What You Should Know
A joint is where two bones come together. We have joints throughout our body.
Our joints have soft, gel-like tissue (cartilage) that keeps bones from rubbing against each other. Cartilage acts like a shock absorber or cushion, which prevents damage to the bones.
There are many causes of joint problems. Our joints can suffer from wear and tear, injuries and infections. Cartilage can be torn. The bones and supporting tissue near a joint can become dislocated and misaligned. Poor alignment of bones and tissue can put pressure on nerves. Young people might have "loose joints," which can become injured when joints move beyond the normal range of motion. Infections and immune problems can also inflame joints.
Pain is often felt when joints are inflamed or do not work properly.
Joint damage can occur all over the body. Weight-bearing joints like hips and knees are frequent sources of pain. Some people have jaws that "pop" or swell (TMJ), causing headaches or eye pain. Damaged wrists, elbows and shoulders can cause numb, weak or painful arms and hands. Damaged spines can cause chronic back pain.
Damage to weight-bearing joints might make it difficult to walk or work. Joint wear-and-tear, after a long active life, can cause disability. Sprains, falls, sports injuries and accidents can also damage knees, hips, spines and ankles.
Arthritis ("arth" meaning joint; "itis" meaning inflammation) is a painful condition that causes stiff, deformed joints. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that is caused by cartilage wear-and-tear. Osteoarthritis is common among people over 65. Chronic joint pain often starts when people are in their 50s or 60s. Women seem to be at more risk than men.
Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve joint pain. Some prescription medications can also be helpful, although drugs can have unwanted side effects. Some people try glucosamine or other natural remedies.
Many people manage joint pain successfully without surgery. Physical therapy, strengthening exercises and walking have all been shown to reduce pain. Exercise can reduce stiffness and increase strength and balance.
Some people with joint problems opt for surgery. Torn cartilage might be partially removed from knees (meniscectomy). Joints might be replaced or bones can be resurfaced. However, many people continue to have pain or motion problems after joint surgery.
Recent research shows that arthroscopic surgery is generally ineffective for osteoarthritis of the knee. Clinical trial patients who underwent a "placebo" surgery (a surgical procedure that simulated the effects of real arthroscopic surgery) were just as likely to report pain relief as patients who had the real surgery.
Excess weight causes excess stress on joints. While obese citizens may be fewer than 30 percent of the general population, they make up more than 70 percent of the population who gets a hip or knee replacement.
What You Should Do
Lose extra weight. Extra pounds mean an extra burden on your joints. There is a side benefit of losing excess weight: Most people who become trim feel more energetic and move more. Movement usually reduces stiffness.
Use your body wisely. Use safe practices. Avoid injuries and falls to protect your joints. Use handrails. Turn on lights so you can see. Warm up before exercising. Use safety equipment. Avoid being a "weekend warrior."
Use care when you pick up a heavy load. Slide or roll objects when possible. Use a cart, dolly, lever, or even a rolling chair. If you pick up an object, hold it close to your body and use your strong leg muscles to lift a load, not your back. Ask for help. Avoid hanging heavy computer bags, backpacks or purses on your shoulder, neck or arm.
Avoid overusing a joint. Continuous use or vibration of the same joint can injure the joint and surrounding tissue.
Change your position and stretch often to keep muscles and joints from getting stiff. Improve your circulation.
Don't ignore pain. Pain is your body's way of telling you to change positions or to find a smarter way to do a job.
Use good posture when you stand or sit. Good posture helps to protect neck, back, hips and knees.
If you have arthritis, begin a daily walking program. Start slowly and build your distance and speed gradually.
If you have a joint injury or arthritis, start a physical therapy program to improve fitness and flexibility.
Ask your doctor about pain medication and nonsurgical treatments. Consider getting a second opinion before having surgery. Surgery is a serious, expensive decision that does not work for everyone.
Source: The Commercial Appeal. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. Powered by Yellowbrix.