Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a condition in which chronic wear and tear or acute injury breaks down the cartilage in a joint. Cartilage is a smooth, protective tissue that stabilizes and lubricates our body’s joints. When joint cartilage breaks down, it can create inflammation and painful bone-on-bone movement. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the knees, hip, shoulders, hands, and back.

Once osteoarthritis starts to develop it is difficult to reverse the degeneration of the joint.

However, there are simple preventative measures that can help maintain the cartilage in your joints.

1. Reduce Repetitive Joint Strain — Repetitively straining your joints through work, hobby, or athletic activities can create microtrauma to joints and adjacent soft tissue, leading to osteoarthritis. Be aware of any chronic joint aches that develop and take steps to reduce the repetitiveness or forcefulness of these activities to avoid joint degeneration.

2. Exercise — Regular exercise creates stronger and more flexible joints. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle can weaken muscles and increase your chance of osteoarthritis. Remember to stretch before and after exercise, as it essential for improving your range of motion and relieving mechanical pressure on the cartilage in your joints.

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight — Being overweight can significantly increase the stress placed on load-bearing joints, such as the knees and hip. Maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy diet can help lower your weight, in turn reducing your risk of developing osteoarthritis.

4. Eat a Balanced Diet — Nutrient deficiencies, particularly Vitamins C and E, can impact joint health and lead to the development of osteoarthritis. Incorporate plenty of joint-protective foods into your diet, including nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

5. Drink Plenty of Water — Water makes up 70% of cartilage and provides much of the lubrication and shock absorbing properties in your joints. Chronic dehydration can contribute to degeneration of cartilage and subsequent arthritic pain. Substituting drinks such as soda, coffee, and tea for water can also lead to joint degeneration because these fluids act as diuretics, reducing your body’s absorption of water.

While these measures will help reduce your risk, they do not definitively prevent you from developing osteoarthritis later in life. Joint degeneration is a natural part of the aging process. People suffering from chronic arthritic pain have several therapeutic options to manage the symptoms of their condition.

Anti-inflammatory medications and steroidal injections are commonly used to treat mild symptoms of osteoarthritis. For more advanced arthritis of the knee, hip, or shoulder; minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery may be the most effective treatment option. An orthopedic joint specialist can help determine an individualized treatment plan to relieve your arthritic pain.