Aches and pains may be a part of getting older, but for nearly half of Americans over the age of 18, musculoskeletal (bone and joint) conditions are not only a nuisance, they can be debilitating and life-interrupting. In fact, conditions of the bones and joints like back pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, and traumatic injuries are the leading cause of long-term disability and severe pain. As more Baby Boomers begin dealing with the devastating effects of bone and joint problems, health care providers are working to raise more awareness to help shed light on prevention measures, as well as treatment options to help this aging population live their lives free of pain. October 12 thru 20 is recognized as Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week.
From muscle aches to sharp pains or feeling like you can’t stand up straight, back pain is common and usually does not signal a serious medical problem. Once you experience back pain, begin treating with home care by placing ice on the area of injury to help reduce inflammation within the first 24 to 48 hours. Don’t head to bed or the couch. Stay active with daily tasks and chores, while taking a break from strenuous exercise. Although it may seem counterproductive, movement helps back pain. At work, get up and move around every 20 minutes. Make sure you are sitting with good posture. Stretch your back and your legs. You may also benefit from light yoga to help ease your back pain. Over-the-counter medications like aspirin or ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation as well.
If the pain is not noticeably better within 72 hours, contact your health care provider. Back pain may indicate a more serious medical problem if you are also experiencing numbness in your legs and have trouble standing and walking. If the pain does not subside, even when you are laying down, make sure your tell your health care provider. Also, back pain could indicate an underlying medical condition if you also lose control of your bladder or bowels.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says one in five Americans is living with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, inflammation of one or more joints. As our aging population continues to grow, that number is expected to grow as well. Researchers say there are number of causes for arthritis including our genetic makeup, a physically demanding job, a previous injury, an infection or allergic reaction, which may cause short-term arthritis. For some people, certain foods trigger arthritis symptoms or make existing ones worse. Arthritis can also be caused by obesity, which places extra strain on joints. An autoimmune disease may also cause arthritis.
Many arthritis suffers are familiar with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Offered in both over-the-counter and prescription strengths, NSAIDs offer relief from pain and fever associated with arthritis. However, there are some side effects for long-term use. Patients should talk to their health care provider about any medications they take to treat their arthritis. Outside of medication, exercise, physical therapy, losing weight (if needed) and other lifestyle modifications, can help reduce pain, improve function and help prevent joint damage. Talk with your health care provider about the right recommendations for treating your arthritis.
Bone loss can occur without any cause. However, for some people, it is genetic. Osteoporosis causes your bones to become weak and brittle – making them more susceptible to breaking especially in the hip, wrist or spine. To better understand how this happens, let’s first learn more about our bones. Bones are living tissue, which are continually in the process of being absorbed and replaced. As long as there is a balance of new and old bone, our bones will remain healthy and strong. However, this process can be interrupted when something tells our bodies to destroy too much bone or prevents it from making new bone. When our bodies reabsorb the calcium and phosphate from our bones, we begin to enter into a stage of osteoporosis.
There are three ways we can promote healthy bones – maintaining adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D and exercise throughout our lives. For men and women ages 18 to 50, 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day will help ensure they are getting the right amount through both diet and supplements (if needed). Once women turn 50 years old, they should begin to increase the amount of calcium they consume to 1,200 milligrams a day. The same is true for men once they turn 70. Complimentary to calcium, vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium. Men and women should aim for 600 to 800 international units (IU) a day, through food and supplements. Individual needs vary, however. Talk to your health care provider to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D. When it comes to exercise, we reap the most reward from a lifetime of regular exercise. However, it is never too late to start, as exercise can help strengthen our bones and slow bone loss. It is best to mix aerobic exercise like swimming or biking with weight-bearing exercises for maximum results.
We are on the heels of the time of year we need to be especially aware of fall hazards. Slipping on a thin sheet of ice is an easy way to break a hip, dislocate a shoulder or cause injury to the hands. The weekend warrior is also susceptible to injury with the most common being knee, ankle, upper leg and shoulder injury. In these cases, bone and joint injuries can be serious enough to require surgery. If you or a loved one suffers an injury from a fall or other traumatic event, call 9-1-1 or head to your nearest Emergency Department.
To help prevent traumatic injury, make sure you are not putting yourself in a situation that greatly increases your risk. Wear proper shoes and protective gear when participating in sports. If winter weather is of concern, try to avoid going outside and walking on sidewalks if possible. If you need to get out in icy conditions, wear flat boots or shoes with traction and walk slowly, holding onto side rails or support. Maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active can also reduce your risk of suffering a traumatic bone or joint injury.
To learn more about orthopedic services available of Hillcrest Claremore, please visit our website.