A Healthy Orthopaedic Lifestyle

August 30, 2013

Strains, sprains, overuse injuries, fractures, and arthritis: it`s a rare person who has not experienced one of these orthopaedic problems.
Practicing good orthopaedic health habits can minimize the risk of incurring one or more of these common musculoskeletal conditions.

Strong muscles protect our joints from injury by absorbing the energy of impact and torsion. Also, a strong muscle with its attached tendon is less likely to tear, a condition that can lead to painful tendinopathy(1) such as “tennis elbow” or shoulder bursitis.

Aerobic activity that elevates your heart rate for at least 20 minutes a day is recommended for strengthening muscles. My favorite is brisk walking with two walking poles (2), because all four extremities are engaged in weight bearing exercise which is important for improving muscle and bone strength. Excellent substitutes for walking include swimming, riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical trainer.

Aging increases our need for regular exercise as the body`s “fitness memory” becomes shorter and shorter. Exercise more as you age, not less.

As we get older, our joints and muscles get stiffer. Stiffness lowers the threshold for incurring sprains, strains and tendon inflammation (“tendinitis”). A daily stretching program not only feels good, but minimizes the risk of injury by maintaining flexibility. A simple, but reasonably comprehensive program can be accomplished in 10 minutes (3).

Weight Control
Obesity is strongly liked to arthritis, not only mechanically (extra weight on joints), but also biochemically (fat cells secrete joint damaging inflammatory substances). A weight control plan I recommend includes eating three balanced meals a day with portion control, no snacking, and avoidance of processed foods and sugary drinks.

Smoking and Alcohol
Smoking and heavy drinking are both risk factors for fracture non-union, poor wound healing and osteoporosis. Stop smoking and drink only in moderation.

Calcium and Vitamin D
Vitamin D and Calcium are essential for optimal bone and muscle health. Adults should ingest 1200 mg of calcium (diary, supplements) and 800 IU of Vitamin D (supplements) per day.

Beware of “New” Sport or Activity Participation
Intense use of muscle groups that are not conditioned is an invitation for overuse injuries and tendinitis.

Daily exercise on the stationary bike, for instance, does not mean you are ready to play a game of racquetball, climb Mt Washington or even paint the kitchen.

Start slowly, identify the new muscle groups required for the activity and stretch and strengthen them regularly. The duration of this preparation phase will vary with your age, baseline fitness and type of desired activity, but plan on spending a few weeks to months in training before unrestricted participation.

Good Driving Habits
Motor vehicle accidents are a frequent cause of musculoskeletal injuries, many of them devastating. Minimize your risk by obeying traffic laws, wearing your seat belt, and avoiding distractions like texting. Never drive while intoxicated.

When an accident or arthritis happens, it is often viewed as just “bad luck”, but there is something to the old adage, “you make your own luck”. Practicing a healthy orthopaedic lifestyle minimizes the risk of musculoskeletal injury and prevents or at least lessens the debilitating symptoms of osteoarthritis.