Whether you enjoy playing tennis or golf, mountain biking or running, healthy joints are an essential part of physical fitness. Maintaining the health of your joints is extremely important. It can prevent joint diseases such as osteoarthritis (OA) and allows you to keep doing whatever you love to do.
Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease, affecting about 40 million Americans. The disease involves degeneration of cartilage and bone. It most commonly affects men and women over 65 in the hands, spine, hips and knees.
Factors that Could Increase the Risk of Developing Osteoarthritis
- Repetitive joint impact combined with twisting
- Serious musculoskeletal injuries
- Repetitive occupational activities such as kneeling, squatting and heavy lifting
Do Supplements Work?
Degenerative joint diseases such as OA are not curable. However, their progress and onset can often be delayed with proper treatment and changes in activity. Much research has been done recently on the dietary supplements glucosamine and chondroitin and their effect on joint cartilage. However, there’s conflicting evidence on how effective these supplements are. Some studies show that glucosamine and chondroitin can lessen pain and functional limitations in those with OA. In contrast, other studies show no difference when compared to placebo treatments. The most recent studies show that 1500 mg of crystalline glucosamine sulfate (three daily doses of 500 mg) is the most effective dosage and must be taken long term to decrease OA symptoms.
However, taking these will not change OA’s progress. While the potential adverse effects of glucosamine are generally minimal and mild, it is still recommended that interested patients consult their physician before taking the supplements to avoid any health complications.
Recommendations for Healthy Joints
The American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) does not recommend either supplement. The AAOS focuses their recommendations for joint health on:
- Reducing excess body weight
- Doing low impact aerobic exercises
- Doing flexibility and range of motion exercises
- Strengthening quadriceps
- Taping to decrease pain and pressure
Here at Therapeutic Associates, our uniquely trained physical therapists use these recommendations to reduce unnecessary joint damage. We’re all about promoting a healthy, pain-free lifestyle!
How Physical Therapy Can Help
If you enjoy mostly high-intensity exercise, that doesn’t mean you’re on the path to joint pain and degeneration. While high impact and intense forces are not ideal, often corrections in faulty mechanics and muscle imbalances can ease stresses and re-distribute forces throughout the body. As movement specialists, physical therapists can identify and correct these problems to add longevity to your joints. Physical therapists can design programs using the strategies listed above. These programs can get you back on the links, courts, mountains, or wherever it is you want to be.
Physical therapy succeeds more with your commitment and collaboration. Once your pain has subsided, you will still need to continue to be mindful of what you have learned and participate in your home exercise program. A 2012 study on physical therapy outcomes showed a significant decrease in patients’ pain levels when they continued their home exercise programs independently 4 times a week as opposed to those who did it 2 times or less. Your physical therapist will design a efficient and individualized program. This program will maximize your health and prevent future injury.
It is often possible to significantly decrease the degeneration of your joints with simple changes. Above all, listen to your body, and if you need assistance, we are here to help!