If you're an active individual who loves playing sports, taking measures to reduce the risk of arthritis is crucial. In case of sports-related injuries, it is essential to prioritize complete healing before resuming physical activity. While it might be challenging for sports enthusiasts to be sidelined, listening to your sports medicine doctor and physical therapist, and following their advice is vital for long-term health.
What Kind of Arthritis Do Active People Get?
When we talk about arthritis, we generally mean the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis. It’s a condition that involves the wearing away of cartilage that protects our bones where they meet our joints; it causes pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Osteoarthritis is different from rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the synovial membrane that protects and lubricates joints becomes inflamed, causing pain and swelling.
Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when cartilage, which normally functions as a cushion at the ends of the joints, breaks down and is no longer properly reducing friction in the joint. Over time, cartilage can wear away to the extent that bone rubs against bone.
When the joint moves without enough cartilage as a cushion, it can itself become damaged. See drawing below.
Common symptoms of Osteoarthritis are:
1. Joint pain: Often after overuse (such as high impact exercise) or with inactivity
2. Joint stiffness after inactivity: Usually eases up once movement begins, and commonly occurs in the morning.
3. The stiffness and pain associated with osteoarthritis can keep an athlete from being active, and inactivity can contribute to the condition worsening, thus creating a cycle in which the osteoarthritis is continually bothersome.
Managing Arthritis for Athletic People
For athlete folks who already experience arthritis or want to prevent its progression, maintaining fitness is key. Engaging in muscle strengthening exercises and managing weight can help minimize joint stress and alleviate pain.
Low-impact exercises are particularly beneficial for improving joint movement and include activities like swimming, cycling, and walking.
Pain Management Techniques for Arthritis
Effective pain management is essential for athletes dealing with arthritis. Several techniques can help alleviate discomfort and improve joint function:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: These can be used to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Note: Prolonged use is not recommended.
- Herbal anti-inflammatories supplements: These can help stop the pain before it starts. Check with your doctor before taking any new drug or supplement.
- Heat application: Applying warm compresses can improve circulation and provide soothing relief to affected joints.
- Cold therapy: Cold packs can help reduce inflammation and relieve acute pain.
- Avoid prolonged inactivity: Staying active and avoiding extended periods of inactivity is crucial for preventing joint stiffness.
- Moderation in joint use: It's important not to overuse damaged joints. If you experience pain, give the joint adequate rest.
- Physical therapy: Working with a physical therapist can be highly beneficial in improving joint function and mobility.
Reducing the risk of arthritis and managing the condition effectively is essential for athletic folks who want to continue enjoying their favorite sports and activities. By following proper healing protocols, engaging in appropriate exercises, and implementing effective pain management techniques, athletes can maintain their fitness levels and protect their joint health for the long term.
Consulting with healthcare professionals, such as sports medicine doctors and physical therapists, is crucial for personalized advice and guidance on managing arthritis and maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle.
I’d love to know what you do to stay fit and avoid pain. I’ll share it with our customers! Email me at Pauline@DrHRejoint.com