Health and well-being – we all strive for this, wish for it to continue when we have it, and wish for it to return when we don’t. There are many road blocks to health and well-being, some out of our control.
As an orthopaedic surgeon, I focus on musculoskeletal health and well-being. My colleagues and I deal with injuries, diseases, and degeneration of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage – all coming together in the joints in our bodies. Our joints allow us to move, and all the individual components of those joints are important in strong, healthy, pain-free movement. When it all works well, we feel great. When something goes wrong, we can be miserable. It’s safe to say we may all have a joint problem at some point in our lives. Moving parts wear out or get injured. So, what can you do to minimize the chances of having a joint problem?
Start by taking care of them in the first place. Joints are meant to move, so move them. Start (or continue) some kind of exercise program – take a walk, run, ride a bicycle, swim, hike, do yoga. It doesn’t have to be involved. Join a gym, or do it at home. Take the stairs at work, park farther away in the parking lot… I could go on; there are many ways to be active. It’s not as important how you do it, but that you do it. Getting started is the key, and finding something you like so you will keep doing it.
If you’re already active, keep going. But playing your sport may not be enough. The more active you are the more risk of injury, so get in shape to play. I see many overuse injuries in growing athletes because they are trying to do too much with a body that’s still changing and not really in shape – and the same can apply to the older athlete. Some young athletes can handle two or three sports at the same time or one sport on three different teams at the same time – but not everyone. Sometimes taking care of your joints means taking a break.
If you have a joint problem already you can still try to be active, but you might need guidance from a health care provider.
We all lose muscle mass and strength as we age. And as we get weak, lose a little coordination and, often at the same time, gain weight, we can’t control our own body mass as well and are more at risk of falling and injuring ourselves. Maintaining even a simple exercise program can help lower the risk. Joints also need good nutrition and circulation. Eat healthy and stop smoking. Sometimes operating on your lifestyle is more appropriate than operating on your joint.
What else can you do? Don’t text and drive, wear a helmet and other protective equipment, keep your hands out of snow blowers, lift with good mechanics, turn off the TV, log off Facebook. Our bodies need some sun exposure to make Vitamin D, which is important for bone health – so, go outside.
When you do get injured, don’t ignore it. Pain is usually the signal that something is wrong. Fortunately, our bodies have a great capacity for healing themselves and often the only treatment needed is rest and tincture of time. But, despite our best efforts, there may come a time when a joint problem arises that needs some expert help.
That’s where an orthopaedic surgeon can help. Consult with an orthopaedic surgeon when you have a problem or question about your musculoskeletal health. There is much useful information online too. Consult the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website, aaos.org, for more information on a wide variety of topics regarding musculoskeletal health. The Greater Rochester Orthopaedics website, at www.gro-md.com, contains a wealth of information.
Hopefully you will never need to see me or one of my colleagues, but if you do, we are here to help!