Your musculoskeletal system is the body’s largest system. Arthritis, back and joint pain, osteoarthritis, and other problems can make life miserable. Although typically not life threatening, they are one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor an are currently the most common cause of chronic disability. Globally, the number of people suffering from musculoskeletal conditions has increased by 25 percent over the past decade. This is expected to continue increasing with the aging of our populations.
The primary musculoskeletal conditions include:
- Inflammatory arthritis (principally, rheumatoid arthritis)
- Back pain
- Musculoskeletal injuries (such as occupational and sports injuries and road traffic accidents)
- Crystal arthritis (such as gout)
- Osteoporosis and fragility fractures
Most cases of back pain are related to conditions in the musculoskeletal system and are not related to severe diseases. Musculoskeletal problems are also called “mechanical,” because many of them are linked to vertebrae physical motions. Musculoskeletal or mechanical conditions that can cause back pain are:
- Vertebrae misalignment, which can cause nerve interference (also called subluxation), muscle tension, or muscle spasm
- Strained muscles
- Sprained ligaments
- Ruptured disks, also called herniated disks
- Degenerative discs (lose their cushioning ability) The degeneration is usually caused by repetitive strain, or injury, or aging
- Irritated joints
Musculoskeletal conditions make up 2 percent of global health conditions. Osteoarthritis accounts for the largest portion – 52 percent of musculoskeletal conditions in developing countries and 61 percent of musculoskeletal conditions in industrialized countries. It affects 27 million Americans over the age of 25 and is the sixth leading cause of years lost to disability. Prevalence of the condition will continue to increase as the world’s elderly population grows.
Aging is a prime factor in osteoarthritis—Life can cause wear and tear on our joints. Chronic and partially healed joint injuries play a major role in the advancement of arthritis. Genetics and lifestyle can also be a factor. Both men and women have the disease, but it’s more common in people who are overweight and in those with jobs that stress particular joints.
Osteoarthritis causes damage and small tears in the cartilage that, as they worsen, cause pieces to dislodge. The joint tissue becomes irritated, and the body reacts by forming more tissue, known as “bone spurs.” Pain increases, movement decreases. The cycle generally continues until treatment is given to the damaged cartilage.
NTXMSK considers ourselves partners in your musculoskeletal wellness. Below are some lifestyle habits that will help you maintain your optimal musculoskeletal health:
10 Ways to Protect your Joints
Back off when your joints start to react badly. It’s smarter to put the activity on hold and rest your body than it is to power through the activity at the expense of your body.
Spread physical activities throughout the day rather than grouping them all together. Do not overestimate how much your joints can handle.
Joints require some muscles to back them up. The muscles and connective tissues that surround joints provide support, stability and guidance through the range of motion. When you engage in weight-bearing exercises, your bones rise to the challenge and grow stronger in anticipation of supporting those loads. Thicker bones equal fewer joint problems down the road.
Toning up improves balance, reducing the chance of trauma of a fall that can potentially damage joints. Gaining muscle also helps you lose weight as your body continues to burn higher rates of calories for hours after your workout.
Joints lose full mobility if they never are stretched into their complete range of motion.. Stretch out every day. It does not have to be an extreme stretching marathon — just spend a few minutes in your spare time manipulating your fingers, wrists, arms, ankles and anything else you plan on using for the rest of your life. Each stretch can be as short as five or ten seconds. The point is just to remind the joints that they do still move.
If exercise is on your schedule, stretch both before and after the activity. Failure to stretch before physical activity leaves you more susceptible to injury. With regular stretching, your joints won’t just retain mobility — they’ll grow more limber and show you results you may have thought were no longer possible.
Eat Healthy: Body weight plays a large part in joint health: The less you weigh, the less strain you place on your joints. When you walk down stairs, your knees absorb a force up to five times greater than your body weight. Even when walking on a flat surface, your joints will eventually rebel under too much of a load. A healthy diet is one way to keep excess pounds off.
Nutritional supplements like glucosamine may help ease joint pain. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and nuts, can help decrease inflammation of the joints. Calcium, which can be obtained through vegetables like broccoli and spinach, helps prevent and reduce bone loss. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from the food you eat.
Use larger joints when doing heavy work: try to give the smaller joints of your body a nice break while your big joints swing into motion.
Treat yourself to warm bath or massage: Heat soothes and relaxes muscles and joints, and the water gives the joints a needed break from supporting you.
Balance rest and movement: Do not put undue strain on your joints, but do not under use them either. Try to maintain an even balance between motion and rest. Working too hard for too long without a break causes your joints to become stiff and lose range of motion. Get up at least once every hour and put your body into motion for a few minutes.
Posture: Stand as if a string were holding you up from the crown of your head. Align your ears with ankle bones to create a straight line that passes through your shoulders, hips and knees. By maintaining good posture, your muscles and skeletal system work together effectively and efficiaently to put less strain on your joints.