About 13% of women over age 60 and 10% of men over 60 suffer from osteoarthritis (OA). Although your risk for OA increases with age, you might develop it earlier, especially if you injure a joint while playing sports or in an accident.
If you’ve noticed that your spine or joints don’t move as smoothly or as painlessly as they once did, don’t shrug it off as an inevitable part of getting older.
At Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center, Jocelyn R. Idema, DO, and her team recommend lifestyle changes and treatments to save your joints and help you feel comfortable about moving again.
Osteoarthritis is often referred to as a wear-and-tear disease. Healthy young joints are protected by a tough, viscous tissue called cartilage. Cartilage covers the ends of each of the two bones that come together to make a joint.
Healthy cartilage separates the bones so they don’t rub together. It also acts as a shock absorber, helping diffuse pressure when you put stress on your joint, such as when you jump or run.
But just as the fabric wears down on the seat of your pants or at the knee if you sit or kneel frequently, your cartilage can wear away with time, too.
Repeatedly flexing and stressing your joints, or putting pressure on them because you engage in high-impact activities or are overweight, speeds up the deterioration.
You might try to mend your pants with a patch or reinforcement, but the frayed fabric can’t really be fully repaired. Neither can your cartilage. Instead, focus on reducing the factors involved in your pain and stiffness.
No matter how mild or severe your OA is, improving the health of your joints involves doing something you might not feel like doing at all: moving. Using your joints prevents them from becoming even stiffer and more swollen.
When you engage in healthy, low-impact activities — such as walking, cycling, or swimming — another type of tissue in your joints, known as the synovium, produces a lubricant.
This synovial fluid makes it easier for your joint bones to glide over one another, instead of grinding together uncomfortably. Aim for 150 minutes of healthy activity per week.
Because inflammation is one component of OA that leads to pain and swelling, Dr. Idema may alter your diet to reduce the amount of inflammation in your body. Healthy foods that are good for your joints include:
If those recommendations sound familiar to you, they should. The foods that are good for your joints are good for your entire body. They’re also part of a Mediterranean diet, which is a delicious and varied way to get the nutrients you need for strong joints, bones, and muscles.
Sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough to control the pain and swelling of OA. You may also need medications if you’re trying to lose weight but are still obese, because the extra pounds stress your joints. At Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center, we may recommend:
Once you attain a healthy weight, eat a whole-foods diet, and exercise regularly, you may find you don’t need as much medication to control your discomfort.
If you have certain forms of OA, you may also benefit from surgical intervention. Dr. Idema may recommend surgery if your spine’s unstable due to degenerative spondylolisthesis, or if your spinal canal’s narrowed (i.e., you have spinal stenosis) and is pinching your spinal nerves.
If you have OA in your vertebrae that’s making your back unstable, Dr. Idema may fuse two vertebrae together. The fusion prevents your vertebral bones from grinding against one another, decreasing pain.
Although you can’t bend your spine at the point of fusion, most patients find that their mobility isn’t decreased at all.
When you have spinal stenosis, your OA has produced bone spurs inside of your spinal canal. These spurs can then press on or irritate your spinal nerves, causing intense pain.
In a laminectomy, Dr. Idema removes the spurs, thickened ligaments, or other inflamed tissue that press against your spinal nerves.
For relief from OA, call our office nearest you — in McKees Rocks, Pittsburgh, or Washington, Pennsylvania — today. You can also use our convenient online system to request an appointment.