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by Dr. Sandeep Kalirah, BSc, DC

 Those who suffer from arthritis know how difficult the colder months can be.  With dreaded winter just around the corner, here are some strategies to help cope with your aches and pains.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the main cause of disability in individuals over age 55.  A debilitating condition that affects the joints, arthritis is a degenerative process that results in severe pain.

Lining each of the bones within a joint is a flexible tissue known as cartilage.  Cartilage acts as a shock absorber for all the stresses that occur within the joints.  Cartilage loses its elasticity with age and repetitive movement – this means that cartilage starts to wear-away.  As a result, the bones that lie underneath the cartilage start to rub against each other.  Swelling, bumps, and bony-spurs develop, and joints lose flexibility.

Patients who experience osteoarthritis often feel pain during repetitive use of the joint, or after a period of inactivity.  Therefore, it is important to manage arthritis accordingly.

Strategies for Managing Osteoarthritis

1. Find support and accept help. There are plenty of interventions aimed to alleviate arthritic pain. Talk to a medical doctor, a chiropractor and/or a physiotherapist to see if there is anything you can do to alleviate your pain, improve your flexibility and stabilize your arthritic joints.

2. Don’t give up on any activities you enjoy. A medical professional can help you make ergonomic modifications and recommend tools or braces to help you cope. Also, take frequent breaks if needed.

3. Avoid keeping your joints in the same position for prolonged periods of time. Move your joints and practice good posture!

4.” Motion is lotion!” Exercise helps to keep your joints lubricated. Try activities like swimming and biking, and avoid activities such as prolonged running/jogging. With that said, do not eliminate your weight-bearing activities completely.

5. Lose weight. Losing 10 pounds is equivalent to reducing the stress of your knees by 40 pounds.

6. Keep a health journal. This may help point out things that aggravate or alleviate symptoms.

7. Quit smoking. Smoking may increase the risk of osteoporosis and post-surgical recovery. Quitting not only reduces your risk for many other diseases but also helps ease joint pain.

8. Increase consumption of omega-3 rich foods. Omega-3’s are known for their anti-inflammatory effects and will help alleviate pain.

9. Make sure you get enough sleep! With every movement we make, we create stress on our muscles, nerves, and joints. Our bodies have the innate ability to repair themselves while we sleep.  To ensure the body has enough time to recover from the stresses from the day before, aim for 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

10. During the winter months keep your arthritic joints bundled up, especially the hands and feet. Also, trap your body heat by wearing plenty of loose layers.

Side Note: Degenerative Disc Disease

A common concern that often alarms my patients is the term Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). On many X-Rays of the spine, DDD is surely a finding.

As human beings, we all have some level of degenerative changes in our joints.  We are constantly using them!  Therefore, in most cases, DDD is just a fancy (and scary) term for arthritis of the spine.

Depending on the severity, DDD may cause and/or correlate with disc bulges/herniations and/or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the canal where the spinal cord passes through).  In order to determine the severity, DDD is usually classified as mild, moderate or severe.  Moderate and severe DDD is where we maybe a little more concerned, but MRI imaging, in addition to clinical findings, are the Gold Standard for diagnosing disc bulge/herniations and/or spinal stenosis.  As health care practitioners, we commonly rely on symptoms, to determine the complexity of your DDD.

Bottom Line: A finding of Degenerative Disc Disease on an X-Ray is not a cause for concern in the absence of unrelenting pain or disability.

Dr. Sandeep Kalirah has been providing Chiropractic care at Pacific Wellness that is tailored towards individual needs.  The chiropractic treatments are covered by most employee benefits.  You are invited to meet Dr. Sandeep Kalirah for a 15 min complementary consultation to find out if you are a match for chiropractic care.  For more information please give us a call at 416-929-6958.