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Healthy You

How Weekend Warriors Can Avoid Early Onset Arthritis and Other Injuries

By Karyn Odway

Many weekend warriors recall the athletic pursuits of their younger days when workouts were easier and their bodies bounced back quickly. Staying active as you age often comes with aches and pains, the result of prior bone, tissue or cartilage damage, the aging process, or simple wear and tear.

Jumping for joy over Lake Tahoe mountainsMusculoskeletal pain impacts half of all Americans 18 and older, and nearly 75 percent of those 65 and older. Among the most common orthopedic conditions are hip and knee arthritis, back pain, and residual pain following an injury.

To ease the pain and avoid future injuries while staying athletic, here are suggestions from Ravi Bashyal, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive hip and knee replacement and director of Outpatient Hip and Knee Replacement Surgery at NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute.

Manage Old Injuries

“Having an injury from the past makes you more susceptible to osteoarthritis later in life, even if that orthopedic injury fully healed,” Dr. Bashyal notes.  “The initial injury accelerates the inevitable wear and tear of your joints over the decades, leaving former athletes with the chronic condition earlier in life than most people.”

Osteoarthritis affects 27 million adults in the United States (more women than men). This chronic condition is the result of normal wear and tear leading to the breakdown of cartilage and padding in joints, causing inflammation and pain.

“Everyone is subject to wear and tear in their joints; however, this process is accelerated in former athletes who have had sports-related injuries or musculoskeletal damage,” Dr. Bashyal said. “Obesity is another risk factor for osteoarthritis, so keeping your weight in check will slow the degenerative process.”

Dr. Bashyal recommends treating the aches right away before they progress to a loss in quality of life. Many weekend warriors start with nonsurgical treatments for most chronic conditions, including physical therapy to strengthen muscles around the injured area and/or cortisone injections and viscosupplementation (gel shots) to reduce inflammation and pain in the joints.

“As arthritis gets worse, surgical options are discussed, usually when patients are experiencing bone-on-bone pain,” Dr. Bashyal says. “Many patients can benefit from minimally invasive joint surgery, which avoids cutting muscles, lessens pain during recovery, and speeds return to activity.”

He adds, “A total joint replacement resurfaces the areas of the worn-out cartilage and padding with a new artificial joint, restoring quality of life and function for end-stage osteoarthritis that failed conservative management.”

Prevent New Injuries

To avoid chronic musculoskeletal pain as you keep up with the intensity of training, competing or workouts, Dr. Bashyal suggests these four self-care approaches:

  • Get into a workout routine. Daily activity is best for the body. Exercise is medicine and could be the prescription you need to move toward a healthier lifestyle.
  • Stretch your exercise start time. Stretch and slowly raise your heart rate through small movements. A warm body prevents muscle injury.
  • Do some de-stressing. Commit to less stressful activities. It is the best for healing from a surgical procedure and for your overall health. The American Institute of Stress reports about one-third of people feel extreme stress while more than three-fourths of Americans experience stress that affects their physical health. Chronic stress could increase cortisol levels in your body, which has shown to slow wound healing in healthy male adults.
  • Sleep soundly. A good night’s rest is often the most overlooked, especially with the demands of everyday life, but it can be the most restorative part of your day. It is a time when your body repairs and recharges itself. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to feels its health benefits and perform well in their weekend warrior workouts.

Dr. Bashyal’s final thought on the topic: “Don’t tough it out when feeling achy or injured. Address any medical conditions immediately with a doctor before your quality of life suffers.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Ravi Bashyal, MD or another orthopaedic specialist to discuss joint pain, go to northshore.org/ortho or call 855.929.0100.