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For Less Joint and Back Pain, Get Back to the Basics of Good Health

Good health is the key to managing life’s aches and pains. Get tips on how to stay healthy and active.

Good health is the key to managing life’s aches and pains.

Your musculoskeletal system — your muscles, bones, joints and tendons — allows you to move and go about the activities of your daily life. So return the favor and give it the support it needs to function well and be healthy.

To begin, keep inflammation in check. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to an injury or disease. “It can promote healing — but it can also be harmful if it lasts too long or affects healthy tissue,” says Jeffrey McConnell, MD, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute. In the musculoskeletal system, that can lead to swelling, pain and trouble doing your normal activities.

The role of inflammation

A few of the musculoskeletal conditions linked to inflammation include:

Low back pain is one of the most common reasons for missing work or seeing a health care provider. “Inflammation often plays a part in the pain due to an injury or arthritis,” McConnell says.

Tendinitis is inflammation in a tendon, often resulting from overuse of an affected area. “You may hear it called tennis elbow or pitcher’s shoulder, but nonsport activities, such as typing, sawing or tightly gripping tools for a long time, can cause it, too,” says Christopher Ferrante, MD, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute.

Osteoarthritis was once blamed on wear and tear of the tissues in a joint, but now scientists know that other issues, like inflammation, cause most of the damage. The results are pain, swelling and stiffness.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells by mistake. It mainly affects the joints, causing painful inflammation, but also can cause problems in the heart, lungs and eyes.

A shared path to less pain

Different musculoskeletal conditions have their own symptoms and medical treatments yet share ways to prevent and manage them. “One explanation is that these actions help lessen the inflammation that is at the root of many musculoskeletal problems,” McConnell says.

Here are some of the ways you can improve your odds of avoiding or limiting pain:

Being physically active strengthens your bones and muscles, and has inflammation-fighting effects. Plus, regular exercise can ease arthritis symptoms and may speed up recovery from chronic back pain. “For a workout that’s easy on the joints, try walking, biking or swimming,” Ferrante says.

A word of caution: If you have tendinitis, rest and allow your body to heal when needed. Check with your health care provider about what’s right for you.

“If you have arthritis, losing as little as 5 percent of your weight may decrease arthritis-related pain and disability.” - Christopher Ferrante, MD

Eating a nutritious diet provides the nutrients you need for healthy bones and muscles. Choosing fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats (such as those in fish and olive oil) may keep inflammation at bay. In contrast, saturated fats, trans fats and processed foods may rev up inflammation and cause joint pain.

Losing weight, if you’re overweight, reduces the strain on your joints, especially your hips and knees. “If you have arthritis, losing as little as 5 percent of your weight may decrease arthritis-related pain and disability,” Ferrante says. “Because excess body fat can promote inflammation, losing weight may help with that, too.”

Quitting smoking, if you’re a smoker, is one of the best things you can do for your health. Smoking increases the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis (a condition in which bones become weak and fracture easily). Plus, quitting smoking reduces signs of inflammation in the body.

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

The region’s leader in joint, spine and orthopedic care gets you moving again.

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