What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, or OA, is the most common type of arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it is the most common type of arthritis, affecting nearly 27 million Americans. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions your joints wears down over time. Eventually, the bones may end up grinding against each other, causing severe pain and stiffness, and possibly compromising the structure of the bones themselves. The hips, hands, and knees are the primary areas of the body that are affected by osteoarthritis.
During early stages of osteoarthritis in the knee, patients may feel very mild pain or limitations in mobility. There will also be minor bone spurs that begin to grow around the knee. However, in early stages, the cartilage of the knee will still be at a healthy size, and the space between the bones is normal, with no rubbing between the bones of the knee.
As OA begins to progress, inflammation at the joint becomes more apparent. Patients will experience difficulty bending and extending the knee, as well as popping and snapping sounds when walking. The patient will also experience significant stiffness after sitting for long periods of time, or when waking up in the morning. More spurs will develop, space between the bones narrows, and the cartilage between bones shows obvious damage
In cases of severe osteoarthritis, patients experience significant challenges when attempting to go about day-to-day movements, such as walking or descending stairs. Cartilage at this point will be almost completely gone, leaving the joint stiff, and often completely immobile. The fluid that aids in movement is almost completely gone, and deformity of the bones themselves will begin to deform.
Age, injury, heredity, and lifestyle factors all affect the risk of developing osteoarthritis. The more weight that is placed on a joint, the more stressed that the joint will become. The added stress increases the wear and tear on the joint, and therefore the risk of damage to the joint.
Obesity and Osteoarthritis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2 out of 3 Americans are overweight or obese. The more weight that the joints have to carry, the harder they have to work. In fact, it is estimated that a force of nearly three to six times your bodyweight is applied to the knee when you walk. Because of this, being overweight increases stress on weight-bearing joints and accelerates the breakdown of cartilage, the tissue that cushions your joints.
It’s not just a load-bearing problem, however. There’s also significant evidence that fat tissue releases chemicals that increase inflammation in the body, which also affects how severe your OA is.
Given all of this, it only makes sense that weight loss will help offset some of the effects of osteoarthritis. In fact, one study showed that the effect of losing one pound will reduce the force on your knee joints by four times that amount.
Slowing the Progression of Osteoarthritis
In the Framingham Study, for overweight women of average height, for every 11 pounds of weight loss, the risk of knee osteoarthritis dropped by over 50%!
Doctors recommend an initial weight loss goal of 10%. It is important to remember to take it slow. Losing weight too rapidly from a crash diet rarely leads to long-term success with weight loss. For a more successful approach, make gradual changes to your diet and exercise routine.
Pushing yourself to exercise hard, even if you’re in pain, can cause more damage to your joints, so it is important to start small. Always be sure to consult with your physician before beginning any new exercise routine.
Avoid activities that involve putting a lot of impact on your knees and hips. Walking is a good choice, and it can be a pleasant social experience. Swimming is also a good form of exercise that improves muscle and cardio strength, while also putting minimal strain on your joints.
If standing is painful, you can still do low-impact stretches and strengthening movements that will help you improve mobility without a lot of pain. Set modest goals that you know you can achieve and work up from there. Move more and make better eating choices. When you see the pounds starting to come off, you’ll be encouraged to keep going. Remember, even a small amount of weight loss can have a large, positive impact on your osteoarthritis.
Changing your diet also has a significant impact on weight loss, especially when paired with an exercise routine. However, it is important to start slow with dieting, as it is with exercising. Begin with making small switches from unhealthy options to healthier options. For example: start with swapping sodas or juices for water. Removing sugar-loaded beverages and sodas from your diet removes excess empty calories that can translate into unwanted pounds. Cleaning out your refrigerator and removing tempting foods can also help.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Osteoarthritis
When dealing with cases of osteoarthritis of the knee, the most often recommended form of treatment is undergoing knee replacement surgery. In fact, this procedure is actually recommended too often, with studies showing that up to 1/3 of knee replacements are actually deemed “medically inappropriate.” On top of this, over 50% of surgeries done are not medically necessary. Knee replacement surgery also has a lengthy recovery process involved, as well as only lasting 10-15 years.
With all of this in mind, getting a second opinion for the best form of treatment is extremely necessary. Flexogenix® offers non-surgical solutions for knee osteoarthritis that have helped over 40,000 patients avoid knee replacement surgery altogether. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation and let us give you a personalized plan to relieve your pain and get you back to the active lifestyle that you deserve!