Living With Osteoarthritis
Thu, 05/26/2011 - 9:58am | Nancy Krepelka
Do you wake up with pain in your joints? Are you stiff after long periods of inactivity? You are not alone. Joint pain and stiffness are the most common signs of osteoarthritis, a chronic disease the affects 27 million Americans.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage – the part of a joint that cushions the ends of the bones. As the cartilage wears away, bones begin to rub against each other causing stiffness and pain. The result is joint pain that can impact your quality of life and make it difficult to move around with ease.
Osteoarthritis can occur in all joints in the body, including the spine.
Since osteoarthritis is a degenerative process, symptoms increase as your joints experience more wear and tear. Although it is most common with older individuals, it is possible to have osteoarthritis at any age.
A traumatic injury could lead to joint deterioration. Being overweight also puts more force on your joints, accelerating their degeneration.
Although there is no cure, there are various ways to control joint pain and stiffness and to allow you to preserve your quality of life despite osteoarthritis.
For pain relief, you may want to try pain gels or topical pain relievers. pain medications can help to relieve both pain and inflammation. Home treatments, such as heat and ice often are very effective.
If you have extreme joint damage, joint replacement surgery is an option, although many doctors use this option as a last resort.
If you’re looking to treat your pain without drugs, physical activity and weight loss are your best options. By exercising on a regular basis, you will strengthen your muscles and bones, increase flexibility and shed the extra pounds that are putting strain on your joints. Good ways to stay active include walking, aquatics, yoga and cycling, among others.
To stay active in a safe and healthy way, think about visiting a physical therapist. A physical therapist can develop an exercise program to help improve your flexibility, strength and range of motion. Performing an appropriate exercise program has the added benefit of pain relief.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but you do not have to live your life in pain. Educating yourself on this chronic disease and staying active are steps in the right direction. The goal is to live your life for you, not the pain.