Osteoarthritis (OA) is a bit like a tangerine that loses its peel. The peel is like cartilage, which protects the fruit — or bone — underneath. When that peel breaks down over time, the fruit is exposed, leaving it with little, if any, protection.
As a result, an affected joint can experience pain, stiffness, and changes in shape, and you may have difficulty using it normally.
If you’re among the hundreds of millions of adults worldwide who’ve been diagnosed with this wear-and-tear form of arthritis, effective care can go far.
To better manage your own osteoarthritis symptoms, consider the following helpful practices.
Given that osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that often worsens over time, working with arthritis experts is important for slowing its progression and staving off complications.
In addition to routine checkups, such as your annual physical, schedule an appointment if you experience a sudden increase in symptoms or can’t seem to manage ongoing symptoms.
We can adjust your treatment plan, if needed, and recommend helpful lifestyle changes. You may need a change in medication, for example, or might benefit from wearing a brace. We can also check for other factors that may be fueling your joint symptoms.
Exercising can feel like a Catch-22 when you have osteoarthritis. Joint pain and stiffness can make physical activity difficult and unappealing, but it can also reduce your symptoms by strengthening muscles around your joints and increasing flexibility.
Prioritize low-impact exercise, such as walking, biking, or swimming, to reduce strain on your joints.
While many people benefit from at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, consider breaking that into three 10-minute chunks per day if you're just starting. Over time, you may have the endurance and strength for 30-45 minutes at once.
If you experience post-exercise pain that lasts for more than an hour, you’re probably overdoing it. We can work with you or recommend a physical therapist to get you on the right exercise track.
What you eat on a regular basis can affect your arthritis symptoms in positive or negative ways. While a diet rich in saturated fats, added sugars, and refined grains increases inflammation, potentially making joint pain worse, a diet that emphasizes nutritious, whole foods can do the opposite.
Aim for a diet that emphasizes anti-inflammatory foods, such as:
When you indulge in a lower-nutrient treat, keep the portion modest. Instead of having a large bowl of ice cream, for example, have a smaller dish of frozen yogurt topped with fresh fruit.
Given that an anti-inflammatory diet is rich in fiber, which promotes appetite control, you may end up losing excess pounds, which can further benefit your joints. Research shows that if you’re significantly overweight or obese, losing 20% of your weight leads to reduced symptoms from knee OA.