Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease worldwide and is often accompanied by severe joint pain, inflammation and great restriction of movement. However, although it occurs particularly frequently in joints such as the hip joint, the knees or the ankle joint, which are particularly exposed through movement and in everyday life, it is nevertheless not always due to clear causes such as age-related joint wear and tear caused by the abrasion of the protective cartilage layer. Ankle or knee osteoarthritis in particular is often also due to accidents or sports injuries. Although almost 100% of people over the age of 75 are affected by osteoarthritis - the risk of osteoarthritis thus increases with rising life expectancy - risk factors such as incorrect loading, genetically determined cartilage weakness, overloading, lack of exercise and excess weight can also cause the joint disease regardless of age. Lack of exercise also causes joint disease to progress faster and pain to worsen when osteoarthritis is already established, which seems contradictory to many at first. However, a closer look at the correlations and causes reveals why exercise and diet in particular can slow down or prevent progressive wear and tear, and why exercise and sport are important for relieving pain and maintaining quality of life.
As soon as clear symptoms appear due to inflamed and swollen joints, such as joint pain, limited mobility and start-up pain after standing up or resting, one speaks of activated arthrosis, or arthritis. However, the symptoms vary depending on the type of arthrosis. If, according to a diagnosis by the doctor, this is due to age-related wear and tear of the joint cartilage, which as a protective layer is actually supposed to prevent the joints from rubbing directly against each other during movement, this is referred to as primary arthrosis. The rubbing together of the joints then leads to painful inflammation and swelling. However, osteoarthritis can also occur regardless of age, for example due to incorrect stress or overstress in professional life, competitive sports, malpositions of the joints such as flat feet, knock knees, hip dysplasia or similar, overweight, metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and gout, or incorrect footwear. In this case, it is called secondary osteoarthritis.
While the causes of secondary arthrosis can be successfully prevented, age-related primary arthrosis unfortunately cannot be prevented by a healthy diet, exercise or sport. While neither secondary nor primary osteoarthritis can be cured once joint wear has begun, it is certainly possible to prevent the progression of osteoarthritis through diet and exercise and slow down the wear and tear on the cartilage layer. The primary goal of treating arthritis is to prevent further degradation of the articular cartilage, as this can provide pain relief and maintain mobility as we age.
What to do about osteoarthritis - where sport and diet help
What to do about osteoarthritis? This is a question that sufferers naturally ask themselves immediately. And although the joint disease is not curable, there are effective methods of prevention and pain relief for osteoarthritis.... Osteoarthritis particularly often affects large joints such as the knees and hips because, after all, they bear our body weight throughout our lives. The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with each passing year. Prevention is therefore about keeping the joint cartilage healthy for as long as possible and delaying joint wear and tear, so to speak. But exercise and a healthy, low-fat diet also help when osteoarthritis has already begun, because it starts a vicious circle: The painful joint inflammations reduce the freedom of movement of the affected persons. Knee pain in particular often forces those affected into a protective posture and immobility. But movement is the only way to stimulate blood flow in the joints and the cartilage layer, which in turn causes the inflammation to recede more quickly and thus relieves the pain. It also helps you regain freedom of movement. The stimulated blood flow to the joint cartilage due to movement also slows down wear and tear. Especially when the joints swell, ache and become stiff, it is all the more important to remain mobile. By the way, Wobenzym enzyme therapy also addresses this problem.
In addition to age-related wear and tear, prevention therefore involves taking as much pressure off the joints as possible, ensuring blood circulation through exercise and generally keeping joints healthy. The most common age-independent risk factors for osteoarthritis include overweight and incorrect weight-bearing, as well as lack of exercise. This is exactly where exercise and a healthy diet come in for osteoarthritis prevention. In addition, building muscle reduces fat tissue and thus the production of certain hormones that damage joint cartilage. Exercise also stimulates blood flow for faster inflammation healing, and Wobenzym can also help.
