caucasian business woman in eyeglasses relaxing neck,stretching arms - short break for exercise on chair  in office

Arthritis is one of North America’s leading causes of disability and has become a major health epidemic. It accounts for 132,000 hospitalizations, about 60,000 hip and knee replacements and $6.4 billion dollars each year in health-care costs and lost work days in Canada. In addition to an economic drain, it causes a great deal of pain and discomfort in the lives of those who do have arthritis.

There are two main types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.   Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and I’d like to delve into it today. We’ll explore what it is and a few simple strategies you (or your clients) can do to help minimize the effects or prevent it altogether.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis occurs when damaged joint tissues are not able to repair themselves. This results in a breakdown of cartilage and bone. When cartilage wears down completely, bones may rub on one another.

This can lead to a variety of symptoms including pain when in a resting state, during or after movement, enderness to the touch, stiffness and swelling in the joint, loss of flexibility, grinding sensation in the joint, and bone spurs around the affected joint.

These can result in significant disability, poor quality of life and in many cases, the need for joint replacement surgery.

Osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body. However it typically affects joints in hands and weight-bearing joints of the hips, knees, feet and spine.

Most people develop osteoarthritis after the age of 45, but it can occur at any age. It currently affects more than 3,000,000 (1 in 10) Canadians and 66,000,000 American’s each year.

What causes osteoarthritis?

Many things contribute to and cause Osteoarthritis. These include:

  • older age
  • sex (females have higher rates of Osteoarthritis)
  • a poor diet
  • obesity
  • cultural habits (wearing bad shoes, especially high heels),
  • poor posture and movement habits
  • joint injury
  • repetitive strain and impact on the joints from work or sport (running a marathon)
  • genetics
  • bone deformities
  • other diseases such as diabetes, gout, rheumatoid arthritis

What can YOU do to prevent or minimize osteoarthritis?

Some of the factors that cause and contribute to osteoarthritis are beyond our control. However, there are many things we can do and good habits we can adopt to keep our bodies strong, healthy and aligned. These good habits can also prevent or minimize the impact of osteoarthritis in our lives.

Have a great attitude and smile more often

Get adequate rest. Most of our society is chronically sleep deprived and this can lead to even more problems

Don’t smoke! Enough said.

Move your body! Stick to exercises and activities that move your joints but don’t damage them. Low impact aerobic exercises like walking, cycling or water sports are great. Pilates is also an ideal choice as long as the approach is science-based and modified for people with osteoarthritis. At Body Harmonics we take pride in offering continued support to both clients and Pilates teachers. Each year, we hold an Arthritis workshop for Pilates teachers & other movement instructors. This helps them take a proactive approach to osteoarthritis and design classes so they are safe, challenging and joint friendly. You can also find an Invigorating Class Plan for Arthritis on our Body Harmonics Shoptalk Blog.

Avoid high impact and repetitive motions like running, jumping, tennis, high-impact aerobics, or repeating a movement over and over again.

Adjust your position frequently – stand and walk around every 30 mins (at a minimum), wiggle your fingers, reach your arms overhead, move your head from side to side, wiggle your ankles and your toes

Keep your body alignment in tip top shape. This can be done through manual therapies (like acupuncture, massage, osteopathy, physiotherapy for posture and not just rehab, etc.), effective movement programs like Body Harmonics Pilates and good postural habits. Check out the Body Harmonics Postural Control Series to get a sample of simple exercises you can do at home.

Maintain a healthy diet. This can help keep weight and inflammation down in your body, both of which are so important to preventing osteoarthritis. Eat more fruits and veggies, add omega-3 fatty acids, choose olive oil over other fats, decrease or eliminate gluten, decrease or eliminate dairy and decrease or eliminate sugar. A fantastic food management system that anyone can do is Andrea Palen’s Diet Overhaul. I tried it earlier this year and have stuck with it since. What I love is that it’s simple, manageable and oh so easy!

Wrapping up

I hope you’ve gained some insight into osteoarthritis. I also hope you’ve gained some awesome simple strategies to start taking action on today so you can prevent and minimize the effects.