Exercise, weight management important in relieving joint pain

Contributing columnistOctober 14, 2013 

Joint pain is a very common condition affecting millions of people and one of the most common reasons that people go to see a doctor. While there are multiple causes of joint pain, arthritis is among the most common.

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, causes damage to the cartilage of joints, frequently in the hands, knees and hips. The causes of arthritis are not fully known, and there is no cure. However, there are basic measures people can take to help protect their joints and to minimize pain.

Stay active. There are numerous health benefits to regular exercise. General stretching can help maintain joint motion and avoid permanent stiffness. Doing basic aerobic and strength exercises can maintain muscles. Keeping muscles strong helps protect joints. It is best to avoid high-impact exercise like running or jumping that might worsen joint pain. Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming or biking are more joint friendly.

Keep the weight down. The number of obese people in this country continues to increase. It is predicted that by 2030, nearly 50 percent of Americans will be considered obese. The effect of excess weight and the resultant stress on joints is an important factor to consider. For every pound of body weight, there is 4 pounds of pressure on the knee and 6 pounds of pressure on the hip.

The situation is made worse when the extra weight and pain make exercise difficult. This highlights the importance of improving diet to lose weight. There are numerous programs and groups that might help with this. A loss of just 10 percent of body weight can make considerable improvements in joint pain.

Don't ignore pain. Even people who stay lean and active might be slowed down by joint pain. Those who have had previous injuries or surgeries or who work physically demanding jobs might find joint pain unavoidable.

If your joint pain persists despite the aforementioned suggestions, it would be wise to see your doctor, who can diagnose the cause of pain and provide additional treatment options, such as pain medicine, supplements or bracing. Some patients might require surgery including joint replacement.

Even after surgery, exercise and weight management are just as important to keep joints working well and to keep the pain away.

Dr. Ryan Cieply, an orthopedic surgeon with Kentucky Orthopedic & Hand Surgeons, practices at Baptist Health Lexington.

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