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How to fight joint pain and increase muscular health

Staying On the Move

According to the National Institutes for Health, more than 1 million Americans receive a joint replacement each year. Whether you are among that 1 million, or simply trying to maintain your current level of movement, strengthening your muscles and participating in exercise will have a positive effect on your ability to be active.

Inova Loudoun Hospital’s Director of the Joint Replacement Division and Vice Chair of the Orthopedic Department, Nauman Akhtar, MD, explains that stress on joints is generally a question of the load, or weight, that a joint is carrying, and how much that can be offloaded by the strength of the surrounding muscles.

“The stronger you keep the muscles around the joint and the lower the load, the better your long-term outcome will be,” says Dr. Akhtar.

Joint pain often begins as a cycle, says Dr. Akhtar. The pain begins initially and then you begin favoring a different limb or using braces, which can decrease the strength of the muscles surrounding that joint, leading to an increase in pain.

“So we try to break people out of that cycle and help them control the pain,” he says.

In particular, Dr. Akhtar recommends “closed-chain” exercises for increasing muscular health. When doing closed-chain exercises, your feet are still attached to the floor or a device while you are performing the exercises, which increases stability and reduces damage from impact.

Yoga and stretching can also provide a good way to strengthen your muscles, as well as keep you flexible. However, Dr. Akhtar warns that for some people, especially people who have received a joint replacement, certain yoga poses can be too stressful.

“When we get stiff, we don’t have the flexibility or tracking in our joints to help maintain healthy joints,” says Dr. Akhtar. “So I’ve been a huge proponent of yoga, tai chi and stretching. But you don’t want to go to the extreme ranges of motion after a replacement, which a lot of yoga poses expose you to. It’s really important to have a program and instructor that understands your type of replacement and your range of motion.”

Exercising and keeping these tips in mind will benefit not only people with joint issues, but also anyone who wants to stay healthy.

“Regardless of whether you have arthritis or not, having a healthy stretching regimen that you do on a regular basis and keeping your core strong are the two most important things you can do to help keep your body limber and physically fit, and to keep from having issues with joint pain,” says Dr. Akhtar.

GOT PAIN?

Find out about Joint Replacement Services at Inova at www.inova.org/joint.

Recommended Exercises for Joint Health

Dr. Akhtar shared some suggestions with us for exercises that will keep you in shape while also putting less stress on your joints.

  • Elliptical exercises instead of the treadmill
  • Swimming and water aerobics
  • Biking
  • Leg presses instead of squats

1 Comment

  1. Chris on July 29, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    A few hours ago, I had a lovely conversation with a new friend. She is a long-time veteran warrior against RA. As often happens between two friends with RA, the conversation turned to this: How will we change the misperception of this disease?  The first thing brought up is always the name.  You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: “arthritis has nothing to do with RA, so we need a new name.”  I’ve heard more discussions about this unfortunate name problem than Windows has updates.

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