How to Assess Your Joint Health
The risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA), a progressive disease that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints, increases with age.
Although some risk factors for this condition can’t be controlled—such as ethnic background, inherited genes, gender, or past injuries—many others can be controlled and reduced, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Understanding your risk for arthritis, based on all these factors, can help you prevent this condition.
Controlling your risks
Managing the following controllable risks can help you lower your chance of developing OA:
Weight. Weighing more than you should at any age increases the risk of getting OA later in life and can make any arthritis symptoms you now have worse. One study found women of average height who are overweight and lose 11 pounds or more can cut their risk for knee OA in half. Losing weight reduces the pressure on any joints that may be weak or unstable.
Injury prevention. Injuries to joints can lead to arthritis, so taking care to prevent them when playing sports, working, or exercising is important. Warm up and stretch carefully before any strenuous activity to maintain flexibility and prepare your joints and muscles for exercise.
Prompt treatment. If you do injure a joint, take care of it immediately to limit any damaging effects that could come later. See a doctor for serious injuries, or self-treat minor ankle sprains, for example, to help the injury heal properly.
Joint stress. Lifting and bending properly can help you avoid overloading your knee and hip joints. Not lifting or moving items that are too heavy and using your largest muscles for strenuous tasks are key.
Taking a closer look
To assess your arthritis risk, answer these questions yes or no:
1. Are you age 45 or older?
2. Have you ever had an injury to your knee severe enough to make you use a cane, crutch, or brace, or that required surgery?
3. Are you more than 10 pounds overweight?
4. During the past 12 months, have you had pain, aching, stiffness, or swelling in or around a joint?
5. Do you have pain in your knee or hip when climbing stairs or walking a quarter-mile or more on flat ground?
6. Are you now limited physically in any way because of joint symptoms?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you could have arthritis and should see your doctor for an evaluation.
March 21, 2017
Vitality In Motion/August 2007
Sylvia ByrdSylvia Byrd RN MBA,Whorton, Donald, M.D.