For many people, it is possible to slow the loss of joint cartilage as they age and avoid surgery.
Certain steps can help with that, according to one orthopedic surgeon from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who offered tips for maintaining joint health and also for managing pain if you are already experiencing arthritis-related pain.
Why we lose cartilage as we age
Dr. Joaquin Sanchez-Sotelo says cartilage, that shock-absorbing, slippery tissue at the ends of bones, degenerates for various reasons.
Those reasons include being born with abnormally shaped bones or a tendency toward weaker cartilage. Obesity, overuse and injuries from accidents also can damage joints and cartilage.
“When cartilage degenerates, the body forms bone spurs,” Sanchez-Sotelo shares. “This is a reaction to the main underlying problem, cartilage degeneration. Bone spurs can hit each other and become painful. Many patients get obsessed with bone spurs, but just taking them out won’t cure the problem, except in very rare circumstances.”
Arthritis can cause symptoms such as achy and painful joints, stiffness, and loss of movement.
Stopping cartilage loss in its tracks
1. Exercise within reason
In the years before that happens, however, you can protect your joints by building strong muscles. This can take some of the pressure off of your joints. The best way to build your muscles is without intense exercises such as football or bodybuilding because those sports come with higher risks of developing arthritis.
“You have to exercise within reason,” Sanchez-Sotelo says. “Find that point where your muscles are healthy, flexible, strong and will protect the joints, but don’t overdo it.”
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Sanchez-Sotelo also suggests maintaining a healthy weight. He’s not so sure about glucosamine and chondroitin, which are