Dealing with Knee Pain
Weekly Health Tip: Take A Load Off Your Knees: Dealing With Osteoarthritis
Posted: 8/15/11 08:17 AM ET
Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD,Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com \r \r Your knee joints are one of the unsung heroes of your body. If you\\\'re like the average American, you take just over 5,000 steps a day -- and each one of those steps places a force equal to three to six times your body weight on your knee joints. It\\\'s no wonder that by the time you reach age 60, chances are good you will have developed osteoarthritis of the knee, Your knee joints are one of the unsung heroes of your body. If you're like the average American, you take just over 5,000 steps a day -- and each one of those steps
places a force equal to three to six times your body weight on your knee
joints. It's no wonder that by the time you reach age 60, chances are good you will have developed
osteoarthritis of the knee, a sometimes-painful condition caused by wear and
tear to the knee joint. More than 20 million Americans currently have this condition,
and that number is expected to soar as high as 70 million during the next two decades as baby
boomers age and become obese, a major risk factor for the disease, increases.
While many people with knee osteoarthritis never have symptoms, others experience stiffness and
dull pain, especially upon waking, or, in extreme cases, severe pain that limits
What is osteoarthritis? In a healthy knee joint, a slippery
tissue called cartilage fills the spaces between the bones and cushions the
bones as they move. Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the cartilage wears away due
to daily use -- or overuse. The ends of the bones begin to rub against each
other and often develop spurs and cysts. In addition, the tissue that lines the
joint may become inflamed and the ligaments and muscles that support the joint
Most people who develop knee OA are over 45. The disease is more common among
women than men, and having osteoporosis or a previous knee injury increases your
risk. While genetics plays a role in about 20 to 35 percent of
cases, one of the biggest risk factors is something you can control -- your
weight. Overweight women (defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25-28.9)
have a four times greater risk of knee osteoarthritis, and
overweight men (BMI 26-29.9) have five times the risk of normal-weight
Prevention and relief: There is no cure for osteoarthritis,
but there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing the
disease and to manage the symptoms if you already have it.
1. Control your weight. You can greatly reduce your chances
of developing knee OA by maintaining a normal weight or shedding at least some
of any excess weight. Losing even a few pounds can make a big difference in the
load you place on your knees. Recent studies have found that when overweight people
with knee arthritis lost just one pound, it resulted in anywhere from a twofold
to fourfold reduction in the load placed on their knee joints. One report estimated that losing 10 pounds would take
48,000 pounds of weight off the knee joint for every mile walked. That, in turn,
can reduce wear and tear on the cartilage and prevent osteoarthritis from
developing. In fact, losing 11 pounds over a 10-year period decreases the
chances of developing osteoarthritis of the knee by 50 percent, according to one
recent study. Losing weight can also help reduce knee pain if you already have
If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about a healthy weight loss
program that includes eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean protein
and whole grains.
2. Exercise. Regular, low-impact exercise will not only help
you to lose weight, it can help prevent knee OA and manage symptoms in other
ways. Often people who have arthritis of the knee cut back on their physical
activity to avoid pain. But that's the worst thing you can do. It's critical to
keep the knee joint mobile and flexible and to strengthen the muscles around it.
You can do that by combining aerobic exercise with strengthening and flexibility
Aim for at least 30 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercise five days a week.
Walking, biking and golfing are all good choices because they don't place stress
on your knee joints. Exercising in water is also a great way to work out because
the water supports your weight and gives your knees a break. Studies show that water exercise such as swimming or
water aerobics can be especially helpful in reducing pain and improving function
in those who already have knee OA.Exercises that strengthen the muscles around the knee and the quadriceps
(thigh) muscle can help protect your knee joints and may actually help prevent
osteoarthritis. These exercises can also reduce pain and improve your mobility
if you have arthritis. Try isometric exercises where you push or pull against
resistance. Stretching exercises like yoga and tai chi can prevent and reduce stiffness in your knee
Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program -- especially if you
have pain in your knees. You may need to begin by working with a physical
therapist to learn how to strengthen the muscles around your knees in a safe
3. Protect your joints. An injury to your knee can alter the
alignment in the joint and that can make the cartilage wear away. So take
precautions to avoid injuries to your knees if possible, especially if you do a
lot of sports. If you do injure your knee, get immediate treatment to reduce
your risk of damaging the cartilage. Wearing a knee brace may help support your
knee and reduce pain if you already have arthritis.
4. Pain relievers. Aspirin and other non-prescription pain
relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen can reduce arthritis
pain, but regular use can produce serious side effects. Talk to your doctor about the
safe use of these pain relievers.
5. Other treatments. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two
natural substances that are found in cartilage. Researchers have been studying
whether or not they help relieve arthritis pain when taken as a dietary
supplement. Recent studies suggest that they don't help any more
than a placebo, but some doctors suggest taking them for three months to see if
there is any benefit. Some doctors prescribe anti-inflammatory gel to relieve pain or injections of
hyaluronic acid to lubricate the joint and act like a
shock absorber. In very severe cases where other treatments do not provide
relief, your doctor may recommend surgery to replace the knee joint.
The best treatment of all is prevention, of course, and the best way to
prevent osteoarthritis is to keep your weight down and get in the habit of
regular exercise. If you do develop osteoarthritis, an early diagnosis can mean
a better outcome -- so see your doctor right away if you notice pain or swelling
in your knee.
Learn more about the benefits of exercise:
TheVisualMD.com: Get Aerobic and Anaerobic
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10/13/2013 06:39:51 am
Try for a goal that's reasonable, then gradually raise it.
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