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Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that was once thought to be the inevitable result of aging, but research has shown that it is a complex process with many causes. There are several things that you can do to reduce the risk of OA or delay its onset.

One of the most important things you can do is to maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees, which can break down the cartilage that cushions these joints. In addition, fat tissue produces proteins called cytokines that promote inflammation throughout the body, including in the joints. These destructive proteins can cause tissue damage and joint pain. Losing even a few pounds can reduce joint stress and inflammation, making weight management a crucial part of OA prevention and management.

Controlling blood sugar levels is another important factor in reducing the risk of OA. High blood sugar levels can speed up the formation of certain molecules that make cartilage stiffer and more sensitive to mechanical stress, which can cause cartilage to break down over time. Diabetes can also trigger systemic inflammation that leads to cartilage loss. Managing blood sugar levels can help prevent joint damage and inflammation associated with OA.

Physical activity is the best available treatment for OA and one of the best ways to keep joints healthy in the first place. Moderate exercise for as little as 30 minutes, five times a week, can help keep joints limber and strengthen the muscles that support and stabilize hips and knees. Exercise also strengthens the heart and lungs, lowers diabetes risk, and is a key factor in weight control. You don't need to join a gym or have a formal workout plan to benefit, but the greatest results come with a consistent and progressive exercise program adjusted for your age, fitness level, and the activities you enjoy most.

Protecting your joints is also important in preventing further damage from OA. At home or work, use your largest, strongest joints for lifting and carrying, and take breaks when you need to. After an injury, maintaining a healthy weight can help guard against further joint damage.

Finally, making healthy lifestyle choices is key to preventing and managing OA. Some risk factors for OA, such as aging and genetics, can't be changed, but lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, sleep, managing stress, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can have a tremendous influence on overall health and the health of your joints.

Physical therapy can be an excellent addition to an OA treatment plan. Physical therapists can work with patients to develop an individualized exercise program that takes into account their specific needs and limitations. In addition, physical therapy can help reduce pain and improve mobility through techniques such as manual therapy, stretching, and strengthening exercises.

At Emery Physical Therapy in Mt. Prospect, IL and Emery Physical Therapy in Oakbrook Terrace, IL we understand the importance of physical therapy for OA patients. Our physical therapists are highly skilled and use state-of-the-art technology to improve mobility, strength, and overall health. We take a hands-on approach to patient care, developing individualized treatment plans that help our patients manage OA pain and continue to live active, healthy lives. With a comprehensive treatment plan that includes physical therapy, patients can improve their quality of life and reduce the impact of OA on their daily activities.