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How to Help Prevent Osteoarthritis

Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in joints. There are about 100 different types of arthritis. A joint is a place in the body where 2 bones meet. Arthritis may also affect other body tissue near the joints. This includes muscles, tendons, and ligaments. With some forms of arthritis, the whole body may have symptoms.

A normal knee and a knee with arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. It's sometimes called degenerative joint disease or wear-and-tear arthritis. In OA, the cartilage in your joints wears away. Cartilage covers the ends of bones and acts as a cushion. If too much cartilage wears away, bone rubs against bone. The joint changes in OA cause pain, stiffness, and trouble with movement.

Can you prevent OA?

OA is a result of using your joints every day. The older a person gets, the more wear-and-tear happens. You can’t fully prevent OA. But you can help lessen daily stress on your joints. This can make it less likely that OA will happen, or get worse. Taking good care of yourself can help prevent joint problems. 

Keep a healthy body weight

Extra weight puts stress on your joints. It can most hurt your hips, knees, ankles and feet. And extra fat causes changes in the cartilage. If you are overweight, talk with your healthcare provider about safe ways to lose weight.

Control your blood sugar

High blood sugar levels raise your risk of getting OA. If you have diabetes, get your blood sugar levels checked regularly. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to manage your levels if they are too high.

Be active every day

Exercise is a good way to prevent joint problems. It helps to keep joints from getting stiff. It keeps muscles strong. It's also an important part of treating arthritis. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Talk with your healthcare provider about safe exercise for you.

You can also try the Arthritis Foundation's Walk With Ease program

Prevent injury to your joints

Joint injuries increase your risk of getting OA. When you exercise, start slowly and work up to your goal. Each time you exercise, take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up with gentle movements and stretches. This helps to prevent injuries to muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons.

Think about changing your exercises and activities each day. You will use different parts of your body. This will help prevent stress to the same joints every day.

Be careful with your daily activities. Some activities put extra stress on joints. For example, carry heavy bags of groceries close to your body in the crook of your am instead of holding them with your hands.

Use exercise equipment and protective gear as instructed. Make sure your safety gear is comfortable and fits well.

Pay attention to pain

If you have joint pain that lasts 1 to 2 hours after activity or exercise, you may have done too much. Rest the joint. Use an ice pack to relieve pain.

Consider getting an assessment by a physical therapist to learn the best exercises to protect your joints.

Talk with your healthcare provider about using ice packs and pain medicine before and after you exercise.

Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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