There are many aspects of OA people assume as facts, but they are actually only myths. Here is a list of four things you should and shouldn’t believe about OA:
- OA is a exclusive consequence of aging: Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to live with joint pain. It is a fact that age will increase your chances of getting OA, and nothing that can be done about time passing; but there is still a lot to do about other big OA risk factors, like weight. Older people are not the only ones that get OA.
- OA is not preventable: OA is not a genetic condition and can be prevented. There are some things you can do to minimize the probability of getting OA:
- Weight: obesity is a major cause of OA, the more you weight the more stress your joints have to bear. This is true most of all for the knees (1 pound increase in weight = 2,3 pound pressure on knees). Remember: “think big and start small”, loosing a little as 5 or 10 pounds will diminish your joint streets considerably.
- Fragile muscles: Increasing strength of the muscles around your knees (quadriceps) will help you prevent injuries and OA.
- Worn out joints and injuries: If you practice a high intensity sport or have a job that requires repetitive movement you have a higher possibility of getting OA, also a higher risk of getting an injury.
- If you have OA you can’t be active: many believe that having OA means not being active anymore. Actually exercise is the most effective non-drug strategy to avoid and minimize joint pain. Exercise will help you to improve range of motion, function, reduce disability and loose weight. It is important to do low impact exercises like swimming or biking.
- OA is a serious health problem: OA affects 1 in 5 adults in the US, it is the biggest cause of disability in the country and represents a huge economic burden ($ 108 in lost wages). Unfortunately many OA patients have started to accept OA, but this condition should be unacceptable.
It is never too late to start leaning more about OA to fight its causes, symptoms and consequences.
Studies have shown that people with OA are more prone to experience falls, here are some facts learnt about the relationship between falls and OA:
- Muscle weakness, impaired balance and decrease function are three of the risk factors you probably have if you suffer from OA in your lower extremities. Although OA, due to pain and stiffness makes if more difficult for you to move and stay active, exercising is basically the only way to counteract these risks factors. Aquatic work-out is one of your best options; it gives you balance, falls efficacy (the feeling of confidence that you are able to move better), better walking and functional performance.
- Adults 70 years and older with musculoskeletal pain in more than two locations have significantly more risk to suffer a fall than those with no pain (proved by a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 2009).
- Severe knee pain is correlated with a bigger risk to fall. A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found out that people with persistent knee pain have a 25% more risk to fall and almost twice the probability to fracture their hips than those without continuous pain.
- Adequate your environment to avoid falls: secure stairway banisters, get proper lighting with easy to manage controls, raise or lower your bed, install bathroom grab rails and raise toilet seat. Also, eliminate home hazards such as electrical cords, unstable furniture or loose rugs.
- After the COX-2 inhibitor rofecoxib was taken off the market (2004), for raising the probability of suffering a heart attack or stroke, people turned to the use of narcotic pain killers. These narcotics, according to a study made by scientists at NYU, are associated with the risk of falling.
By avoiding falls, your are avoiding inhibiting future conditions and more pain.
Having OA may be one reason to take extra care of your heart. Studies have shown that OA is directly related with heart disease (leading cause of death in the western world). Here are the links between the two:
a. Obesity: Excess weight puts extra stress on your heart and your joints, which can be harmful over the years. Also, fat cells produce chemicals that can be damaging for your heart, blood vessels and joints.
b. Diabetes: Studies show that having Diabetes type II increase the risk of developing OA to the level of needing a joint replacement procedure. Also, this type of Diabetes will put you on risk of having a heart attack at the same level of a person that had one already.
c. NSAID use: It is published in the British Medical Journal in (2011) that NSAIDs taken to alleviate OA pain raise the risk of having heart diseases. Some NSAIDs raise the risk of death from a heart failure up to four times more than for somebody that doesn’t take NSAIDs.
d. Lack of physical activity: Physical activity is essential to fight stiff joints and necessary to have a healthy heart.
e. Joint replacement: If your OA is so severe that your require a total joint replacement, you may be aware that having this procedure not only will help your OA, but also your heart. After the surgery you will increase your physical activity and the origin point of inflammation will be removed. Studies have proved that the risk of cardiovascular event will be reduced by 33%
Talk to your doctor about the different alternatives to keep your heart and joints working together as a team and not against each other.
At the age of 27 Kristin Armstrong was diagnosed with OA in both hips, she was already an accomplished tri-athlete. Instead of slowing down Kristin decided to turn to cycling, which is a great exercise for people suffering OA. She became Olympic medalist, the winner of the women’s individual time trial in 2008 and 2012.
Through her story she has inspired many OA patients to stay active and do the things they love. Here is a list of her tips to stay fit while maintaining healthy joints:
- Get the correct fuel: there is a undeniable connection between nutrition and joints. Keep you diet high in anti-oxidants (among them citrus fruits and leafy vegetables) and omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in salmon. This will provide your body with the right nutrients to keep your joints healthy and give you the energy needed to carry out the activities you love.
- Walk and bike: walking and biking are two of the most effective exercises to have healthy joints. This not only will help to control your weight (diminish stress on your joints), but also will help built strength in your muscles (improve shock absorption and injury prevention). A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine proved that people who lost 11 pounds reduced their risk of OA in half!
- Get extra help: For and extra boost in your joint health take glucosamine and chondroitin. These two are proved to give your joints comfort and elasticity. Kristin stopped her prescription drugs years ago and adopted a natural health plan that worked for her.
- Take one step further: become part of the OA community, participate in informative activities and support others with your experience. In www.arthritis.org you will find all the info about local/national walks and activities.
Before you design your plan of action and health regime make sure you discuss it with your doctor. Don’t stop doing the things you love and don’t let OA define your amazing life!