Recently I was reading about the Framingham Study on heart disease. The authors proved that smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity all increase a person's chance of a heart attack. Before this 60 year study came along it was not understood what could be done to prevent a heart attack. Thanks to this information we can prevent heart disease and people are living longer. This increased longevity is wonderful as long as our quality of life is good and we can have the ability to move and enjoy these additional years. Unfortunately many people are not enjoying their lives to the fullest because they are restricted by pain and an inability to move. They are living longer but watching these additional years go by instead of enjoying them.
One of the leading reasons most people visit their medical doctors is due to musculoskeletal pain. Back pain is the most common of these complaints. A large majority of these cases are diagnosed with osteoarthritis as the main generator of there pain. As with heart disease, arthritis is a chronic problem, which slowly builds up over time like the plaque in our arteries. Once you have osteoarthritis or wearing of the joints, no one treatment has been shown to be overwhelmingly effective. When you speak to most people they accept that they have or could have arthritis at some time in their life. But what can we do to prevent it? And what exactly is osteoarthritis? Essentially, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of the joints is worn away. It is classified as the "wear and tear" kind of arthritis by the Arthritis Foundation. It is estimated that 27 million Americans are affected by this form of arthritis and, as we are living longer, it is having a more significant influence on a person's quality of life.
When hip and knee joints are worn down and degenerated, the solution is to simply replace the entire joint through surgery. The problem is that we can't replace all of our joints. I am constantly wondering why prevention of arthritis is not being stressed or even discussed. It is widely accepted that treatment of a chronic problem is much more difficult than treating it early on in the disease process. As a chiropractor many of the patients that I see are seeking care because they are in chronic pain. Joint degeneration or arthritis is a common finding and is usually one of the causes of their pain. If we are truly looking to decrease our health costs, increase our quality of life, and strive toward "wellness care" shouldn't prevention of disease be one of our primary focuses?
For every other disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc... the best treatment is prevention or at least early detection. With all the great imaging technology available, we can detect the early onset of arthritis when many different treatments are effective. Osteoarthritis changes the quality of life of more people than any other musculoskeletal disease and it doesn't just affect older people. It is commonly diagnosed in our early 40's. With the baby boomer generation showing no signs of slowing down, along with every generation following behind us, isn't it time to do something to about this disease before it starts. Here are three simple things to you can do to limit or stop arthritis
- Get up and move! Whether you walk, dance, play with your kids, just get up from behind the computer or T.V.
- Move with control. Take a pilates class or yoga, do weight training, or take an exercise class. As you get stronger and more mobile pain and restriction decrease.
- If you have stiff joints try massage or stretching but it must be pain free! Restoring joint motion is the best way to combat osteoarthritis!
- If you already have arthritis then be proactive and stop any further damage to the joints by getting them evaluated and re-establish normal movement. Don't let your quality of life be limited by pain and restriction.