I have joint pain. Is that related to my osteoporosis? What can I do for the joint pain? Exercise seems to make the joint pain worse.

Joint pain usually results from wear and tear on the cartilage, causing osteoarthritis to develop. This type of arthritis causes inflammation and pain in the joints. The cartilage usually provides a buffer between the bones in your joints. When it is injured from years of weight bearing and activity, you can develop joint pain and osteoarthritis. While you might think that exercising would cause more discomfort, injure the joint, and increase joint degeneration, it does not. It is more damaging to your health to carry around extra weight and to develop weak muscles and bones. In a recent small study, regular moderate exercise (aerobic and weight-bearing activities for 1 hour, 3 times per week) was associated with improved physical activity and knee joint function as well as improved strength of knee cartilage.

It's important to exercise even when you have joint pain, although extra pain in the joints moiré than 2 hours after exercise may indicate that you have over exercised.

It's important to continue to exercise even when you have joint pain, although extra pain in the joints more than 2 hours after exercise may indicate that you have overexercised. Exercise will increase your strength, balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. Strengthening your muscles around your joints will help reduce the stress on them. For example, doing exercises that build thigh muscles can help reduce knee pain and improve its ability to support your weight. Some of the exercises featured in Appendix A can be done while seated to strengthen your thigh muscles.

Like your knees, your back is also susceptible to osteoarthritis. Chronic low back pain can result from the deterioration of the joints in your spine. Research evidence shows that both acute (lasting less than 6 weeks) and chronic low back pain do respond to exercise, especially stretching and strengthening exercises.

If you experience pain in the joints immediately following exercise, use an ice pack wrapped in a towel for about 20 minutes. If the pain persists, avoid the exercise and specific activities that cause pain, and continue to use ice several times a day for a few days. After a few days of using ice packs, warm therapies such as hot packs and whirlpool baths may ease joint pain better. Prolonged rest used to be prescribed for muscle or bone pain, but that is not the case now. Clinicians and scientists now recognize that immobility does more harm than good, so it's important to keep moving.

In one recent study of postmenopausal women, those taking Fosamax (alendronate) for osteoporosis had less knee pain and fewer abnormalities of their knee joints related to osteoarthritis. Further study is needed to determine if bisphosphonates like Fosamax have positive and preventive effects on osteoarthritis and joint pain.

Marjory's comment:

I think my osteoarthritis started in my knees about 20 years ago when I used to work as a nurse. Although I can't blame everything on walking daily on the hospital's cement floors, I'm sure it probably contributed to my knee problems. At the same time, I was taking exercise classes at a local Y where the floors were also cement but we wore improper shoes—you know, the kind of canvas sneakers that don't give you any support. Even back then, though, I realized the importance of exercise and have always exercised no matter how much my joints were bothering me. I discovered water aerobics about 10 years ago and went to the pool twice a week. I also did exercises at home. But once the physical aspects of patient care became too difficult with my arthritis, I retired. In addition to taking prescription anti-inflammatory medication for pain, I also had my knees injected with cortisone and Synvisc. But in spite of these therapies, 2 years ago I had both knees replaced because I had no cartilage left in the joints. It felt like bone was rubbing against bone. Now, there's no pain in my knees, although I continue to have pain in my shoulders, hips, ankles, and elbows. Less than a year ago, I was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Now I exercise four times a week in a warm water pool with a water aerobics class. I also do Pilates classes in the water, on a big plastic ball, and in a chair. I lift weights for upper body strength, and I also lift weights with my ankles to strengthen my legs. Then I burn about 65 calories walking on the treadmill, and now I wear good footwear meant for exercising. On my day off from exercising, I volunteer at the local library where I do lots of bending and stretching and even climbing on ladders! I can probably bend, stretch, and climb better because I do exercise regularly. Since I had gastrointestinal bleeding last fall, probably as a result of taking anti-inflammatory pain medications without stomach medication, I don't take much for pain any longer. No matter what, I keep up with my exercise. Even though I have painful joints, exercising allows me to sleep.

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