Breaking the Pain Chain: All About Osteoarthritis Pain

By Karen J. Weiss, MD

Osteoarthritis (OA) is joint damage that has been caused by ongoing localized trauma (injury) to the joint. It is the typical arthritis people start to feel as they begin to enter middle age. It can also occur in young individuals often following an injury. Relieving the pain of OA is a multimodality approach which can include exercise, nutrition, healthy sleep, and a positive mindset. In this article we’ll focus on exercise.

First, let’s look at the basics of what takes place inside the joint. Healthy cartilage is smooth and lines the bones to create a “built in” cushion that softens the impact as weight is placed on the joint.  The cartilage acts as a shock absorber, especially for the large weight-bearing joints like the hips, knees, feet and spine. It has a capsule, which surrounds the joint and separates it from the adjacent tissue.  The fluid in the joint provides lubrication and nutrients. When the cartilage is damaged, however, bone begins to rub on bone causing pain.

Exercising to reduce the pain of OA involves utilizing healthy alignment and body mechanics. Interestingly, the weight-bearing joints absorb a force about four times greater than the person’s actual body weight. For example, a 200 lb. woman is actually placing 800 lbs of weight on her weight-bearing joints (hips, knees, feet, and spine) with every step.  If this woman lost 30 pounds, there would be a corresponding decrease of 120 lbs of force to her knees.

Exercise increases blood flow to the joint, providing needed nutrients while removing painful metabolites. The fluid in the joint becomes healthier, which can then mitigate the painful friction.

Listen to your body. If you experience pain while exercising, stop. Before starting any new activity, supplement or medication, be sure to talk to your doctor first.

In the video below, Terence Starz, MD, talks about an Arthritis Foundation program he recently helped review and update called the “Breaking the Pain Chain” educational series.  Please contact Pam Fields at 513-527-5042 for more information on this program. 

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