Did you know that as the population ages and becomes more obese, doctors and health researchers believe that occurrences of Osteoarthritis will spiral in the USA, like an epidemic? If you’d like to find out more about this disease, how people deal with it and why it’s becoming a hot topic in health care, read on.
First I’ll answer the question: what is Osteoarthritis? (OA)
OA is a degenerative disease caused by ‘wear-and-tear’ on joints. It’s a form of arthritis that typically affects the knee, but can be found elsewhere too (sometimes in the hips and the hands.) Typically, those with Osteoarthritis will find their joints are inflamed, that cartilage is damaged and that they have tiny bony growths at the end of their joints. Sadly, OA can be pretty horrible to live with, resulting in terrible pain, stiffness and a loss of mobility.
Who is typically affected by OA?
Health researchers have noticed that two groups of people are more likely to get OA: those who are overweight and those with a family history of the disease.
In addition, it’s thought that lifestyle is to blame for the increase in diagnoses; specifically, the older generation’s lifestyle as youngsters. Adults in the Baby Boomer age group were typically highly active when younger, playing competitive sports, running around and enjoying fresh air – probably more so than the current generation, who play a lot more computer games and watch TV. Sports-related injuries from high school and college games are likely to develop into OA as the baby boomers enter their 50s and 60s.
According to the book Stop Osteoarthritis Now: Halting the Baby Boomers’ Disease, researchers believe that as the US population grows older and more obese, a whopping four out of five of the 80 million aging baby boomers will receive an OA diagnosis in the next five years. The author calls this disease an epidemic and labels OA as the “baby boomer’s disease.”
In the UK the problem is regarded in a similar light; a leading expert has claimed that Britain is in for a “tsunami of pain” as diagnoses of OA are set to DOUBLE to over 17 million by 2030.
How to protect your joints:
You’re probably wondering if anything can be done to protect your joints now to ensure you’re OK in the future.. The good news is YES, you CAN take preventative measures, whatever your age. You can start now. The best way to prevent OA is to lose some weight (if your BMI is above normal, of course.). This will take the strain off your knees, hips and ankles now, therefore helping you in the future.
Keep your joints flexible by partaking in gentle exercise, that means putting a bicycle on your Christmas list, or adopting a dog from the pound and walking him regularly. Gently build up exercise (work further, cycle faster, start jogging) as this will strengthen your muscles and keep your tendons limber.
Already have OA, or looking for some more tips?
Here are some natural ways you can try and fight the onset of symptoms:
Light exercise: If you want to start exercising, but you don’t know where to begin, speak to your doctor or physiotherapist. If you feel you ‘can’t exercise’, I challenge you to leave the house and walk a short distance, just as much as you can manage. Do the same tomorrow, and for the next five days after that. Next week, push yourself to walk just that little bit further – to a lamp post or shop further down the street and so on. Before you know it, within a matter of months, you’ll be able to walk the entire neighborhood. For those who are otherwise fit and healthy, the Couch-2-5K program is a good starting point for want-to-be runners. Alternatively, join a gym and start taking classes.
Weight Loss: Eat healthier and you’ll lose a couple of pounds without really trying. Every bit of weight loss helps to ease pressure on your joints. You can loose a few lbs without trying, just by making a few simple lifestyle changes. This Weightwatchers article gives beginners’ tips that are easy to try.
Go for a massage: Did you know that some OA sufferers find regular massages help to ease their aches and pains? It makes sense too: massage aids circulation, which should increase flexibility and reduce stiffness.
Hot Water Bottles: Hot water bottles a quick and effective way to alleviate pain. Simply fill up a bottle with warm (not boiling) water and apply to the affected area. A cheap option too!
Take supplements: A number of people take Glucosamine supplements, believing they ease osteoarthritis symptoms and the science stacks up. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates glucosamine supplements as “Likely Effective” for its use in sufferers with OA of the knee, and some medical research supports this. Supplements can be purchased at most health food stores, drugstores/pharmacies and can be online from reputable shops.
REMEMBER: do not take a new supplement or partake in any extra exercise without discussing it with a pharmacist, GP or other health professional first..
Do not self diagnose: visit a doctor and get a diagnosis of osteoarthritis to ensure you get the treatment you need, and to be certain that you do not have no other underlying health problems with similar symptoms.
About the Author: Carly is a writer located in the UK. She enjoys walking her two dogs and cannot recommend Zumba enough! Carly is also training to run her first 5K race.
Osteoarthritis scan: From WikiMedia Commons, credit to Scuba-Limp.
Download from here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gonarthrose-Knorpelaufbrauch.jpg
Light exercise (with a focus on knee) From Morgue File: Public Domain. No attribution required. Can download from here: http://cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/a/aleks/preview/fldr_2008_11_08/file000525977813.jpg