Arthrosis risk factor Preventing overweight and joint pain with a healthy diet
Every kilo puts a strain on our joints and thus accelerates wear and tear, as does the risk of overloading the joint cartilage. The fewer kilos you weigh, the better you can prevent premature secondary arthrosis. However, when preventing this through sport and exercise, make sure you do it in a targeted manner that is easy on the joints, in order to prevent risk factor 2 - incorrect loading & overloading. In addition, there are foods and diets that adversely affect the course of arthritis, for example, intensify joint pain and thus again promote the typical arthrosis vicious circle of movement pain, protective posture and lack of blood flow to the joints.
One should reduce and/or avoid the following food with Arthrose:
- Animal & hydrogenated fats
- Saturated fatty acids
- Coffee & alcohol
Therefore, many doctors advise a low-fat and vitamin-rich diet to prevent advancing osteoarthritis:
- Olive oil
- Leek vegetables
- High-fiber foods such as rice
- Foods with a lot of calcium
- lots of fruits & vegetables
- plenty of fish (cold water fish like salmon and mackerel contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids)
- lots of vitamin C and vitamin E (have an antioxidant effect)
Through a healthy diet, you can therefore both prevent the early onset of osteoarthritis due to obesity and slow down the progress of activated osteoarthritis. In particular, certain ingredients of garlic, onions and leeks have a proven cartilage-protective effect. Among the most harmful foods for osteoarthritis are primarily animal foods, as they contain arachidonic acid and thus promote the inflammatory process in the body associated with joint wear.
By the way, obesity not only demonstrably causes cartilage regression in young people, but is also harmful in the case of activated arthrosis, because the mechanical stress on the joints accelerates the course of the disease or cartilage wear. In addition, the metabolism is altered by adipokines. These hormones are produced by fatty tissue and promote inflammation. Ultimately, they also degrade proteins in the joint cartilage, which thus lose additional resistance. If you now reduce fatty tissue by building muscle through sport and exercise in osteoarthritis, this cycle is effectively broken.
Healthy eating and a change in eating habits is part of any osteoarthritis treatment & prevention strategy recommended by a doctor. The most obvious connection is clearly the reduction of joint stress due to obesity. But there are other connections where a healthy diet can help prevent osteoarthritis or relieve pain. Here we speak of so-called endocrinological factors, such as the fact that the need for NSAID painkillers can be significantly reduced by a low meat content in the diet, a lot of vitamin C and E and unsaturated fatty acids. A healthy diet therefore not only prevents the risk factor of obesity, but also reduces joint pain in osteoarthritis.
Arthrosis Risk Factor Preventing Incorrect Posture & Overuse
In addition to typical joint malpositions such as knock-knees and bow-legs, which promote arthrosis, relieving posture as a result of activated arthrosis also causes joint wear to progress more quickly. So, both for the prevention of secondary osteoarthritis and for the pain relief and slowing down of activated primary osteoarthritis, it is important to perform specific movements and exercises and to effectively relieve and at the same time strengthen the joints. Building muscle will also reduce fat, which produces the pro-inflammatory hormone adipokine and thus both promotes joint inflammation in arthritis and damages joint cartilage in people who are still young. Overloading through sports should also be avoided. Competitive and extreme sports in particular promote the risk of injury, and injured joints are particularly susceptible to arthritis.
A large proportion of all endurance athletes suffer at least one overuse injury during a season, whereas acute injuries are rare. Overuse injuries are injuries to the body's supporting tissues. The smallest blood vessels tear and tissue is destroyed. As a result, inflammation occurs, causing swelling and pain. Runner's knee, Achillodynia, swimmer's shoulder - painful buzzwords for any athlete.
In swimming, athletes often struggle with shoulder injuries. The so-called swimmer's shoulder is not only the best-known but also the most frequently occurring injury. In the case of swimmer's shoulder, muscular imbalances occur due to a continuously too high and too long intensity, in combination with a lack of and incorrect technique, which in turn lead to incorrect position and incorrect loading of the shoulder joint. This then manifests itself in irritation with degeneration and inflammation of tendons and bursae.
In cycling, there is the particular problem that the athlete forces his movement sequences into the closed movement system of the bike - caused by fixation of both feet to the clipless pedals - which is only optimally adjusted to the biomechanics and anatomy of the leg and knee joint in the fewest cases. Knee pain while cycling is usually caused by an incorrect sitting position, too low or too high, or is triggered by pedaling at too high a ratio. This results in increased contact pressure in the patella bearing, which irritates the joint and the cartilage.
