As a busy Orthopaedic physician who has practiced for many years, I have treated numerous patients in my career, of all ages, genders, from all socioeconomic backgrounds and with different careers. I think it gives me a unique perspective on the issue of how to avoid some of the most common aches and pains we as humans get as we age, or at least prevent them from being so severe.
1. Choose the right parents! – Obviously, you can’t, but if I had to say the most important factor for avoiding musculoskeletal issues for life, it would have to be genetics and the inherited traits you were born with. For example – if your parents lived for a long time and were not plagued with painful arthritis, chances are good that you won’t be either, IF you keep your weight down and remain active. However, if your parents both had bunions and one of them had an automimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, your chances of having both a bunion and an autoimmune disease are greatly increased, even if you stay active and manage your weight. There are simply some things you can’t control when it comes to your musculoskeletal health and your genetic makeup is one of them.
2. Managing your weight – In all my years of medical practice, the patients I have who stay near their ideal weight have far fewer musculoskeletal issues than those patients I see who are overweight or obese. Extra weight puts increased pressure on our joints, especially those of the knees, hips, spine, ankles and feet. That increased pressure, over time, adds to the natural wear and tear on your joints, making arthritis more likely. Carrying excess weight increases the likelihood of having to have treatment for joint arthritis, which includes oral medications, Physical Therapy, injections, arthroscopic surgery and even progressing to joint replacement surgery. Do thin people have arthritis and have joint replacement surgery too? Of course, they do. However, fewer of them progress to that stage of treatment or as quickly.
3. Staying active – My third recommendation is also very important for your musculoskeletal health and that is to keep moving! Being sedentary and sitting on the sofa, watching TV contributes to so many health issues, not the least of which are lack of muscle tone, muscle atrophy, loss of strength and balance, bone loss…I could go on and on. There are numerous studies that link an active lifestyle to improved mental, emotional and physical health, even to warding off dementia. I’m not saying you have to be a gym rat or play a competitive sport, but try to get in a walk, bike ride or some gardening every day. Meet friends for a game of pickleball, croquet, cornhole or badminton and enjoy being outside in the fresh air. You’ll soon realize that not only are you having fun, but that you’re getting stronger and have more stamina to enjoy life more fully. Scheduling time to be active is a great idea – look at it like taking your vitamins – it’s another step toward bettering your health for the rest of your life.