Keeping Your Joints Healthy at Any Age

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Our hip and knee joints do so much work for our bodies to move day in and day out. It’s no wonder after years of wear and tear that millions of Americans are affected by degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in the joint has worn down over time. Cartilage is tissue that cushions our bones as we put pressure on the joint when we walk or run. As we age, the water content of cartilage decreases, causing bones to rub against each other, leading to stiffness, pain and swelling. When osteoarthritis becomes advanced—that is, when there is little cartilage left—it can severely limit your mobility.

Are there ways to prevent osteoarthritis? And, what can you do if you already have it? Sean Yang, MD, primary care physician with Overlake Clinics in Kirkland, suggests keeping a healthy body weight, staying active as you age and paying attention to any pain you may have.

“Regular daily activity can help prevent development of osteoarthritis—it keeps your joints from getting stiff and you’re less likely to be overweight, which is one of the major risk factors for the disease,” says Dr. Yang. 

Engaging in low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, yoga, golf or cycling, puts less stress on your joints. “But do what you can within your pain limitations and stay healthy and active in other ways, such as having good nutrition, staying hydrated, controlling blood sugar and not smoking, as smoking causes inflammation, which further aggravates joints,” adds Dr. Yang.

Non-surgical treatments for osteoarthritis include medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy or cortisone injections. Severe osteoarthritis may require total joint replacement surgery.

If you are experiencing minor and infrequent pain and swelling, it’s a good idea to rest and modify your activities. If your pain persists or worsens, be sure to visit your healthcare provider for an evaluation to determine the cause of the pain and how to treat it.  

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