The knee joints are subjected to even greater stress when running. So-called runner's knee is caused by irritation of the tractus iliotibialis - a tendon plate that runs along the outside of the thigh to the shinbone. Long, intense runs can cause the tract to shorten and then rub against the outside of the knee above the bone.
The tissue, which is subjected to increased strain as a result, becomes inflamed and a stabbing pain occurs on the outside of the knee. Overuse of the Achilles tendon and the resulting inflammation are also usually caused by running training. Affected is either the Achilles tendon directly at the attachment to the heel bone or the sliding tissue surrounding the tendon. Inflammation occurs with the typical symptoms of inflammation: pain, swelling and overheating of the Achilles tendon.
Tips to avoid misuse & overuse:
- Allow injuries such as meniscus and cruciate ligament tears to heal.
- Prevent tendon shortening, e.g., by stretching during office jobs and after staying in one position for long periods of time
- Lift heavy weights with care
- Regular gentle and gliding movements such as bicycle tours or walks
- Wear suitable and comfortable footwear
- Avoid weight training with one-sided joint loading
Prevent osteoarthritis through exercise & sports
Sports that are easy on the joints are definitely a good way to prevent osteoarthritis, as long as you follow a few basic rules. For example, you should avoid sports that are hard on your knees and involve abrupt stopping movements. To prevent osteoarthritis through exercise, it is important that the exercises are gliding, which serves as a lubricant for the joints, so to speak. In addition, a doctor should be consulted before starting the exercise program. During acute inflammation, sports should also be avoided. However, this is also the only phase in which immobilizing the joints is appropriate. Because otherwise, regular exercise and sports perform several tasks at once.
Benefits of preventing osteoarthritis through exercise:
- Inflamed joints are supplied with nutrients and have better blood circulation
- Muscle building relieves the joints and reduces fatty tissue
- Exercise reduces obesity and thus a major osteoarthritis risk factor
- Exercise promotes the production of joint fluid / synovial fluid
Provided you find the right type of sport for prevention in consultation with your doctor, your joints will benefit optimally. Exercise stimulates the production of synovial fluid and keeps the cartilage supple and resistant. It also provides nutrients to the cartilage. That's why it's also important to stay mobile, even if you're initially in pain from knee osteoarthritis or another form of arthritis. Exercise helps! However, it is important to choose a type of exercise that supports and strengthens the joint rather than stressing it.
What to look for when preventing osteoarthritis through exercise:
- Avoid martial arts, weight training & competitive sports.
- Always allow sports injuries to heal completely
- When running, pay attention to appropriate running technique and distance, as well as good footwear
- Always make the correct height adjustments of bicycle saddles, exercise bikes, etc.
- Only sports and movements with even and gentle motion sequences
Which sports effectively prevent osteoarthritis & relieve pain:
- Aqua walking and Nordic walking
- Swimming (crawl and backstroke at 26 to 28 degrees Celsius)
- Water gymnastics
- Exercises for joint health
- Exercises against knee pain
- Cross-trainer strengthens muscles and relieves knee pain
- Pilates & Yoga (but only exercises specifically adapted to osteoarthritis)
General tips on sports for osteoarthritis:
- Coordinate the training program with the patient's doctor
- Condition, training condition, etc. must be taken into account individually
- Exercises are optimal if no pain is felt during training
- Include the whole body in the training
- Three days a week & 30 minutes a day
Clarify causes before arthrosis prevention by a specialist.
The causes of arthrosis are varied and differ depending on the joint and primary or secondary arthrosis. Accordingly, the preventive measures must also be geared to this so that it does not become a boomerang. It is true that too little exercise is often the cause of arthrosis. But sometimes also too much. Sports injuries, malpositions, genetic factors - all this must be clarified in the prevention strategy. Often, truly effective pain relief can only be achieved through physiotherapy or corrective surgery.
An exact diagnosis through detailed anamnesis and clarification of the causes is therefore enormously important before you promote the arthrosis through incorrect movement sequences or measures or make an activated arthrosis even worse.