Roughly 60 million Americans have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, along with the aches, pains, and stiffness the disease can cause. The knees are a common site for arthritis, thanks to all the years of wear-and-tear exerted on these major weight-bearing joints.
As a leading orthopaedics specialist in West Orange and Bayonne, New Jersey, James M. Lee Jr., MD, helps patients at Orange Orthopaedic Associates manage knee arthritis discomfort and slow arthritis progression with medical treatment and lifestyle guidance.
Here, he shares a dozen ways you can help preserve the health of your knees.
Lose those extra pounds
Your knees are major weight-bearing joints, and every step you take puts some amount of strain on the joint surfaces. Not surprisingly, extra pounds mean extra strain — in fact, every extra pound you carry puts about four additional pounds on your knee joints.
On top of that, fatty tissue releases chemicals that support inflammation, a key player in osteoarthritis. These chemicals change the structure and function of cartilage, making it less resilient and more prone to damage. Losing weight reduces the physical strain on your joints while lowering the amount of inflammatory chemicals.
Stay physically active
Your joints are made to move, and getting regular physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain joint health and slow the progression of OA.
The key: Focus on low-impact exercises, like swimming, walking, and cycling, and avoid high-impact sports involving jumping or repetitive impact to your feet.
Focus on strength and flexibility
In addition to low-impact exercises, add some activities that help support strong leg muscles. By strengthening the muscles that support your knees, you transfer some of the strain off the joint surfaces.
Adding exercises to promote flexibility keeps joints strong while reducing your risk of falls and other accidents.
Make good nutrition a priority
Like the rest of your body, your joints benefit from good nutrition. Focusing on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, plant and lean protein sources, and moderate amounts of healthy fats and dairy helps keep inflammation under control while improving overall wellness.
Choose the right footwear
Good shoes don’t just support your feet and relieve chronic foot pain. They support your knees, too (as well as your hips and spine). Choose shoes with plenty of arch and ankle support and a good amount of cushioning to reduce impact on your knees while you’re moving and standing still.
Use hot and cold therapy
Applying cold to sore joints helps control inflammation, while heat improves circulation to promote healing. Alternate both for maximum benefits.
Use your joints wisely
In addition to avoiding high-impact activities, like running and jumping, keep your joints in mind when doing other activities, too, like squatting, lifting, and kneeling.
Protect your joints with cushioning when kneeling down, avoid carrying and lifting very heavy loads, and be open to modifying your routine to take strain off your knees.
Rest between activities
Being active is important for joint health, but don’t overdo it. Taking breaks or resting between activities gives your joints time to recover while reducing the risk of inflammation.
Consider over-the-counter medication
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce both pain and inflammation. Ask Dr. Lee to recommend a product specifically for OA symptoms so you can reap maximum benefits while minimizing potential side effects.
Use assistive devices
Many people with mild to moderate knee arthritis benefit from knee braces or compression garments to provide additional support to the joint. Canes and walkers can also be helpful, especially if you expect to be on your feet for a long period or if your OA interferes with your balance.
Ask about physical therapy
Physical therapy focuses on exercises and gentle stretching to promote joint function and flexibility. Dr. Lee recommends therapy to help OA patients stay more active while reducing pain and inflammation.
Have regular orthopaedic checkups
Finally, if you have OA, regular checkups ensure you receive treatment focused on keeping your joints healthy. If you haven’t been diagnosed with OA but you have symptoms like joint pain or stiffness, schedule an office visit. Learn how to manage OA and help slow the progression of the disease.
Don’t let sore, stiff knees keep you from enjoying life to its fullest. To learn how we can help, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Lee and our team at Orange Orthopaedic Associates in Bayonne and West Orange, New Jersey.