Arthrosis: how to prevent it
Today 12th October is World Arthritis Day.
There are over a hundred diseases characterised by inflammation and wear of joints, ligaments, tendons, bones or muscles, which in some cases can also involve other organs. When not diagnosed early, these diseases can lead to the loss of functionality of the structures. Among these, arthrosis is one of the most widespread, affecting about 30% of Italians over 65 and 520 million people globally. Moreover, it is the second most common cause of disability after cardiovascular diseases.
Osteoarthritis is due to wear and ageing of the body’s joints and can affect all of them, but the most commonly affected are hips, knees and the spine i.e. those involved in support and movement, and to a lesser extent hands and feet. The first symptoms can occur around the age of 50, particularly in post-menopausal women. This is caused by a deterioration of cartilage, the tissue that lines the bony surfaces inside the joints, whose function is to reduce friction between the bones during movement, but which can wear out and lose elasticity over time. In addition, tendons and ligaments become inflamed and cause pain.
Ageing is the main cause of arthrosis, followed by family history, being overweight, obesity or a sedentary lifestyle, jobs that require staying in forced positions or also a continuous use of the hands for years; impact sports such as football; previous trauma and knee surgery, fractures and joint injuries.
Pain, swelling, stiffness and limitation in the use of the joint are the most common symptoms. The pain is mechanical and is therefore most severe after exercise or when weight is placed on the joint. The pain is usually greatest at the end of the day and mitigates with a good rest. “The site that is most affected is the spinal column, particularly in the lumbar region,” explains Prof. Elizaveta Kon Associate Professor at Humanitas University, head of the Translational Orthopaedics section of the Centre for Functional and Biological Knee Reconstruction – “followed by the knee and the hip. It is a complex pathology that compromises people’s mobility, preventing them from moving freely, and therefore greatly affects their quality of life’. To date, there is no cure-all therapy; to control the pain, doctors may prescribe inflammatory drugs. “Actually, even if there is no real curative treatment, much can be done to reduce discomfort, slow down progression and safeguard quality of life, so physiotherapy and therapeutic exercises are a good option. In addition, it is possible to undergo instrumental therapy and joint infiltrations”. When arthrosis reaches an advanced stage, surgical treatment with knee replacements may be necessary.
Physical activity as therapy
“Sport is good for you, it keeps the muscles toned and helps you avoid gaining weight,” explains the expert. “The most suitable sports are swimming and cycling, which do not overload the joints. Moreover, one of the most effective activities to counteract the pain of arthrosis is the Chinese martial art of Tai-chi. ‘The soft, controlled, slow, circular movements typical of this discipline,’ concludes the expert, ‘help to loosen stiffness and tone the muscles around the joints.