My Aching Back! And
Knees! And Hips! And ...
many baby boomers starting to limp toward their golden years, the
nation is teetering on the verge of an arthritis epidemic.
A growing number
of middle-age Americans are suffering from an assortment of aches
and pains, but most have no idea they could be warning signs of
this potentially crippling disease.
A recent survey
by the Arthritis Foundation found that 67 percent of respondents
were at risk for arthritis, but 52 percent didn't know it. And more
than half (51 percent) said they had no plans to see their doctor
about the health of their joints.
53 percent were showing some symptoms of arthritis, yet many weren't
aware of the significance.
each decade there is an increasing prevalence of osteoarthritis,
and we expect as our U.S. population ages, osteoarthritis will become
a major medical diagnosis to manage," says Dr. Elaine Tozman,
associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami School
actually an umbrella term that refers to more than 100 different
conditions, ranging from lupus to carpal tunnel syndrome. About
43 million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis, making
it the nation's leading cause of disability.
As the population
ages, the Arthritis Foundation estimates that arthritis will affect
1-in-5 Americans, or almost 60 million people, by 2020.
an often painful condition in which the cushioning cartilage between
bones wears away, is by far the most common form, accounting for
about 30 million cases of the disease, according to the American
Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
people start to develop osteoarthritis in their late 40s. By the
time they're in their 80s, the vast majority of individuals suffer
from the disease.
Not all people
are equally affected by the disease -- some barely know they have
it, while others are severely incapacitated. Yet, everyone can benefit
from prevention and treatment methods.
To help prevent
osteoarthritis, the Arthritis Foundation offers these suggestions:
- Lose weight.
Every extra pound you gain puts four times the stress on your
knees. A loss of 11 pounds may cut your risk of osteoarthritis
of the knee by as much as 50 percent.
- Build stronger
bones by increasing your calcium intake. Not only can this lower
your risk of osteoarthritis, but also osteoporosis. In addition
to milk, try incorporating yogurt, broccoli, kale, figs, salmon
and calcium supplements into your diet.
- Bulk up with
strength training. Lifting weights creates denser bones and builds
stronger muscles that help stabilize and protect joints.
- Ease into
an exercise program. "Don't expect to become Jane Fonda overnight.
And the athletic pursuits can actually cause trauma and sometimes
injury to the joint," Tozman says. "Particularly for
the baby boomer population, a supervised program would be ideal
to try and prevent excess injury, damage or stresses on joints,
which can contribute to arthritis."
As with all
serious medical conditions, early diagnosis and treatment is the
best way to combat osteoarthritis.
If you notice
a pain in your knee, hip, lower back, neck or the small joints at
the ends of the fingers that lasts for more than a week in any given
month, see your physician.
really important to see a doctor early on to distinguish osteoarthritis
from some other form of arthritis, because the treatment is different,"
says Dr. John Klippel, medical director of the Arthritis Foundation.
thing is you want to start a program before there's actually damage
to the joint. Over time in many forms of arthritis, there is loss
of cartilage or there's damage in the bone. And for all practical
purposes, that's irreversible once it happens. What you want to
do is begin a plan of treatment," Klippel says, adding that
treatments vary depending on the individual.
also talk to your physician about medications, Tozman advises.
and anti-inflammatory medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (aspirin, Motrin) can help combat pain and ease movement.
Prescription anti-inflammatory drugs such as Vioxx and Celebrex
are also widely used.
like injections of corticosteroids into the joints may help some
patients. And hyaluronic acid injections may stave off the need
for knee replacement surgery, Tozman says.
can also make it easier to be active, which is key in any arthritis
suggestions to help keep osteoarthritis from limiting your life:
- Play in a
pool. Water therapy can help maintain muscle strength and range
of motion, as can physical or occupational therapy.
- Talk to your
doctor about nutritional supplements. The most promising appear
to be glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate. "There's good reason
to suspect that dietary supplements like glucosamine or chondroitin
not only relieve symptoms but may actually protect against damage,"
Klippel says. "I don't know that that's been definitely proven
to everyone's satisfaction, but there are enough studies to suspect
that that's correct."
- Surgery is
a last resort. Yet for people with major disabilities or limitations,
joint surgery is a "godsend," Klippel says.
Foundation has a free booklet, "51 Ways To Be Good To Your
Joints," which includes a joint-health quiz. To get a copy,
To take the
For more information
on exercise for older adults, visit the
Senior Health site at the National Institutes of Health.
Reference Source 101