May is the Month for Joint and Bone Awareness
May is a special month - it is recognized as National Arthritis Month and Osteoporosis Awareness Month, and it’s a great month to get outside and be active after a long winter.
To get started, let’s take a closer look at arthritis, a disease that affects over 54 million Americans. One in every five adults suffers from arthritis. It’s the number one cause of disability in the United States. The Arthritis Foundation sponsors Arthritis Awareness Month to increase public awareness and focus on advocacy efforts across the country, promoting research, tools, and resources to help people with arthritis live improved lives.
Life Can Be a Pain
Joints can lose cartilage due to age, injury, or disease. After cartilage is lost, movement can become painful, and joints may become inflamed. The word arthritis means “joint inflammation.” Arthritis symptoms include pain, swelling, and stiffness. Arthritis is a group of over 100 diseases and conditions that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints. Osteoarthritis is a condition that damages the cartilage surrounding the ends of bones and is common in the hip, knee, and spine. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that damages the cartilage and destroys bones, tissue, and joints over time.
If arthritis in the hand is not treated, bones may become misshapen, resulting in loss of mobility and daily pain. Anti-inflammatory medications, eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet, and daily exercise can provide pain relief, but if hand pain continues, an NWOS specialist should be consulted.
The most common form of knee arthritis is osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease where cartilage within the knee joint wears away. This can occur as a result of the aging process or due to excessive use. Athletes frequently suffer from knee osteoarthritis because intense running, jumping, and pivoting can cause the cartilage in the knee joints to wear down prematurely. Symptoms include stiffness and pain throughout the knee. The pain usually begins gradually and worsens over time as the condition progresses. Knee pain is usually most severe after periods of inactivity, such as first thing in the morning or after vigorous exercise.
What Can You Do About It?
There are a number of physical therapy approaches and medications that can be used to reduce the symptoms of arthritis and osteoarthritis. Physical Therapy, regular exercise, and motion can strengthen muscles, ligaments and increase flexibility, as long as they don’t aggravate the joint. Weight loss is another factor that can alleviate arthritis symptoms, as can anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) taken regularly to reduce inflammation. If NSAIDs are not an option, Tylenol and Tramadol can be used to accomplish the same thing. Steroid injections can help symptoms by decreasing inflammation, swelling, and pain. These injections can be repeated every 3 to 6 months, as directed by a provider.
Along with the Arthritis Foundation, NWOS is dedicated to improving the lives of people with arthritis. Whether the symptoms are isolated in the hands, knees, or hips, some treatments can help. Nonsurgical approaches can be helpful, but if pain persists, surgery may be recommended.
To learn more about treatment options for arthritis, please request an appointment online, or call 509-344-2663.
Bones Are Better When They’re Dense
May is also National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. The providers at Northwest Orthopaedic Specialists are excited to bring attention to osteoporosis and the preventive treatments available at NWOS.
Osteoporosis affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, if you’re over 50, drink alcohol or soda, smoke, have a sedentary lifestyle, or a family history of osteoporosis, you are at risk. Additional risk factors for women include having a total hysterectomy, using hormones, or taking oral steroids. For men, risk factors include steroid use and low hormone levels.
Bones weakened by osteoporosis are five times more likely to be broken in falls. These breaks mainly occur in the spine, hip, and wrist. Sometimes, injuries are serious and result in limited mobility and loss of independence. Falls are the number one cause of preventable deaths for seniors and the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in Spokane County.
A bone density scan can detect low bone density before a broken bone occurs. Proactively, a scan can help providers develop customized treatment, including nutrition, exercise, and medications to maintain bone strength. Nutrition is vital, especially sufficient amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D. Moderate exercise, such as weight-bearing activities, can build strength and minimize bone loss.
Dr. Mark Olson specializes in bone health at NWOS and understands that healthy bones are the foundation for active and healthy lives. His customized plans help patients prevent future bone loss and its resulting health issues. Keeping bones strong and healthy prevent bone disease and fractures.
Dr. Olson and NWOS are partners in Strides for Strong Bones, a local organization providing community screening events, classes, and resources on maintaining bone health and avoiding the effects of osteoporosis.
Act to Maintain Strong Bones
If you already have osteoporosis or are concerned about the condition of your bones, contact NWOS to schedule an appointment or call Dr. Olson’s office at 509-343-3916.
Live Longer. Live Better.
While many older adults deal with the effects of arthritis and osteoporosis, many others are fortunate to get past middle age with healthy bones and joints. They may be lucky or the beneficiary of good genetics, but they won’t avoid the impact of aging forever. For these people, how can they maintain an active, pain-free lifestyle? The key is taking care of your body with good nutrition and staying active.
Our bodies are made for activity. As humans, we don’t stop moving because we have aches, pains, and stiffness. We have aches, pains, and stiffness because we stop moving. Strength and flexibility are perishable traits. “Use it or lose it” is not a trite phrase. It’s the secret of an active lifestyle as we age.
Look around any group of people over 60. Some may appear older than they are, while others maintain their youthful vigor. Where do you fit in that crowd? It likely depends on your activity level. You don’t have to do triathlons or play competitive volleyball to gain the benefits of activity. Walking, hiking, cycling, yoga, moderate weight lifting, and other activities reduce your odds of getting arthritis and osteoporosis, helping you live a healthier, pain-free life.
In his book Younger Next Year, author Chris Crowley writes that his physician’s goal is for patients to live healthy and active for as long as possible—maintaining the health of a person in their 50s, for well into their 80s. That’s a goal we should all work towards. What we eat and drink, how much we worry, how much we weigh, and how active we are all contribute to how well we’ll live the remaining years of our lives.
Let’s use the month of May to gain awareness of arthritis and osteoporosis, and it's a good time to talk with your provider about safely starting or maintaining an active lifestyle. Because as we are fond of saying — Life is motion. Motion is life.