Your Spine and Arthritis: 10 Ways to a Healthier Life
Arthritis occurs when the cartilage in the joints is worn down as a result of wear and tear, aging, injury or misuse. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, also includes loss of cartilage, overgrowth of bone and the formation of bone spurs. This causes the bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing pain, swelling and loss of motion of the joint. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint but most often occurs in the hips, knees, hands or the spine.
Is a healthy life possible - even with arthritis? It can be. Here are our top 10 ways people with arthritis can stay healthy:
#1 Stay Ahead of the Game!
Visit your doctor regularly. This is true whether you have already been diagnosed with arthritis or are interested in preventing it. Be sure to tell your physician about any pain or discomfort you have.
#2 Get Up and Go!
Regular physical activity will reduce the risk of falling, reduce anxiety and depression, help you maintain a healthy body weight, preserve cartilage, and increase joint strength and mobility. Walking is a great way for most people with arthritis to get exercise because it burns calories, strengthens muscles and builds denser bones without placing too much stress on fragile joints. So start today! Don't want to do it alone? Grab a friend and exercise together. If you are unsure about how to start, talk to your doctor about developing an exercise plan that is best for you.
#3 Cut the Fat!
The more you weigh, the greater the stress on your joints. If you are overweight, losing even 10 to 15 pounds can help reduce your pain. Losing weight will also make you feel better and therefore more likely to keep up with your healthier lifestyle. If you are severely overweight, talk to your doctor about a weight loss program that will allow you to lose large amounts of weight safely.
#4 Sit Smart!
If you need to do a lot of sitting, make sure you are doing it safely and correctly. Follow these simple guidelines when sitting:
- Make sure your feet are flat on the ground or a solid surface (like a footrest). Do not cross your legs; sit with knees bent and thighs level.
- Make sure the chair you sit in has good lumbar support in the right area for your shape and size. If you can, sit in a chair that has an adjustable support to get the best position. If this is not possible, use a rolled towel or a cushion to support your lower back.
- Make sure the arms of the chair are correctly adjusted so that your shoulders are relaxed, not hunched forward or raised.
- Stop and reposition yourself often. Relieve stiffness by stretching and relaxing any areas of your back that feel tense or tight. Get up and walk around when you can. Stop what you are doing if you feel pain.
#5 Stand Smart, Too!
Many people have jobs that require them to do a lot of standing. This can also place a great deal of pressure on joints, especially in the spine. Following these important standing tips:
- Stand in a stable position with feet flat on the ground.
- Avoid twisting the lower back to reach for things, instead, move your whole body when reaching to change your posture. Avoid over-reaching.
- If you must bend, bend at the knees not at the back. Try to face the objects before bending to avoid twisting.
- Lean when you can, this can take some of the pressure off your back and can reduce fatigue.