7 Tips To Care For Your Joints At Home
Just as the tread on your tires wears away over time, the cartilage that
cushions your joints can wear away, too, in a condition known as
osteoarthritis. And without enough cushioning, the bones of a joint will
hurt when they rub against each other.
Frayed cartilage can't heal or grow back. "There's no way to reverse the
arthritis once it has started," says Michaela M. Schneiderbauer, MD, an
orthopedic surgeon at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
But there are ways to reduce the pain and protect the cartilage you
still have. Use these tips to slow the damage.
1. Slim down if you're overweight. Shedding
pounds takes stress off weight-bearing joints like the knee and hip.
Every pound you lose takes 4 pounds of pressure off the knee. That could
reduce the wear and tear in the joint, Schneiderbauer says. "You may
actually slow the progress of arthritis if you lose a significant amount
What's 'significant'? "Every 10 pounds you lose will reduce pain by
20%," says Charles Bush-Joseph, MD, of Rush University Medical Center.
2. Do aerobic exercise. Arthritis
pain may make you reluctant to exercise. But research shows that being
inactive makes the pain and stiffness worse. Regular aerobic exercise
boosts blood flow, which keeps cartilage well nourished. It can also
help you reach a healthy weight.
"Stay as active as you can tolerate," Schneiderbauer says. "But avoid
high-impact activities, like jumping and running." Better choices
include walking, cycling, and swimming. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic
exercise at least 5 days a week. Be sure to check with your doctor
before you start.
3. Build strength. Strong
muscles can absorb some of the shock that normally goes through a joint
during everyday activities, Bush-Joseph says. "A strong muscle will
prevent a limb from slapping down on the pavement and jarring the
Focus on building up the muscles surrounding an arthritic joint. To
improve symptoms in the knee, for example, strengthen the quadriceps
muscles in the front of the thigh. A physical therapist or personal
trainer with experience in working with people with arthritis can show
you exercises that will help.
4. Stretch every day. Stretching
increases a joint's range of motion. This not only fights stiffness, but
also helps protect the cartilage from further wear and tear. "The more
joints move, the more the cartilage gets nourished by the joint fluid,"
Bush-Joseph says. He recommends yoga or Pilates to keep the joints
moving and improve flexibility. "Don't feel like you have to be perfect
in class. Instructors will accommodate people with limitations."
5. Try glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. Glucosamine
and chondroitin may protect your cartilage. There is no proof that
either supplement will rebuild cartilage or slow the progression of
arthritis. But some studies suggest they can reduce arthritis pain.
6. Use over-the-counter pain relievers for flare-ups. Over-the-counter
pain relievers include naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin),
aspirin, and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Make sure to read the label and
take them only as directed.
Over-the-counter pain relievers are a good choice for short-term relief
during flare-ups of arthritis pain, Schneiderbauer says. If you think
you need a daily pain reliever, talk to your doctor to see which one is
right for you. "If you end up taking it for months or years, it may be
time to think about joint replacement surgery."
7. Ask your doctor about hyaluronan injections. Hyaluronan
works like the fluid that surrounds the joints in your body. It acts as
a lubricant and shock absorber for the joints. If over-the-counter pain
relievers donít help your pain, hyaluronan injections may help.