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Tackling Arthritic Pain

By Andy Stader, PA-C at the Orthopedic Institute at Southwest Health

Arthritis can be a real pain in the… shoulders, hips or knees. Arthritis is wear and tear of the cartilage at the ends of your bones. As the cartilage breaks down, you tend to have increased pain with daily activities. Some individuals are genetically disposed to getting arthritis, some end up with arthritis following a traumatic event to their joints and a lot of people get arthritis over years of being physically demanding on their bodies. Arthritis is on the rise and affects over 22% of adults in the United States.

There are many different treatment options for Arthritis, including pain medications, activity modification, physical therapy, ice, bracing, injections and joint replacement. Two of the best treatments for osteoarthritis are actually physical activity and weight loss. Arthritis is more common in patients that do no leisure time physical activity (23.6%) than those that are able to meet their recommended physical activity guidelines (18.1%).

Physical activity helps to improve pain, function, mood and quality of life. Arthritis-friendly activities include, but are not limited to, walking, swimming, riding a bike or elliptical, strength training and flexibility work. In combination with physical activity, making a few lifestyle changes can help you achieve weight loss. Every pound of excess weight adds about 4 pounds of pressure on the knees. If you were able to lose 10 pounds, that would be like taking 40 pounds of extra pressure off your knees. Here are some tips to help achieve weight loss:

  1. Eat 3 small meals and 0-3 snacks each day. Eating more often throughout the day helps prevent us from overeating and keeps your metabolism revved up as well.
  2. Focus on having protein with every meal and snack. Good examples are eggs, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, nuts, legumes/beans and low fat dairy.
  3. Limit your liquid calories. Regular soda, juice, energy drinks, sweetened coffee and alcoholic beverages all contain liquid calories that don’t fill us up.
  4. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  5. Include a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snacks. Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber and nutrients and help to fill us up.
  6. Plan ahead and carry healthy snacks with you. This decreases the likelihood of going hungry or getting the urge to overindulge. Good examples of snacks are almonds/fruit, vegetables/hummus, cottage cheese/fruit, Greek yogurt, a protein bar, string cheese/fruit, vegetables/hardboiled egg.
  7. Use smaller plates and bowls when eating. Portion control is a great way to control intake while still eating foods that you enjoy.
  8. Eat because you are physically hungry – not because you are bored, stressed, sad or just for fun. Try to find hobbies that don’t involve food, and if need be, look into new ways to cope with emotions and reduce stress. Overall, just be mindful when eating.
  9. Try to be as physically active as possible. Walk, bike or swim at a moderately brisk pace. Try using an elliptical or recumbent bike for low impact exercise. Start slowly and increase intensity, duration and frequency of exercise as tolerated.

Try to make 1 or 2 adjustments to your diet, add some physical activity that you enjoy and see if you get some relief. If you are still struggling with arthritic pain, let us take care of you at the Orthopedic Institute at Southwest Health. Make an appointment at 608-342-4748.

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