Saturday, January 5, 2013

Arthritis gets younger

Arthritis gets younger
Arthritis gets younger (Thinkstock photo/Getty Images)
...with even teenagers complaining of joint pains

Arthritis has generally been associated with old age. But these days, people as young as 15 are complaining of it, says Chaitanya Shah, practising podiatrist and mobility consultant. "When was the last time you took your child to a doctor? It is usually when there is fever or a viral infection. Even in schools, there are eye and dental check-ups, but no school ever gets a podiatrist for a check-up and problems like alignment of the body and balance of the feet are ignored till they move upwards and manifest problems in the knee, hip and spine. Often, a two millimetre difference in leg lengths can be debilitating for the neck and can lead to severe pain in the knees, neck, back and hip joints."

What is podiatry?

Podiatry is a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis and medical treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle, and lower extremity, states Dr Govind Singh Bisht, podiatry specialist. It is almost unheard of in India, feet experts. When there is any mobility-related pain, parents usually consult a general physician and not a podiatrist and that is sad. "A little care of our feet could save lakhs in medical bills later," says Shah.

Right footwear and correct gait

There are 33 joints in our foot and our entire body weight is supported by it. Ideally, no area of the foot should take extra weight. Says Dr Bisht, "When there is uneven distribution of weight, and uneven displacement of pressure on our feet, we have problems like corns, callouses, ingrown toenails, knee pain and even back pain." Sometimes, the problems caused by uneven distribution of pressure manifests after 20 years. However, not all these problems require interventions, say specialists. Dr Bisht adds, "Just the right footwear, the correct gait and an ideal weight helps."

Youngsters need to exercise

Children lead inactive lives with almost zero physical activity, thanks to their Internet, television and gadget addictions. That can cause arthritis in their mid-twenties. "It is extremely important to exercise in order to control weight and maintain muscle mass because the muscles support the bones and joint. When there is loss of muscle and increase in fat, a person will have joint and knee pains," says Shah. Not just parents, but schools too should be sensitised about the importance of mobility balance in children from a young age, say experts."It is very important for children to go for biomechanics and gait analysis," advises Dr Bisht.

Obesity and knee pain

People in their 30s and 40s complain of knee pain these days. A BMI (Body Mass Index — a measurement made by comparing the height and weight of a person) of more than 32.5 makes the degeneration of joints and bones faster. Dr Pradeep B Bhosale, consultant arthritis and joint replacement surgeon, adds, "Obese men are 15 times more likely to have torn knee cartilage and women in the same category are 25 times more at risk."

Points to ponder

-Many a time, parents buy shoes that are a size larger for their children, to make it last longer. This practice can have a bad impact on the child's bone health.

-Walking on hard surfaces can hamper bone health in the long run.

-People sometimes compromise on length-fitting of the footwear for width-fitting, which is a bad idea for foot and bone health.

-It is crucial to keep a check on the wear and tear of your footwear. This as well as wrong footwear can turn into serious threats for your foot health over a period of time.

Tips for healthier knees

Severe knee pain will never go away 100%. But you can make it negligible by taking the following measures:

-For most forms of knee pain, applying ice is the first step to recovery. Ice wrapped in a towel acts as an anaesthetic.

-Avoid the knee bashers. Some activities such as running and hiking over hilly terrain put a greater demand on the kneecap.

-Berries, ginger, avocado, flaxseed, omega-3-rich fish, and soy are excellent for your knees.

-Check your shoes — avoid heels, awkward bumps and hard materials.

-If there is any difference in the lengths of your legs, ensure you get insole so your body posture is balanced.

-Muscle up your leg. To strengthen the quadriceps, start with straight leg raises. Consult a physiotherapist for more exercises.

-Work your hamstrings. To rehabilitate an injured knee, it is essential to build up strength in the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh.

-Excessive sodium should be avoided as it contributes to water retention and swelling, which puts pressure on your knees and causes pain.

-If your knee pain is caused by arthritis avoid green peppers, eggplant, paprika, tomatoes and potatoes, all of which contain sotanine, a toxin to which arthritis sufferers may have sensitivity.

-Vitamin C is great for your knees. Ensure you stock up on this 'powerhouse' vitamin to keep your knees in shape. After all we have miles to go before we sleep!

Source: Times of India

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