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Caring for Your Joints – How to Ease the PainJust as the brake pads on your car wear down over time, the cartilage that cushions your joints can break down, too. Just picture that scraping of metal on metal and you’ll get the idea of what it’s like when your bones, without the padding of the cartilage, rub against each other. It’s a condition called osteoarthritis, and the pain you feel may just cause you to make a sound similar to the one you hear when your brakes screech!Once the cartilage is frayed or worn down, you can’t heal it or grow it back. “It is impossible to reverse the arthritis once it has started,” says Inaam J. Schneider, MD, an internal medicine doctor in Raleigh, NC. But don’t despair, you can relieve the pain and safeguard the cartilage you still have by using these tips to slow the damage.“It is impossible to reverse the arthritis once it has started,” says Inaam J. Schneider, MD
Lose a few pounds.It will reduce the stress on your knees and hips. For every pound you lose, 4 pounds of pressure is taken off your knee. That reduces the wear and tear in the joint. “There is potential to slow down the progress of arthritis if there is a significant amount of weight loss.” So what’s “significant”? According to Charles Bush-Joseph, MD, of Rush University Medical Center, “Every 10 pounds you lose will reduce pain by 20%,”.
Get some aerobic exercise.When you are in pain you may not feel like working out, but research shows that pain and stiffness get worse when you aren’t active enough. Regular exercise has two benefits: it gets your heart pumping to boost your blood flow, which keeps cartilage well nourished, and the bonus is it helps you reach a healthy weight. “Do as much as you can,” Schneider says. “But stick to low impact activities like walking, cycling and swimming, steer clear of high-impact activities, like jumping and running.” A good goal is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week.
Include weight training for stronger muscles around joints.Stronger muscles help your body absorb some of the shock that goes through your joint as you move throughout the day. It prevents the joint from being jarred when you do things like walking, or golfing. For example, to reduce pain in your knee strengthen the quadriceps muscles, which are in the front of your thigh. If you have questions about what exercise will help you the most reach out to a physical therapist or personal trainer with experience in working with people with arthritis. They can show you the right exercises for your symptoms.
Stretch it out every day.Stretching every day helps improve your ability to move your joints and increases flexibility. You will find that you are less stiff and it helps protect the cartilage from more wear and tear. Cartilage is nourished by the joint fluid, which happens as you move. Things to try: yoga or Pilates to make you more flexible.
Try supplements.Two supplements to try are glucosamine and chondroitin. They may help protect your cartilage, though there’s no proof that either one will rebuild it or slow down your arthritis. Some studies suggest they can ease your pain.
Use over-the-counter pain relievers for flare-ups.Common ones are naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), aspirin, and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Check with your doctor to decide which one is safe for you. Make sure to read the label and take them only as directed. “Only use over-the-counter painkillers for short-term relief during flare-ups of arthritis pain,” Schneider says. If you think you need one every day, talk it over with your doctor. “Long term use may indicate the need to consider joint replacement surgery.”
Injections are another option.If you aren’t getting enough relieve from home remedies, ask your doctor about injections. Cortisone shots are another option for short-term flare-ups. Hyaluronan injections may help, too. It acts as a lubricant and anti-inflammatory in your joint. “If you end up taking it for months or years, it may be time to think about joint replacement surgery,” Schneider says. If home remedies fail, ask your doctor about injections. Cortisone shots are good for short-term flare-ups. Another option that might help are Hyaluronan injections. It may work as a lubricant and anti-inflammatory in your joint.