3 Health Tips for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (aka Degenerative Joint Disease) affects 27 million adult Americans according to the CDC. Treating severe cases of arthritis usually involves joint replacement surgery but making some lifestyle changes can slow down or even repair the damage to the joint.  Here are three changes you can make right now.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Keeping your weight down is really important for weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips, which are the two joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis.  In fact, NIAMS (the national institute that makes guidelines for treating arthritis) lists exercise and losing weight as the first two approaches to treating osteoarthritis.  Choosing a proper diet to keep the weight off is important.  At Balance Acupuncture, we prefer using the Transitions Lifestyles System, but any diet that is high in nutrition and low in fats, starches and simple carbohydrates will work.

Stay Active

Staying physically active is important for improving joint mobility and circulation.  However, joint pain can also make it more difficult to exercise.  The key is to find exercises that are low impact, like walking, gentle stretching or water exercises.  The more you can move the joints without putting too much pressure on them, the better.  A great resource for information on exercise and stretching with osteoarthritis is WebMD.  Check out these links:

Heat Therapy

For osteoarthritis, heat therapies are good for a number of reasons.  They relax muscles, relieve pain and increase circulation.  There are a number options here; hot packs, heating pads, saunas, and hot tubs.  A deeper penetrating heat is better for the major joints, such as the knee or hips.  At Balance, we use both far-infrared lamps and a far-infrared sauna for penetrating heat.  What works for you will depend on personal preference and which joints are affected.  Warming the joint with some sort of heat therapy is a good passive way to improve circulation and reduce pain especially in the winter, so that you can stay active.
Making the lifestyle changes to control osteoarthritis may seem difficult, but they are far better than the alternative of a painful existence and joint surgery.  Tackle this problem early and you avoid complications late in life.

Image courtesy of Dennis Tang

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