If you are already thinking about osteoarthritis prevention, good for you!
Hopefully you are thinking about preventing osteoarthritis before getting diagnosed and if so, the information here can really help you protect yourself. But if not, that’s OK too. If you already have some arthritis, what you will learn can help you prevent it from getting worse, faster. So either way, it is great stuff. 🙂
Preventing arthritis actually starts much younger than most people think, and I’m assuming that my average reader is already above that age. For true osteoarthritis prevention, you really should start taking great care of your body in your mid 20’s. But I remember my mid 20’s and I was going to live forever… arthritis was nowhere near my radar.
Ironically, my chiropractor at the time did warn me that if I did not take good care of myself, I was going to get arthritis in my neck. And I do have a little bit of degeneration in there. But it is not too bad. You can read about the car accident that led me down this path here.
So, let us assume you are over age 25 and looking at osteoarthritis prevention. Where do you start?
You knew it had to come back, didn’t you? That age old, boring thing called “posture.” I know it’s not particularly sexy or exciting, but for simplicity, correcting your posture is the single one thing you can do that will make a huge impact on your future joint health.
If you sit at a mall and people watch for an afternoon, you’re going to see an epidemic of bad posture. The biggest clue is to look at where a person’s head is in relation to their shoulders. If their ear and shoulder do not line up (and most don’t), they are at a huge risk for arthritis of the spine. Do this simple demonstration and you’ll see why. Grab a bowling ball or a gallon of milk and hold it with both hands. Now, straighten your arms and hold it in front of you. How long can you hold it out like that?
Not very long, and it is because of the physics involved with weight and long levers. (I hated Physics, so don’t ask me for a detailed explanation). Your head weighs about as much as a bowling ball… when your head is far forward and not over your shoulders as it should be, you are increasing the pressure on your spine, which dries out your discs and causes arthritis. Preventing osteoarthritis in the neck can be as simple as working on keeping your head back so your ear lines up with your shoulder.
Tight hamstrings (the back of the thigh) causes a similar situation in the low back. When your hamstrings are tight, they pull the curve out of your lower back, which increases pressure on the spine and causes arthritis. So really, stretching your muscles and correcting your posture can do wonders for osteoarthritis prevention.
The same back pain stretching exercise that I recommend will also help you start the process of correcting posture. That page has stretches for all the major postural muscles.
Another great tool for osteoarthritis prevention is an inversion table.
The inversion benefits to your body are many… inversion takes gravity off the spine, and helps stretch it out. It also helps nutrients get into the joints of the spine, it increases your blood flow to your internal organs, and it helps with lymphatic drainage; that can help decrease inflammation slightly.
If you want a custom osteoarthritis prevention plan, working with a professional (chiropractor, massage therapist, body balancing practitioner or osteopath) can help you determine specifically which areas you need to focus on.
Maintaining a healthy weight sounds boring, I know. And you hear about it everywhere but it’s a fact of life. The less weight you carry around, the less pressure on your joints with every movement. Weight loss can really make a huge difference in prevention of knee arthritis, ankle arthritis, arthritis in the hip, and arthritis of the spine.
There are many tools to you help you with weight loss. The biggest component is food, and many foods help arthritis. They are the ones that keep your blood sugar low (high blood sugar causes inflammation) and tend to be whole foods in their natural state; not processed foods with the nutrition taken right out of them.
But food is only one part of the equation, and it is actually the easiest. There are as many reasons to not lose weight as there are reasons to lose weight… and most of those are emotional and unconscious.
I shared an office with Dr. Vicky Thomas, a clinical hypnotherapist, and I was always amazed at how hypnotherapy helped people reprogram their subconscious thoughts so that they could stop sabotaging themselves and succeed. Hypnosis for weight loss is incredibly effective, safe, and easy. If you have struggled with yo-yo dieting or succeeded only to gain the weight back over and over, this is an avenue you might want to consider. Your subconscious mind is a powerful thing. Getting it to work for you instead of against you can make all the difference.
For a more complete discussion of natural remedies for arthritis, please click here.
If you have ever been in a car accident or any other trauma, there is a good chance you have lost the curve in your neck. My neck curves the wrong way from C4-C7, but thankfully, regular chiropractic care has been good osteoarthritis prevention for me. Now, I’m actively working on restoring the curve in my neck, and that’s something you may want to look at too. Your spine has three normal curves in it (well, four actually, but the sacrum curve is fixed and not something you can easily change). There’s a lordosis in your neck, a kyphosis in your mid back and another lordosis in your lower back. Don’t worry about the technical terms… they just demonstrate which direction the curve goes. Think of dams and how they are built. They have curved walls, right? And what about architecture? Don’t curves make walls stronger? Your body is built with curves in the spine because it makes it stronger and able to withstand higher stressing forces.
If you lose that curve because of an accident (like me) or a postural distortion, your spine cannot withstand everyday stresses without being damaged.