SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – In our last health segment, we talked about osteoarthritis — a degenerative joint disorder that affects 20 percent of Americans and 80 percent of people over age 55.
Because osteoarthritis can be extremely painful, it can impair the quality of life and lead to significant disability. To continue on this topic, our health expert, Karen Owoc, is here with more ways to manage osteoarthritis symptoms during a COVID-19 era.
The Vulnerable Joints
• It’s essential to protect joints to minimize further damage yet maximize their use, mobility, function, and longevity.
• All joints are susceptible to wear and tear, damage, and arthritis — particularly joints in the hand, hip and knee.
The ONLY Hope for Managing Osteoarthritis
The most recent (2019) guidelines per the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation for management of hand, hip, and knee osteoarthritis (especially those who are overweight or obese) are exercise and weight loss.
• Recommendations for core treatment are to exercise as often as possible — regardless of age, other conditions, pain severity, or disability.
Pools: The Best Low-Impact Modality
The closure of gyms, swimming pools and parks, and limited use of open spaces to promote social distancing means that OA patients must keep moving and exercise at home or close to home.
• Swimming pools or therapy pools are one of the best low-impact modalities for osteoarthritis since the water naturally supports body weight, thus, decreases the load on joints.
• Provides resistance that increases muscle strength and range of motion.
• Is an excellent cardiovascular workout that burns calories, improves cardiorespiratory fitness, and helps with reducing body weight.
Personal Therapy Pool
• Above the ground
• Compact and portable at 9’ x 9’ (small enough to fit in a garage or basement in the winter).
• 4-1/2 feet deep
• Price: starts at around $1,300.
Therapy Pool Temperature
The body’s skin temperature is 91 degrees, so a higher water temperature (90 to 95 degrees) is ideal for pain relief and restorative exercises, although it’s too high for swimming or exercising.
Underwater fitness training equipment is available, such as:
• Flotation belts and aquatic weights, such as aquatic dumbbells (made from foam and plastic instead of metal). They’re light out of water but heavy in water due to the water’s resistance
• Aquatic Treadmill (for aqua walking and jogging)
• Aquatic Bicycle
Habits for Healthy Joints
In our last segment, we discussed the importance of the following habits:
1. Build muscle. Very strong joints need muscles. They surround joints and support, stabilize, and guide joints through range of motion (ROM). Strength improves balance and reduces risk of sustaining trauma to joints in a fall.
2. Stretch every day. Manipulate all the body parts through full ROM that you plan on using the rest of your life (e.g., fingers, wrists, arms, anchors, shoulders).
3. Do balance exercises, Tai chi, Pilates, and yoga. This type of physical training helps improve joint function and proprioception in osteoarthritis patients. Chair-based variations are also recommended.
Habits for Healthy Joints
To continue, here are more tips to reduce pain and minimize joint deterioration:
4. Maintain good posture to put less strain on your muscles and skeletal system. Good posture limits bones from unnecessary rubbing together at the
joints, which prevents or delays the onset of OA. Poor posture = tight, unbalanced muscles.
5. Wear the right shoes. Shoes that cause body weight to be unevenly distributed place extra stress on knee joints. Uncomfortable or poor-fitting shoes can also throw off your stride and stress the knees.
6. Eat healthy and lose weight. For every pound of body weight, there’s four pounds of pressure on the knee joint. The less you weigh, the less strain on the joints. Caffeine = weaker bones. Weaker bones = weaker joints.
7. Don’t overestimate how much your joints can handle. For example, when weight training, don’t lift an excessive number of repetitions (limit to 8-12 reps per set).
8. Don’t jump. Jumping adds joint load of 20X your body weight.
9. Balance motion with rest. Joints don’t like constant use, overuse. But rest too long and joints get stiff. Get up and move every hour to keep joints limber.
The Takeaway: Keep moving. Take advantage of online exercise classes and videos and follow an anti-inflammatory diet