Joint Preservation

Keep Your Joints in Tip-Top Shape

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, affecting one in five people. In this degenerative disease, the joint cartilage wears down over time, leading to pain and stiffness.

“Slightly more women than men have OA,” says Brian Rill, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert at Henry Ford Health System. “Some women have mild symptoms that don’t interfere with their daily lives, while others may have significant pain and disability. OA is second only to heart disease as a cause of worker disability.”

While OA can strike at any age, it’s more common in older people. When it occurs in younger people, it may be due to one of the following:

  • Genetics. Some people have a genetic defect in their joint cartilage.
  • Joint injury. Damage can occur from sports or work-related repetitive use.
  • Medical conditions. Psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and hemophilia can lead to OA.

The good news is that you can protect your joints and slow the progression of OA. Dr. Rill offers these suggestions:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds increase the stress on joints.
  • Stay active. Regular exercise helps reduce stiffness and joint pain and promotes feelings of well-being.
  • Tune in to your body’s signals. Learn to recognize when your body needs to slow down during your daily activities.

Additionally, you should see an orthopedic specialist who can recommend treatment options if your arthritis is affecting every day activities. While many people with OA may eventually need joint replacement surgery, a combination of medication and/or physical therapy to help preserve the joints and manage pain may help delay or prevent the need for surgery.

Finally, Dr. Rill suggests trying to maintain a positive attitude when coping with OA. To improve your outlook — and possibly your pain — consider these tips:

  • Focus on what you can do to solve problems, rather than what you can’t do or can’t control.
  • Build a support system of people who are important to you.
  • Learn techniques to cope with stress.
  • Find an exercise you like to do and stick with it. Try low-impact exercise such as biking, swimming or water aerobics.

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Brian Rill, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Lakeside in Sterling Heights and the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit. For an appointment, visit or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).