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Updated Jul 10, 2012 - 8:56 am

Don’t discount yoga, ginger when treating arthritis

SALT LAKE CITY — Many Americans dealing with
joints that creak louder than rickety stairs are turning
to surgery and replacements as the answer to their woes,
but many experts agree that replacement surgery is not
only straining the health care system, but it may not even
be the most effective solution to the problem.

“People with osteoarthritis are relying more and
more heavily on surgery,” Dr. David T. Felson, a
rheumatologist and epidemiologist at Boston University
School of Medicine, said in a recent New York
Times article
. “The rate of knee replacement is
just skyrocketing, out of proportion to increases in
arthritic changes seen on X-rays, and replacement surgery
is contributing greatly to the rising costs of Medicare.”

“Osteoarthritis, which affects 40 percent of people aged
40 and older, is the most common form of arthritis,”
according to Health Magazine. “Osteoarthritis,
which often causes pain and stiffness, is a degeneration
of the cartilage in the joints.”

To combat this pain, many seniors have been electing
surgeries and replacements, and this trend has risen
dramatically in the past several decades.

“Between 1979 and 2002, knee replacement surgery rose 800
percent among people 65 and older,” according to the New
York Times.

However, those who do choose to have knee replacements may
not find the results they anticipated.

Although he noted the benefits of hip replacements, Felson
said in The New York Times, “For 10 to 30 percent of
patients, the improvement never comes.”

This onset of osteoarthritis may simply be attributed to
old age for many people, but certain lifestyle choices can
mitigate the severity of the condition later in life.

“The health economic burden of osteoarthritis is
increasing commensurate with obesity prevalence and
longevity,” John Loughlin of Newcastle University in
England said in the Health Magazine article. Loughlin is
the lead author of a recent study linking genes to
osteoarthritis.

“With every step, the force exerted on weight-
bearing joints is one and a half times body weight,”
said Dr. Glen Johnson in the New York Times, who reported
on arthritis prevention and treatment at the annual
meeting of the National Athletic Trainers’
Association in June. “With jogging, the force is
increased seven or eight times. Thus, the most effective
way to prevent arthritis in knees and hips is to lose
weight if you’re overweight and to pursue non-impact
activities for recreation.”

If surgery does appear to be the best route, it may be
advantageous to delay it as long as possible so that the
procedure will provide maximum benefit.

“Artificial joints usually last 10 to 15 years,” according
to the New York Times. “Delaying surgery is helpful
because the earlier in life a joint is replaced, the more
likely a subsequent replacement will be needed. And both
devices and surgical techniques are constantly being
improved; by delaying a joint replacement, you may end up
with a simpler operation or more durable device.”

Even still, sometimes it may be best to abstain for
surgery altogether.

“Joint replacement, especially of the knee, is not a walk
in the park,” The New York Times reports. “Arduous
physical therapy is essential, and recovery can be long
and painful. There are limitations after recovery, too,
because artificial joints are not as flexible as the ones
you were born with.”

So if not surgery, then what? Fortunately for patients,
there are plenty of options out there to prevent or remedy
arthritis. Is important, however, to consult a doctor
before beginning any treatment regimen.

“Certain anti-inflammatory ingredients can be incorporated
into the diet, such as tumeric and ginger,” said Dr.
Ashwin Mehta, medical director of integrative medicine at
the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, in an
ABC News article. “Ginger and
tumeric are powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients we can
recommend pretty much to anybody. They are very safe and
have no potential medication interactions or
complications.”

While adding ingredients to a diet can be helpful, most
experts agree proper exercise is the best way to silence
those creaky joints.

“Physical activity and exercise are very important,
especially something like yoga that would target the
joints,” said Mehta. “Yoga is a type of exercise that
focuses on the nuts and bolts that hold everything else
together, like the tendons and ligaments, and it’s
designed for preventive joint health.”

Aside from exercise or incorporating ginger into a diet,
doctors found a few other effective treatment options to
recommend.

“Acupuncture has been found to be effective for
osteoarthritis of the knee and hip as well as for
rheumatoid arthritis, and a small study found it helps
arthritis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus,”
Taw said. “Simple things like taking warm showers and
using heating pads can relieve symptoms, and if the pain
is worse with warm weather, we recommend cooling
measures.”

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