Joints talk, so listen up

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

Every movement of the body requires the use of at least one joint, so it’s important to keep shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, hips, ankles as healthy as possible, physiology experts say.

Moderate exercise, a nutritious diet and correct body weight collaborate to keep joints in top shape. The joints will let you know when something goes wrong.

Sources for this report included Dr. Richard Lawton, an orthopedic surgeon at Durango Orthopedic Associates; Dr. Douglas Bagge and Dr. David Hubler, orthopedic surgeons at Cortez Orthopedics in Cortez; and Douglas Houle, the principal at Integrated Physical Therapy in Durango.

“First, you need the genetics, which you can’t do anything about, but which varies widely and determines durability,” Lawton said. “But joint health is up to you.”

Lawton said theories and advice on, and remedies for, joint pain abound.

“You have to keep your ear to the rail to separate fact from marketing or myth,” Lawton said. “What’s seen on TV commercials, in the medicine aisle at the market or in magazine ads have no merit. But since the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate supplements, most advertisers get away with it.”

Avoiding obesity is the first line of defense because extra pounds overtax joints as well as the heart and other organs.

“Extra body weight is tough,” Houle said. “Asking your body to assimilate 5, 10, 20 pounds of extra body weight beats up your joints.

“Put on a backpack that weighs 20 to 30 pounds,” Houle said. “Carry it for a full day or even a few hours to see how you feel.”

Lawton said cartilage tolerates normal activity.

“The caveman ran after prey and away from predators, which was normal activity,” Lawton said. “But power lifting, pitching in the major leagues or being a running back in the National Football League puts a load on joints that they’re not designed to carry.”

Professional athletes tend to overdo it, Bagge said. The road to the hall of fame is full of potholes.

“The pros push themselves to the limit or beyond,” Bagge said. “The price they pay is hip and knee replacements.”

Regular, moderate exercise goes a long way to prevent joint injuries that can lead to deterioration of the cartilage and allow arthritis to develop.

“Our motto at Cortez Orthopedics is ‘Keep Moving,’” Hubler said.

Among the advice given:

Start early to get in shape for any activity, whether it’s skiing, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, kayaking or hiking.

“Don’t wait until there’s snow on the ground to prepare for skiing,” Houle said.

A one-sport person is headed for trouble without pre-conditioning, Hubler said.

“The classic example is weekend softball,” Hubler said. “Players tend to go full-bore right from the start.”

Make certain you take time off when exercising frequently.

“The best recipe is to balance activity with rest,” Houle said. “The perspective on health care has changed. It’s about prevention now.”

Muscle strength and flexibility through stretching is the way to go.

“The key is movement that doesn’t hurt. Don’t exercise through pain,” Bagge said. “Stretch to regain or maintain range of motion.”

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