August 19, 2010

Fitness Is Key In Arthritis Treatment

While rest and relaxation used to be the prescription for those suffering from arthritis, physicians are now recommending a more active lifestyle to maintain range of motion in the joints. According to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine, staying active is key in preventing and treating osteoarthritis.  

"Getting into a general fitness program is very beneficial for those suffering with osteoarthritis," said Dr. Brian Parsley, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at BCM. "In that program, flexibility should be one of the high priorities as well as general muscle tone."

One of the best forms of exercise is water aerobics because of the weightless environment. It can help with flexibility, muscle tone, general strength and cardiovascular health, said Parsley.  

Weight reduction is a key component to an arthritis treatment program.

"You carry four times your body weight through your hips and knees," said Parsley. "So if you're 25 pounds overweight, you're carrying 100 extra pounds on your hips and knees everyday. Imagine carrying around a 100 pound backpack everyday."

Parsley and colleagues have shown that there is a direct relationship between obesity and presentation of knee arthritis. They found that patients who are obese or morbidly obese show signs of wear and tear on the knees eight to fifteen years earlier than normal weight patients. This can eventually result in the need for knee replacement surgery.    

Parsley recommends seeking a medical evaluation to consider all treatment options, which can include medications and physical therapy. In elderly patients, assistive aids such as a cane, crutch or walker help maintain balance and decrease stress on the joints. Without an aid, patients may lose balance and suffer more severe injuries from a fall.  


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