Keep your joints jumping: Arthritis basics

Think of your joints as the hinges on your front door. With people coming in and out all day, slamming the door, eventually those hinges start to creak a little each time they’re used, or maybe some of their screws aren’t as tight as they should be.

It’s the same with your joints, the places where cartilage and ligaments help cushion the bones from rubbing against each other when they connect, and your bones, which protect your innards from injury. Your bones are constantly changing, breaking down old bone and building new bone, and, from time to time, they need a little TLC to keep doing their job.

Women at Risk

In general, women experience joint and bone problems more often than men. Nearly one-half of women will suffer a broken bone as a result of osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them susceptible to breakage. Only 25 percent of men are likely to have the disease, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Women are also at higher risk of osteoarthritis, which sets in after the breakdown of cartilage in a joint. (Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the joints, and is rarer than osteoarthritis.) Women typically develop osteoarthritis in their hands, knees, ankles or feet, while men experience it in their wrists, hips or spine.

You’re at higher risk for osteoporosis and other joint and bone disease if you:

  • regularly participate in high-impact activities, such as racquetball, running or hard-court tennis
  • have already gone through menopause
  • are overweight or do not exercise.

Arthritis Prevention

There’s no way to reverse arthritis once it begins, says Dr. X, TITLE. But there are plenty of things you can do to ward off and help alleviate arthritis.

“Some people believe if they exercise more, they will wear out their joints quicker,” says Dr. Smith. “But I feel that exercise is beneficial.”

The type of exercise you do is important. Low-impact sports such as swimming, walking and using equipment like a StairMaster may be kinder to your joints over the long haul than high-impact sports.

Stretching before exercising, and stopping if you experience joint pain while exercising, are essential steps. If you do high-impact or weight-bearing exercises, it’s a good idea to give your body a day’s break between work-outs. You want to aim for exercising five days a week, for at least 30 minutes a day, says Dr. X, so it’s better to alternate low-impact sports with some of the higher-impact activities.

Walking on softer surfaces and wearing the proper shoes are also good preventive steps. Alternative medicine expert Dr. X recommends walking sticks because they help distribute weight evenly, protecting your joints, and help you burn more calories while walking (because the upper body gets a workout too).

Dr. X, a surgeon at the Center for Advanced Joint Replacement at Wilmington Hospital in Wilmington, Del., urges his patients to stay away from running. While it hasn’t been shown to cause arthritis, running does contribute to joint wear and tear more than other forms of exercise, says 
Dr. X, who is affiliated with Christiana Care Health System.

Eating for Your Bones

Preventive joint and bone health isn’t just about exercise, but diet as well.

“I do not think many Americans get a balanced diet,” says Dr. X. As a result, he recommends a multivitamin to help make up for any deficiencies.  He also urges his patients to avoid drinking soft drinks. Research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University suggests that the ingredients in soft drinks may lead to increased incidence of osteoporosis in women, although not in men.

Of all the minerals and vitamins, calcium and vitamin D are the most essential for bone and joint health. Calcium helps build bone mass and prevent loss of bone mass.

While one study from the Washington University School of Medicine suggests that dietary calcium may do a better job of preventing disease than calcium from supplements, Dr. X says either one will work. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that woman ages 19 to 24 get 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. For women 25 and older, the daily requirement is 800 milligrams.

Some experts recommend a glucosamine supplement in addition to calcium and vitamin D, but the jury is still out on how much the supplement impacts joint health. A study from the University of Utah School of Medicine found that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate offered some pain relief for patients with severe arthritis, but not for those who had mild pain.

“I recommend people try it for three months and then stop and see how they feel,” says Dr. X.

4 Ways to Boost Bone and Joint Health

1. Exercise regularly, doing low-impact activities such as walking or swimming.

2. Eat a balanced diet.

3. Cut down on soft drinks.

4. Take calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Our Ortho Doctors

Jennfier FitzPatrick, MD

Dr. FitzPatrickSpecialties: Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine

“I've always had a calling for medicine, but my path towards orthopedics began as an athlete and patient. Ultimately, I had surgery that helped me return to my senior year of college athletics. That experience is my driving motivation to understand and have greater compassion with my patients."

Rickland Likes, DO

Dr. LikesSpecialty: Orthopedic Surgery

Dr. Rickland Likes, a Colorado native, received his medical education from the University of New England, followed by an internship and orthopedic residency at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, learning the latest techniques in joint replacement, fracture care, and minimally invasive surgery.

Lucas King, MD

Dr. KingSpecialties: Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine

Dr. Lucas King is a sports fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon with a special interest in the care of athletes at the high school, collegiate and professional level as well as weekend warriors. Dr. King provides a wide range of orthopedic care and specializes in disorders of the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee, performing minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. He also performs joint replacement for arthritis. Dr. King serves as a team physician for CSU-Pueblo athletics.

Mark Porter, MD

Dr. PorterSpecialty: Orthopedic Surgery 

Dr. Mark Porter, a 16-year U.S. military veteran, came to Pueblo after his most recent station at Evans Army Community Hospital in Fort Carson, CO.  Dr. Porter began his military career in the Coast Guard before pursuing his undergraduate degree at U.C. Davis and his medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.  Dr. Porter completed his residency in the Orthopedic Surgery Program at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Texas Tech University in El Paso, TX.

Robert Thomas, MD

Dr. ThomasSpecialty: Orthopedic Surgery

Dr. Robert Thomas came to Pueblo with more than 25 years of orthopedic experience.  Dr. Thomas began his medical career as a physical therapist, providing him an experienced start to medical school at the Medical College of Virginia, followed by orthopedic residency at Albany Medical Center.

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