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Osteoarthritis Prevention

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No. 2: Exercise continued...

To strengthen quadriceps, Todd P. Stitik, MD, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, recommends isometric moves and wall slides. To do these, stand with your back to a wall, with feet shoulder-width apart. Then lean back against the wall, placing your feet out in front of you as far as you comfortably can. Bend at the knees, put your hands on your waist, and slide with your spine, maintaining contact with the wall until you reach a sitting position. (Your knees should not bend more than 90 degrees). Then slowly slide back to your original position. Repeat eight to 10 times.

If fear of joint pain after exercise keeps you from exercising, try using heat and cold on painful joints or take pain relievers. Doing so may make it easier to exercise and stay active. The safest exercises are those that place the least body weight on the joints, such as bicycling, swimming, and other water exercise. Light weight lifting is another option, but if you already have osteoarthritis, first speak with your doctor.

No. 3: Avoid Injuries or Get Them Treated

Suffering a joint injury when you are young predisposes you to osteoarthritis in the same joint when you are older. Injuring a joint as an adult may put the joint at even greater risk. A long-term study of 1,321 graduates of Johns Hopkins Medical School found that people who injured a knee in adolescence or young adulthood were three times more likely to develop osteoarthritis in that knee, compared those who had not suffered an injury. People who injured their knee as an adult had a five times greater risk of osteoarthritis in the joint.

To avoid joint injuries when exercising or playing sports, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends the following:

  • Avoid bending knees past 90 degrees when doing half knee bends.
  • Keep feet as flat as possible during stretches to avoid twisting knees.
  • When jumping, land with knees bent.
  • Do warm-up exercises before sports, even less vigorous ones such as golf.
  • Cool down after vigorous sports.
  • Wear properly fitting shoes that provide shock absorption and stability.
  • Exercise on the softest surface available; avoid running on asphalt and concrete.

If you have a joint injury, it's important to get prompt medical treatment and take steps to avoid further damage, such as modifying high-impact movements or using a brace to stabilize the joint.

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