Preserve your aging joints

Skipping warm-ups and stretching. Getting injured during exercise or sports. A lot of us have been tough on our knees, hips and other joints for years. This may lead to problems like osteoarthritis – and eventually, to joint replacement surgery.

How to Care for Yourself

Joint replacements are safe and effective, but there are many steps you can take before turning to surgery. Be kind to your joints by:

  • Eating a healthy diet. Healthy eating helps maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds can cause more wear and tear on joints.
  • Staying active. Exercise protects joints by strengthening the muscles that support them.
  • Choosing low-impact activities if you have arthritis. Instead of racquetball or running, try swimming, water aerobics, walking or biking.
  • Getting enough rest. Sleep helps restore energy and decrease swelling and pain. And alternating strenuous activities with rest puts less stress on sensitive joints.
  • Managing pain. Use over-the-counter or prescription medications to control pain and inflammation. You can also receive injections of corticosteroids directly in painful joints.
  • Taking part in physical or occupational therapy. This may help increase your mobility, muscle strength and ability to perform everyday activities.
  • Using assistive devices. A brace, splint, cane and other devices may help ease joint stress and pain.

When to Replace Joints

In the best of circumstances, these self-management strategies may be enough to improve function and control pain. But if you have any of the following signs, speak with your healthcare provider about joint replacement:

  • Your joint pain continues while resting, either day or night.
  • Your joint pain makes it hard for you to do everyday activities like getting out of a chair, going up stairs or walking more than a short distance.
  • You’ve tried different noninvasive treatments, including pain medications, but they’re not controlling your joint pain.

Your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon for an exam, which should help determine if surgery is a good option for you.

Over the years, surgical techniques and technology have improved, significantly decreasing complications associated with joint replacement surgery.

Sources: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Arthritis Foundation, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, The Free Dictionary, Farlex Inc, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Arthritis Foundation, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery

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