Orthopedic Health and Wellness

Maybe you’ve been there, or maybe you were just there this morning. You wake up, and go to get out of bed, only to feel aches and pains in your back, your knees, or, even worse, your entire body feels like you were hit by a truck.  Unfortunately, joint and muscle issues tend to catch up to most of us at one point or another.  While these aches and pains may not be life threatening, of all of the health conditions that can affect the human body, orthopedic problems tend to interfere the most with our quality of life.

Orthopedic conditions, which afflict the bones, joints, and muscles of the body, are among the most common causes of long-term pain and physical disability.  These conditions can range widely and include arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, knee pain and ligament issues, osteoporosis, and many more.  Generally, these issues are a result of autoimmune irregularities, years of wear and tear on the body, or unhealthy habits.

So what can we do to try to prevent ourselves from feeling older than we really are when we get out of bed?  Many preventative steps are helpful in maintaining and improving orthopedic health, the most important of which are diet and exercise.  Staying active helps bones and joints to maintain their health.  Exercises that focus on strengthening and flexibility, such as brisk walking, light jogging, and light weight or resistance band training, are great for the muscles and joints.  Be careful though, especially if you currently have orthopedic issues, to avoid high impact exercises that will only serve to further damage the bones and joints.

Likewise, a healthy, well-balanced diet provides your bones and muscles with essential nutrients for proper growth and maintenance.  Especially important are consuming proper amounts of calcium and vitamin D, which are integral to bone health.  Vitamin D can be obtained from sun exposure, while calcium is generally obtained through foods like milk, cheese, spinach, and broccoli.  A properly balanced diet also has the added benefit of promoting a healthy weight, thus preventing over exertion on the bones and joints in the body.

Beyond diet and exercise, other preventative steps can include maintaining a healthy posture, both during the day and while sleeping, and wearing proper footwear that provides comfort and support.  Finally, don’t ignore issues.  When injuries occur, don’t just push your way through.  Ice, elevate, and rest the area, and if the swelling or pain intensifies over time, have the injury looked at before further damage is done.

While preventative measures are great, and staying committed to them even after diagnosis of orthopedic issues is important, if you’re really struggling, it might be time to get more intensive in your approach.  Having an orthopedic specialist diagnose the issues you are having is essential to receiving proper treatment geared towards your given diagnosis.  Depending on your condition there are many conventional steps that can be taken, from physical therapy, to orthopedic aids and supports.

From a medication standpoint, pain relievers are often a mainstay of orthopedic treatment.  Drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, or those geared towards reducing nerve pain are often prescribed to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with orthopedic conditions.  One common downfall to these medications is the side effects they often come with, from gastrointestinal issues, to sedation and grogginess.  When this becomes an issue, or potential drug interactions are a concern, some orthopedic physicians will have custom mixed “pain creams” made up by specialty compounding pharmacies.  These creams combine the types of drugs used to treat orthopedic conditions into one topically applied dosage form.  The creams, applied directly to the area of pain, provide a multi-faceted approach, combining drugs that attack the pain in multiple mechanisms, while limiting the systemic absorption in the body seen with oral medications. This limited absorption renders side effects and drug interactions nearly non-existent.

For those patients looking for a more natural approach, there are many great options in the supplement realm to support orthopedic health.  When it comes to pain relief of the joints, products that contain mixtures of anti-inflammatory herbals such as curcumin (derived from turmeric) and boswellia, along with minerals that support the joints such as zinc and selenium can be highly effective.  Further, adding in supplements that can support the production of cartilage, the joint’s natural cushion, such as glucosamine, MSM, and collagen, along with hyaluronic acid, which can aid in joint lubrication, can also be highly effective.  Because these supplements all work synergistically in tandem, it is best to find them in an all-in-one supplement such as Designs for Health’s® Arthrosoothe™.

Another great option for anti-inflammation is a high quality fish oil.  Omega-3‘s, found in fish oil, can be highly anti-inflammatory to the joints.  When buying a fish oil, it is essential to read the label carefully, as many can be misleading, labeling total fish oil concentration, or total omega-3 concentration, including inactive omega-3 ALA in its potency. Ensure that the concentrations of the active omega-3’s, EPH and DHA are sufficient in the product you buy.  You should aim to get at least 1000mg of EPA per day, as this is the anti-inflammatory omega-3.

Finally, when combatting issues with the bone, as mentioned earlier, calcium and vitamin D are essential.  While it is great to get calcium from the diet and vitamin D from sun exposure, it is not always easy.  When deficiencies are a concern, supplementation is another option.  For vitamin D, be sure to take the active form, D3.  Depending on your level of deficiency, take in the range of 2,000IU-10,000IU per day.  In regards to calcium, purchase carefully, as not all calciums are created equally.  There are many different forms of calcium such as carbonate and citrate, and unfortunately, some are poorly absorbed.  Choose a highly absorbable form of calcium such as malate, as your body will better utilize the supplement you are taking.  If osteoporosis or osteopenia is a concern, consider a more intensive product such as MCHC, a more specialized and intensive form of calcium that provides further nutrients for bone repair and rebuilding.

These types of supplements, along with the specialty “pain cream” mixtures mentioned above, can generally be found at specialty pharmacies such as Pine Pharmacy in Williamsville.

You only get one body in life, so take care of it well, and care for your orthopedic issues, that way you can wake up in the morning feeling rejuvenated, instead of resigned to aches and pains.