If aching joints hamper your lifestyle, exercise is the antidote, says fresh research from Harvard.
Even though joint pain naturally makes you want to move less, inactivity robs you of comfort in the long-term. “Limiting your movements can weaken muscles, compounding joint trouble, and affect your posture, setting off a cascade of further problems,” says a new report out from Harvard Medical School in the US.
What works: the right set of exercises, practiced regularly. In fact, say the researchers, staying active can even delay (or help you avoid) surgery on the relevant joint.
Here is Harvard’s two-pronged proposal:
1. Lose weight (provided you have kilos to shed!)
“Being overweight raises your risk of developing osteoarthritis in a weight-bearing joint like the knee – and even in the hand,” the researchers suggest. Some studies posit weight may exacerbate the inflammatory factors that lead to joint pain. The report cites one study that examined osteoarthritis sufferers: when younger overweight women dropped five kilos from their weight, their osteoarthritis risk fell by 50 per cent!
2. Strengthen your quads
Each time you take a step, you’re placing enormous pressure on your knees. In fact, just walking on level ground transfers 1.5 times your body weight to your knee joint; while walking up steps delivers two to three times your body weight to your knee. And when you squat or kneel down to tie up your shoe lace, your knees cop four to five times your body weight.
“Fortunately, strengthening your quadriceps changes the equation,” says the report—and the same goes for losing weight. Try low impact resistance machines at your local gym, as well as activities like walking, swimming, running and cycling.
Natural therapies to relieve osteoarthritis-induced joint pain.
According to Russell Setright, author of The A-Z Get Well Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine For the Whole Family, glucosamine can both slow down the progression of the disease, while also easing pain. This nutrient may work by stimulating the synthesis of new cartilage and keeping cartilage-busting enzymes at bay. In treating osteoarthritis, he says the following supplements produce good results (when taken in unison): fish oil, celery, vitamin B5 and glucosamine sulfate. See your healthcare professional or naturopath for a more individualised prescription.
References available on request