Joints are parts of the body where bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues come together, allowing you to move and absorb shock. And just like the rest of your body, the joints degrade over time from continual use.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common of the 100+ forms of arthritis. OA occurs when wear-and-tear in the joint space destroys the cartilage that protects bones from rubbing against each other. With the cartilage gone, the bones grate together, causing pain and inflammation, limited range of motion, and the development of bone spurs. According to the CDC, OA affects over 32.5 million US adults.
At Santa Cruz Osteopathic, osteopathic physician Richard Bernstein, DO, offers a number of nonsurgical treatments to help your aching joints and get you back to living your life. If your joints are holding you back, here’s what you need to know.
Risk factors for OA
A number of risk factors make it more likely you’ll develop some degree of OA in at least some of your joints, including:
- Joint injury or overuse: includes bending, jumping and landing, and repetitive stress on a joint
- Aging: your risk increases with age
- Gender: women are more likely to develop OA than men, especially after age 50 (menopause decreases estrogen levels, leading to bone thinning)
- Obesity: the extra weight stresses joints, especially weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees; it may also have metabolic effects
- Genetics: people whose family members have OA are more likely to develop it; those with hand OA are more likely to develop knee OA
There’s nothing you can do about genetics, but you can change how you play sports (i.e., wearing protective gear) or otherwise stress your joints, especially in your lower limbs and spine.
Treating your aching joints
There’s no cure for any form of arthritis, but at Santa Cruz Osteopathic, you can find therapies to help relieve the pain and restore the range of motion in the affected joints.
Osteopathic manual manipulation (OMM) is one of the core treatments Dr. Bernstein uses to help manage your condition. As a hands-on approach, he precisely manipulates your joints to improve your range of motion, strength, and flexibility. He may accompany that with exercises to stretch your muscles, mild pressure, and resistance exercises, creating a more holistic form of healing.
And if your damaged joint is in your spine, the doctor uses spinal decompression therapy to relieve pressure on nerves impinged by those joints.
Helping the doctor help you
The CDC indicates five areas on which you should focus to help with arthritis symptoms:
1. Learn new self-management skills
Learning strategies to better manage your arthritis and overall health can help you:
- Feel more in control of your health
- Reduce pain and other symptoms
- Plan and carry out everyday activities, like working or spending time with family
- Reduce stress
- Improve your mood
- Communicate better with your health care provider(s) about your care
The CDC runs self-management education programs to improve the quality of life of people with arthritis.
2. Be active
Staying physically active can reduce pain and improve function, mood, and overall quality of life for adults with arthritis. It also contributes to improved sleep and supports bone health, brain health, and weight control while reducing your risk of developing other chronic diseases. You should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. Talk with your doctor before you start any new regimen to ensure it’s safe for you.
3. Talk to your doctor about symptoms
Discuss your joint pain and other arthritis symptoms with your doctor. The earlier you can get an accurate diagnosis, the earlier you can start treatment and hopefully prevent the disease from worsening.
4. Manage your weight
Finding and maintaining a healthy weight is particularly important for people with arthritis. Too much weight stresses the joints, especially the hips and knees. If you’re overweight, even losing 10-12 pounds can reduce your arthritis pain and improve physical function.
5. Protect your joints
Injuries can cause or worsen arthritis symptoms. Exercising by walking, bicycling, and swimming are good choices, as they’re low-impact and have a low risk of injury.
If you’re into high-speed or contact sports, you can protect your joints by wearing protective equipment; in the car, wear a seatbelt.
If your joints are aching and OTC anti-inflammatories aren’t enough to give you relief, it’s time to come into Santa Cruz Osteopathic for an evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. To start, give the office a call at 831-464-1605 or book online with us today.