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COURTESY; COATES/KOKES - May is National Arthritis Month and doctors are encouraging people with joint pain to get a checkup.When did walking around the block start to wear you out?

Was it always this painful to bend down to tie your shoes? Once simple tasks can become daily challenges for people living with arthritis and joint pain. Addressing joint pain head-on this May for National Arthritis Month can help Portlanders get back to doing the things they love.

Approximately 760,000 Oregonians suffer from arthritis, which serves as a painful, daily reminder that their joints just aren’t as good as they used to be. In Multnomah County, 24 percent of adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

Dr. Christopher Estes, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee replacements at Adventist Health’s Aspire Orthopedic Institute in southeast Portland, recommends alleviating joint and arthritis pain through non-surgical methods first, by focusing on lifestyle improvements.

“Before jumping directly to joint replacement surgery, I work with my patients on a moderate approach to managing their pain by making a few small lifestyle adjustments and trying safe medications to see if the pain improves.”

Everyday changes to alleviate joint pain

To relieve joint pain, Dr. Estes emphasizes regular exercise and stretching to strengthen joints, avoiding activities that aggravate joint pain, losing extra weight, and careful use of anti-inflammatory medications or injections.

Exercise. Moderate daily activity builds up strong muscles around your joints, improves flexibility and increases endurance. Low-impact activities such as walking, biking, swimming or using an elliptical machine are less apt to aggravate arthritis symptoms. Exercise will also keep off extra weight that puts unneeded stress on joints. Forty percent of adults 65 and older are living with obesity.

Nutrition. Eating a diet rich with inflammation-fighting fruits, vegetables and other foods can help reduce joint pain. Try eating more leafy greens like spinach and kale that are rich in vitamin E. They’re in-season starting in May. Eating more berries, switching to whole-grains, and getting healthy fats from almonds and walnuts, which are rich in fiber, calcium and vitamin E, can help reduce joint inflammation.

What if joint replacement surgery is necessary?

If the arthritis and joint pain don’t improve through a non-surgical approach and joint replacement surgery is necessary, the Aspire Orthopedics team of surgeons urges people not to wait. According to Adventist Health, their average patient waits a year and half before deciding to have joint surgery, even though they may be living in pain.

“Patients often ask me when they will need to have surgery. When the conservative measures are no longer working and the pain is severe enough that it is having a significant impact on your quality of life, that’s when it’s time for surgery. For instance, the pain may be preventing you from going on your morning walk or you’re no longer able to go golfing or hiking. That is the time when you need to have a serious discussion about joint replacement.”

Estes says that many patients tend to hold off on hip or knee replacement until the pain becomes overwhelming and they endure significant disability.

“Patients are understandably hesitant about having surgery because they are worried about postoperative pain and having a long recovery. They may be worried about taking time off from work or that the surgery won’t actually improve the pain or arthritis.”

Fortunately, there have been many advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques and pain management over the course of the last 10 or 15 years and most people have a comfortable recovery.

Minimally invasive surgery

Recent advancements in pain management and minimally invasive surgery techniques throughout the country and in Portland have refined total hip and knee replacement surgery. New surgical methods result in reduced pain and swelling and much faster recovery times.

“Pain management protocols are much more effective and we are able to perform the surgeries with minimal trauma to muscles, ligaments and tendons,” says Dr. Estes. “That typically means patients have a shorter stay at the hospital, less overall pain, and they can get back to their daily life more quickly.”

What is Osteoarthritis?

  • Osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear of cartilage inside your joints
  • Results in joints that are sore, achy, swollen and inflamed
  • Pain typically develops after periods of rigorous activity or overuse, or after long periods of inactivity
  • Ways you can move more

  • Walk around while talking on the phone
  • Stretch while watching TV
  • Play with your kids or the family pet
  • Park farther away from your destination
  • Choose the stairs over the escalator or elevator
  • Get outside in the garden this spring
  • Walk to the store instead of driving
  • Get off the bus a few stops early

  • Adventist Health

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