Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis; it strikes generally in the later years, but can have an early onset if an injury or infection occurs to a joint. Osteoarthritis happens when wear and tear on a joint causes cartilage to wear away, the joint fluid to dry up, and inflammation to occur in the tissues inside and around the joint. Pain is a great motivator, and when a joint becomes inflamed, the body adjusts to compensate. If the joint is a knee or a hip, the body changes the way it walks to keep the load off the afflicted joint. This in turn causes inflammation in the tissues outside the joint, as they bear an unaccustomed load. In a joint with little or no cartilage, bone begins to grate on bone; this hardens the bone, and also causes bone spurs to develop. This joint is ripe for osteoarthritis to begin.
What You Can Do?
There are many things you can do to take care of your joints, and the earlier you start, the better. Taking care of your joints will delay or prevent osteoarthritis from setting in; this, as Martha would say, is a good thing. Here are some of the things you can do to prevent osteoarthritis, or to care for knees showing warning signs of the disease:
Ease the Burden
If you are overweight, the best thing you can do for your joints is to lose the extra pounds. Maintaining an ideal weight is a goal you should strive for anyway, but losing even ten pounds will lighten the load on your weight-bearing joints considerably. It is estimated for every one pound of weight lost, four pounds of pressure are removed from your joints; a ten-pound weight loss equals forty pounds of pressure off your knees. So while you may not make it to your ultimate weight, you will improve your joint health for every pound you take off.
Most of us blew our mothers off when they told us to eat well; we were young and dumb, and they were right. The better you eat, the better your body likes it. You require calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin E to keep your joints in optimum health, and your diet is where most of it comes from. You can't get enough of certain vitamins and minerals from food, so you will have to supplement them, but a healthy diet is a good idea - period. Finding a healthy diet that works for you will be a challenge, especially with all of the conflicting information out in the world. Here's a tip: don't listen to the American Medical Association or the government. When the government first started publishing dietary guidelines, this country had an eight percent obesity rate and type II diabetes was virtually unheard of. Forty years of government guidelines later, the country now has a forty percent obesity rate, and type II diabetes is epidemic. You'd think they'd get the correlation, but they don't. Find an integrative MD who has a relationship with a natural nutritionist. A natural nutritionist will not tell you fat makes you fat, and animal protein is evil, and you should eat a high-carb diet for health. A natural nutritionist will tell you fat is necessary for your health, as is protein, and you should lose the processed carbohydrates and eat fresh, whole foods you cook yourself. A natural nutritionist will accommodate a vegetarian or vegan diet; however, if you go vegetarian or vegan, do it because you love animals, not because you think animal protein will kill you.
Keep a Positive Attitude
Being a happy person will make life a lot easier, and will keep your stress levels at a minimum. Stress is unavoidable in our lives; how we deal with it is what matters. Learning how to control your stress is a major factor in knee pain, as stress can negatively impact the stress-immunity-inflammation response system (the 'Fight or Flight' syndrome) and cause your inflammation levels to rise.
There's that dirty word again; it seems counterintuitive, but exercising a creaky, aging, complaining knee will keep it moving, and eventually stop the complaints. Keeping your flexibility and mobility are critical, especially as you age, so at least keep yourself walking briskly if nothing else. There are many exercise programs for mature and maturing adults, geared to keeping you fluid and flexible, so take advantage of them. Yoga, Tai Chi, water aerobics, or light aerobics if you're able, are all programs aimed at keeping your joints working.
Osteoarthritis is not inevitable; you can prevent it from clouding your later years by starting now on a program designed to keep you healthy, happy, flexible and mobile. The reward is more than worth the effort.