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How can I reduce my osteoarthritis symptoms?

Living with osteoarthritis (OA) can be challenging, but did you know that staying active can actually help alleviate symptoms? Contrary to what some might think, engaging in activities like running or recreational sports can lead to less symptomatic OA pain compared to avoiding activity altogether. While being overweight does not increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis, it can exacerbate symptoms once you have the condition.

Understanding osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a joint-related dysfunction that not only affects the joints but potentially your entire system. This condition involves articular cartilage loss, bone erosion, osteophyte formation, and possibly even synovitis with a systemic inflammatory component. Symptoms include pain, swelling, redness, heat, stiffness, and crepitus—a grinding sound when the joint moves over a less smooth cartilage surface.

What causes osteoarthritis?

The development of OA is linked to a suppression of cartilage restoration and an imbalance of cartilage turnover. Factors such as aging, joint injuries, genetics, and repetitive stress on the joints play roles in the onset of this condition. It’s crucial to understand these factors as they guide effective treatment strategies.

Effective strategies for managing osteoarthritis

Managing OA involves supporting a balance between cartilage turnover and destruction. Here’s what you can do:

  • Stay active: Loading the joint through activity promotes chondrocyte activity and bone growth, essential for cartilage health.
  • Manage your weight: Reducing weight can decrease systemic inflammation, improving symptoms and joint function. Even losing 5-15% of body weight can make a significant clinical difference.
  • Exercise and physical therapy: Engage in low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, and walking. These activities strengthen muscles around the joints, improve flexibility, and support weight management.
  • Dietary changes: Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to help reduce inflammation and support joint health. Avoid processed and sugary foods which can exacerbate inflammation.
  • Supportive devices: Using braces and splints during activity can help by reducing nervous system input and lowering anxiety.
  • Mental and emotional well-being: Prioritise sleep, recovery, and relaxation to help your nervous system be less sensitive, reducing pain perception.

Addressing pain and inflammation

For immediate pain relief, topical anti-inflammatories like diclofenac cream can be effective. Additionally, consider relaxation techniques, stress management, and ensuring proper footwear to make a significant difference in how you manage OA pain.

Conclusion: Taking charge of your health

Osteoarthritis doesn’t have to control your life. By understanding the disease and implementing these strategies, you can manage your symptoms effectively and maintain an active, fulfilling life. Remember, every step towards a healthier lifestyle counts towards managing your osteoarthritis and improving your overall well-being.

If you’re dealing with osteoarthritis, consider consulting with an osteopath or a healthcare professional to tailor these strategies to your needs and get the most out of your treatment plan. Together, you can work towards a pain-free life, empowering yourself with the knowledge and tools to manage your osteoarthritis effectively.

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