How To Decrease Your Risk of Arthritis and Joint Replacement Surgery

Mar 13, 2018

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The development of osteoarthritis, especially in the weight bearing joints of the body, is very common as we age. In fact, a large population of healthy individuals with no pain in their joints will show signs of arthritis on x-ray or MRI. Having arthritis is not necessarily a problem and many people continue on with their normal lives with little to no pain.

The problem occurs when arthritis is severe enough to be a significant contributor to pain, stiffness, and decreased quality of life. Because pain is multifactorial and complex, there is no magic severity level that will lead to pain and difficulties. This will likely be different for each individual. Although you may consider arthritis to be a normal part of aging, the pain and disability that can accompany arthritis should not be considered normal. The development of severe arthritis and the symptoms that accompany it is in many ways preventable.

There are many risk factors for the development of osteoarthritis in your joints. These risk factors can be divided into non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors. The non-modifiable risk factors are the ones that we have no control over and cannot change. The modifiable risk factors are factors that we have some degree of control over.

Let’s start with the non-modifiable risk factors for osteoarthritis that we cannot control:

  • Older Age
  • Sex (Females more than males)
  • Genetics, hereditary
  • Joint Deformity
  • Congenital disorders
  • Menopause
  • Metabolic or Endocrine Disorders (Diabetes, Hypothyroidism)
We have no control over these risk factors, but let’s look at some of the modifiable risk factors and ways we can make positive changes.

Overweight and Obesity:

Increased body weight means increased stress through the joints of your body.

Losing as little as 10 pounds can significantly decrease your risk for developing arthritis pain.

Heavy Duty Strenuous Jobs (especially jobs with a lot of kneeling and squatting).

These jobs will increase the wear and tear on your joints throughout your lifetime.

As much as possible, look for ways to modify how you perform tasks or utilize certain equipment to help minimize the daily stresses on your joints.

History of Injury or Trauma to the Joint.

Research shows that individuals with a history of knee injury such as ligament tears, meniscus tears, or other soft tissue injuries, have significantly increased risk of developing severe arthritis and requiring joint replacement surgery later in life.

To help decrease this risk, be sure to abide by appropriate safety precautions with all activities. Make sure your fitness and abilities are up to par with whatever sport or activity you are participating in and avoid unnecessary risks.

Sports participation.

Sports participation can lead to increased wear and tear on your joints due to dynamic high-intensity movements, the increased risk of injury/trauma, and high levels of training and stress on the joints. We would never suggest not participating in sports as they provide great exercise and activity that can actually be beneficial for your joints.

Again, our suggestion is to abide by all safety precautions with sport, make sure your strength and endurance are at an appropriate level to participate in the sport, and avoid unnecessary risk.

Sedentary lifestyle.

When it comes to training and exercise, such as running, moderation is the key.

Studies show that individuals who participate in moderate intensity exercise regularly have less risk of developing severe arthritis compared to sedentary individuals.

High intensity and High volume training.

On the flip side, individuals who participate in high level and high volumes of physical training show increased risk of arthritis development compared to those who exercise at a moderate level.

When it comes to physical training, if you want to decrease your risk of severe arthritis later in life, you should exercise regularly, but mostly at a moderate intensity level.

Muscle weakness.

If the muscles surrounding your joint are weak, then more forces and stress are transmitted directly through the bones and cartilage of the joint.

Improving the strength of the muscles around the weight bearing joints of your knees and hips can significantly decrease the stress through those joints and help decrease pain from arthritis.
It’s debatable whether osteoarthritis should be considered a normal part of aging or not, but the pain and disability that can accompany arthritis is definitely not a normal part of aging. The good news is that many positive changes can be made to help decrease your risk of developing severe arthritis in your joints. There is no better time than the present to start making these changes…your joints will thank you.

If you’re already dealing with the pain and stiffness from arthritis in your joints, these changes can help you, too. Making simple changes such as losing weight, increasing your strength, and exercising regularly can lead to significant improvements in your pain levels and quality of life.

References

Alentorn-Geli, E., Samuelsson, K., Musahl, V., Green, C. L., Bhandari, M., & Karlsson, J. (2017). The Association of Recreational and Competitive running with hip and knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 47(6), 373-390.

Apold, Hilde, et al. “Risk factors for knee replacement due to primary osteoarthritis, a population based, prospective cohort study of 315,495 individuals.” BMC musculoskeletal disorders15.1 (2014): 217

Gelber, A. C., Hochberg, M. C., Mead, L. A., Wang, N. Y., Wigley, F. M., & Klag, M. J. (2000). Joint injury in young adults and risk for subsequent knee and hip osteoarthritis. Annals of internal medicine, 133(5), 321-328.

Heidari, Behzad. “Knee osteoarthritis prevalence, risk factors, pathogenesis and features: Part I.” Caspian journal of internal medicine 2.2 (2011): 205.

Hunter, D. J., & Eckstein, F. (2009). Exercise and osteoarthritis. Journal of anatomy, 214(2), 197-207.

Lohmander, L. S., Englund, P. M., Dahl, L. L., & Roos, E. M. (2007). The long-term consequence of anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus injuries: osteoarthritis. The American journal of sports medicine, 35(10), 1756-1769.

Paschos, N. K. (2017). Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction and knee osteoarthritis. World journal of orthopedics, 8(3), 212.

Photos Used with Permission of Adobe ID.

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