By Robert Forster, PT & and Shelby Stoner, PHASE IV Exercise Physiologist
You wake up in the morning and limp to the bathroom, as the sore knee that use to be stiff occasionally, is now painful almost every day. You vaguely remember an injury from your high school athletic days or maybe an old ski mishap, but as far back as you can recall it’s been your “trick” knee. Maybe your doctor casually mentioned “arthritis” when you went to have it checked out a few years back but he didn’t seem all that concerned and gave you no direction what you might do about it. Now it’s getting worse and so is your concern.
This scenario is unfortunately too common as 27 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by breakdown of joint cartilage and associated with risk factors, such as previous joint injury, obesity and age. It’s unfortunate because there was back then, and still now, something you can do about it. While it’s true all of our joints wear as we age, and if they remain asymptomatic until you die you may never hear the diagnosis of arthritis, but if they become symptomatic and limit your ability to exercise and stay mobile there are far reaching ramifications for your overall health.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It is characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage that caps the end of our bones and it functions like a Teflon type material to prevent friction when the bones move on one another. You can see it most clearly as the smooth white surfaces on the end of chicken bones. This material is constantly growing outward from the interface with the bone as the surface cells are sloughed off with normal use. However, a traumatic injury deep enough to impact the base layer from which they grow, or a chronic overuse of one particular area of the joint from altered joint mechanics causing accelerated wearing of the surface cells that your body cannot replace fast enough, results in a disrupted cartilage surface and an arthritic condition. Once disrupted, chronic inflammation plays a major role in accelerated joint cartilage breakdown. The most common areas for osteoarthritis are the hands, hip, knees and spine. Osteoarthritis sufferers often notice a decrease in flexibility, uncomfortable grinding sensation of bones rubbing together, unusual stiffness, and tenderness.
If the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Physical Therapy Association did as well as the American Dental Association in getting us all to realize that our joints need daily health maintenance just like our teeth, there would a lot fewer disabled joints in our population and many less joint replacements each year. Over 1 million Americans receive joint replacements each year in the US and this number is projected to grow by over 600% by the year 2030. While this number is impacted by the bulging number of baby boomers entering the 6th, 7th and 8th decades of life it is also greatly impacted by their bulging waistlines.
Obesity and inactivity go hand in hand to sabotage joint health. This is unfortunate because if Americans knew that simple stretching exercises and daily cyclic activity like walking, cycling or elliptical workouts can go a long way to prevent obesity and joint disease as well as maintaining joint function once the joint begins to breakdown, we could begin to reverse this trend. Our joints are complicated mechanical devices that in addition to the smooth cartilage surfaces rely on the healthy functioning of structures outside the joint to bear the load our body weight. Muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia must be strong and flexible to maintain good joint alignment and healthy function. Luckily, maintaining healthy joint mechanics is as simple as keeping our teeth healthy with brushing and flossing.
When muscles become weak and tight, as they do with inactivity and misuse, they no longer function well in keeping the bones aligned and articulating properly. Aberrant joint movement creates destructive forces that prematurely damage the joint surfaces. However, we don’t need hardcore workouts like P90X or Crossfit to keep our joints healthy. There is a safe and sustainable way to achieve injury-free peak performance with the help of PHASE IV.
HOW PHYSICAL THERAPY CAN HELP
There are hundreds of different reasons why someone may develop arthritis in their lifetime, so proper treatment must start with a proper diagnosis. Physicians often prescribe medications to help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis; however, this is only good enough for short-term relief. That’s why arthritis sufferers are turning to the help of Physical Therapists, for better daily functioning and long-term relief. One of the best ways to treat conditions such as arthritis is through tailored exercise programs that can assist with strength and mobility. At Forster Physical Therapy, experienced Physical Therapists design programs and treatment plans addressing all areas of the body affected by your pain. Our physical therapy based exercises focus on proper mechanics and control during functional movements such as squatting, lifting, and carrying objects with minimal to no pain or difficulty. Through evidence based practice, we will decrease your pain and increase mobility utilizing various manual therapy and exercise techniques giving you the tools to live happy and healthy.
Schedule a FREE injury evaluation today with one of our highly qualified Physical Therapists at Forster Physical Therapy by calling (310) 656-8600.