Imagine a world where joint pain from osteoarthritis has less to do with “overuse” or “wear and tear” of the joint and more to do with lack of exercise, a sedentary lifestyle, one’s diet and systemic inflammation. How would that impact you, your family and your lifestyle? Maybe instead of staying off those painful joints you would move more? Instead of chalking your pain up to “genetics” or “worn out joints” maybe you could have more control over your pain? Maybe you would start to look at your diet and what impact it has on systemic inflammation in your body? Maybe suddenly your whole perception of your joint pain would change?
I am here to tell you that more and more high-level evidence is reporting that the old notion that osteoarthritis is solely a result of joint overuse is outdated and incorrect. Study after study shows that the world I asked you to imagine above is the world we live in. We should all jump for joy because that means we have more control over joint pain resulting from osteoarthritis than we ever thought before. That means that physical therapy, exercise, diet and overall lifestyle is more important than ever.
Research has shown that recreational runners have a lower incidence of osteoarthritis compared with competitive runners and sedentary individuals. Research also shows that the link between obesity and osteoarthritis has more to do with inflamed adipose (fat) tissue, elevated cholesterol and lipids (fat) in the blood leading to systemic inflammation and perhaps less to do with increased joint loading. There is even a study that looked at obese mice and showed that running on a wheel in a cage, protected their joints instead of damaging them. The take home message of this study is that exercise alone, separate from the resulting weight loss, promoted joint health!
If you suffer from joint pain resulting from osteoarthritis or unexplained joint pain, I strongly encourage you to make an appointment with a physical therapist. It might not only help your pain but change your whole life.