"Arthritis is a breakdown of cartilage that can cause pain, swelling and dysfunction of a joint," explains Dr. Miho J. Tanaka, associate team physician for the St. Louis Cardinals and director of the Women's Sports Medicine Initiative at Regeneration Orthopedics.
"Many of us are genetically scheduled to get arthritis sometime in our lives," adds Dr. Barbara Bergin of Texas Orthopedics, Sports & Rehabilitation Associates. "And if you live a long time, your joints will eventually begin to wear out."
Fortunately, we do have some control over arthritis... today.
"Increased weight can put more stress on your joints," says Dr. Tanaka. So it's important to know your ideal weight and strive to maintain it.
If you're overweight, it's time to drop those extra pounds — and the sooner the better.
"Weight is one of the chief causes of early-onset arthritis," warns Dr. Bergin. "I'm seeing more and more 40-year-old patients with arthritis! It's devastating and very hopeless."
Dr. Bergin acknowledges the catch-22 with overweight patients who suffer from arthritis.
"The arthritis makes it hard to exercise, and it's hard to lose weight without exercising," she says.
But many doctors will turn away overweight arthritic patients until the extra pounds are lost, "so go ahead and do that now," advises Dr. Bergin.
What you eat is just as important as how much you eat, according to holistic nutritionist Katrina Starzhynskaya.
"Prevent or slow arthritis by eating plant-based anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding processed foods and all sugars — including high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and agave," she says.
Chiropractor Cody Scharf agrees.
"Without meeting the proper nutritional requirements, the body begins to break down muscles and bones to meet those requirements," Scharf says.
And without sufficient fruits, veggies and omega 3s, this deterioration can begin very early in life.
"Osteoarthritis is generally a disease of wear and tear," explains Dr. Tanaka. "The important thing in preventing arthritis and its symptoms is to minimize the stress that you are putting on your knees or hips while you are staying active."
Being physically active is good for your joints, as long as you do it right.
Telling a competitive athlete to stop doing what he or she loves isn't ideal, but it may prevent the onset of early arthritis.
"A lot of high-impact activity, like running, is going to wear out a knee faster than if you don't run," says Dr. Bergin, "especially if you're genetically predisposed to getting arthritis."
Consider walking, stretching and weight lifting as alternatives to contact sports.
"The human body does well with that," says Dr. Bergin.
Dr. Scharf encourages patients to be aware of the load and capacity of their daily physical activities.
"If you notice that your range of motion is starting to be limited, stiff or not what it used to be, chances are you're not moving properly," he says.
Dr. Scharf recommends finding a chiropractor or physical therapist who is certified in soft-tissue and movement techniques, such as Integrative Diagnosis, to make sure that all joints and structures are moving freely and properly.
And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .
SheKnows is making some changes!