Perpetual Motion: Preserving Bone and Joint Health
4 min. read
Baptist Health Orthopedic Care
Whether you’re active and athletic, aging and slowing down a bit, or somewhere in between, we all have something in common: our dependence on our bones and joints — and the need to keep them as healthy as possible.
Once upon a time, people accepted aches and pain as a normal part of aging. But that’s no longer true — nor should it be, says orthopedic surgeon Alexander Gaukhman, M.D., a specialist in hip and knee reconstruction with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care.
“Bone and joint health is very important to quality of life,” says Dr. Gaukhman, who is based at at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, a part of Baptist Health. “Keeping your joints healthy will allow you to run, walk, jump, play sports and do the things you like to do.”
Bone and joint issues affect almost half of the nation’s population in the form of arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle and ligament injuries, and pain in the back, knees and hips. In keeping with Bone and Joint Health Awareness Month held annually in October, it’s important to consider proactive steps before you experience problems, Dr. Gaukhman says.
“Often times, degenerative processes have started long before symptoms arise,” Dr. Gaukhman say. “It makes it hard to intervene since irreparable changes have already occurred.”
Athletes and “weekend warriors” have their own set of orthopedic issues. Some are sports-related like rotator cuff tears. Some are degenerative conditions, the consequence of overuse. Age, obesity and injuries from accidents also can damage joints and cartilage.
Although you may not be able to completely prevent injury or avoid health conditions such as arthritis, there are some things you can do to safeguard your joints throughout your life:
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight places extra strain on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees, ankles, hips and back. According to the Arthritis Foundation, every pound of excess weight you carry results in an additional four pounds of extra pressure on your weight-bearing joints. By achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, you can reduce the stress on your joints and improve long-term joint health. Also, being overweight or obese increases the hormones that exacerbate inflammation.
Less movement means more stiffness. Physical activity will help you maintain your bone density as you age, while also reducing stiffness. Throughout your day, move around often. Avoid staying in one position for too long. If you’re going to binge-watch your favorite show, get up and stretch. Take frequent breaks from sitting at work and go for a short walk. If you can't leave the office, take phone calls while standing.
Add Exercise to Your Day
If your joints bother you, opt for exercise that won't give them a pounding. Low-impact activities — such as swimming, cycling, stretching and tai chi — can help your joints stay mobile and may even help you shed some extra pounds. Take it slowly at first and wear proper protective equipment, if necessary.
Strong muscles support your joints and provide stability. If you don't have enough muscle, your joints will be stressed, especially your spine, hips and knees, which must support your entire body weight. Adding even mild strength training to your routine will help build muscle and ligaments. Weight-bearing exercises — such as walking, light weight training and resistance bands — can also help you to maintain strong bones. Consider some exercises for your abs, back and chest; a strong core can help improve balance, preventing falls and injuries.
Your bones need sufficient calcium to stay healthy (and vitamin D to absorb it). In addition to low-fat dairy products, opt for green leafy vegetables and legumes. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and other greens have highly absorbable calcium and other healthful nutrients. Most beans are also excellent sources of calcium, especially cannellini beans. Lean proteins can help build muscle. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation. And don’t forget to stay well-hydrated; your cartilage is composed of about 80 percent water. Avoid highly processed, high-fat and high-sugar foods, as well as excessive alcohol and smoking.
Seek Medical Attention
Don’t resign yourself to living with discomfort. Many musculoskeletal conditions can be addressed without surgery through physical therapy, massage, anti-inflammatory medications, joint injections and other conservative options. If surgery is needed, improved outcomes and recovery have resulted from new approaches, improved implants and a trend toward minimally invasive techniques. It’s also important to seek expert advice and an accurate diagnosis because in some cases, bone or joint pain can be a sign of other serious health conditions, such as bone cancer.
“Mild to moderate pain is best evaluated by a physician with expertise in musculoskeletal care,” Dr. Gaukhman says. “Seeking the evaluation of a professional is always prudent if symptoms persist for more than a few weeks or if they progressively deteriorate over a short period of time.”
About Baptist Health Orthopedic Care
A new era in orthopedic and sports medicine care launched in South Florida with the inauguration of Baptist Health’s state-of-the-art orthopedic complex on the grounds of the Miami Dolphins training facility. Open to anyone seeking orthopedic care, the modern 17,000-square-foot complex allows community members to “go where the pros go” for orthopedic conditions and injuries. The complex complements an integrated network of locations throughout South Florida. Baptist Health Orthopedic Care is composed of highly specialized, Board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic physicians, supported by advanced practice providers and athletic trainers who serve professional athletes, high school and collegiate athletic programs, international sporting events and recreational athletes. For more information, click here.
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