brought on by genes or jumping, you can take 5 steps to reduce your risks of arthritis symptoms. The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be caused by your genetic make up, and osteoarthritis is most commonly experienced by athletes or other active individuals from wear and tear on their joints.  While it may not be possible to completely prevent arthritis, you can limit your chances of developing arthritis symptoms.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity or even extra pounds can place added stress on your joints, especially weight bearing joints like your hips and knees.  Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce this stress and slow down the wear on your joints during daily activities such as walking, or more rigorous activities such as sports participation.
  2. Vary activities. Doing the same activity again and again can lead to overuse injuries. If you enjoy participating in one sport, try varying your workout routine. By using other muscle groups, you can help avoid muscle imbalance or repetitive stress to the same joints.  A well-rounded exercise routine with variety can help to maintain strength and protect your joints.
  3. Try low impact exercises.  Sports and exercises are considered high impact when both of your feet leave the ground at the same time. These pounding type exercises put a large amount of stress on your joints. Using an elliptical machine instead of running on a treadmill may reduce the impact on your knees and hips while still providing the strength building and cardiovascular benefits of running. Other low impact exercises like swimming allow you to work your muscles without stressing your joints.
  4. Stretch often.  Tight muscles can limit range of motion during activity.  Walking or even speed walking with tight hamstrings can limit the extension of your knee, not allowing you a full and open stride. When you perform activities with limitations in your joint motion, you are more likely to place stress on your joints to compensate. Including stretching into your exercise program, will allow you a full range of motion and decrease abnormal stresses.  Stretches should be held for approximately 30seconds without bouncing and be performed multiple times a day for optimal benefit. 
  5. Work smarter, not harder. When you have experienced a joint injury, protecting that joint will lower the chances of developing arthritis later. By taking care not to injure the joint again, you may also decrease the intensity of symptoms should arthritis develop later.  For example, if you have previously sprained your ankle, wearing stilettos every day may not be your best choice.  If you have a history of knee injuries, you may want to think twice before you dunk the basketball while playing a pick up game with your friends.  While you don’t want to avoid using joints that have been previously injured, thinking of and avoiding tasks that place extreme strain on those joints may prolong their healthy function and avoid unnecessary pain.

Your joints are a valuable asset to your overall and long-term health. Taking simple and safe steps can prevent undue stress and injury so you can enjoy exercise for life.

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Is each stride straining your knees?

Learn more at seminars Tuesday, June 7, 6-7 pm, with Dr. Patrick O'Connell at Sentara Princess Anne – Building 1925, and Thursday, June 30, 6-7 pm, with Dr. Anthony Bevilacqua, Sentara Obici Hospital, Suffolk.