Phone: 03 8822 3723

How To Reduce Arthritis Symptoms & Improve Overall Bone Density

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 25 December 2015
Hits: 2315

Most people think of arthritis, osteoporosis and bone density problems as an “old person’s” condition but it can affect many younger people, even athletes and cause serious damage to their body. Poor nutrition, our sedentary modern lifestyle and a lack of understanding as to the importance of STRENGTH TRAINING not to look good, but to sustain optimal health are reasons why these conditions are becoming more prominent each year, even in younger people. For many of the older generation, they did not grow up with the gyms like they are today, so the stereotype of it is only for body builders is entrenched in their minds. A real fear of joining a gym, asking for help and knowing exactly what to do can be the main reason many do not start a strength program. Reliance on medications and drugs to treat symptoms instead of addressing the real cause is another, and unfortunately much of the medical profession still have a poor understanding as to the importance of strength training and good nutrition when treating people with bone related problems. As mentioned earlier it is not limited to just old people, with many younger people being diagnosed with osteoarthritis and bone problems. The good news is these conditions can be improved and even reversed if a good training program is implemented. In this article we will look at all the factors and provide you with some real evidence as to why you should be doing resistance training right now!

Why You Should Read This Article

In this article we are going to show you some real life case studies from  our Stronger For Longer program and more recently our Lift For Life program of just how important strength training is for conditions like Arthritis & Osteoporosis. I myself have suffered over 20 bone fractures in my life (I am only 41 years of age) and at the age of 25 was told I had severe osteoarthritis and that I should cease playing all types of sports, never run again and consider getting knee surgery! I had 3 different opinions from highly regarded sports medicine doctors. All of this sounded a bit crazy to me and as it turned out it was, because I was able to completely reverse the problems I had been suffering with by adopting a strength training program. Since that diagnosis over 15 years ago I have completed several half marathons, triathlons, still play basketball and do almost everything pain free. I have not broken a bone for years! I am stronger now than I have ever been. Unfortunately there are many people given the same advice I was given without ever hearing that perhaps you should start a serious strength training program. Relying on medications and supplements is merely treating symptoms and not going to solve your problems. You must understand that resistance training is essential for everyone, and the older you are, or the more unhealthy you have become, the more important it is! Let's see why.

Bone Density Explained

Many younger people will think this is not relevant to them, but if you are someone who is overweight, does not do any form of resistance training, have a sedentary job and would rate their life as fairly stressful, then there is a good chance you will be developing early signs of arthritis and bone density problems. It is no longer just an old person's disease. Peak bone mass is reached at around 25 years of age and normally remains relatively stable until around the age of 50. After the age of 50, progressive losses of of bone mineral density begins to occur. As bones lose their density they become weaker and the risk of fracture during regular activities increases. If this person were to fall they would likely break a hip, wrist or vertebrae in their spine! If bones become brittle enough (severe osteoporosis) they can break during even normal weight-bearing activities without a fall. In older populations broken bones are potentially lethal.  The seriousness of this cannot be underestimated. Hip fractures are the number one cause of nursing home admission and approximately 50% of those who suffer a hip fracture never fully regain their mobility and independence and 50% of those die within the first year!

Now I mentioned the word earlier normally bone density remains stable. What we are seeing more often these days is symptoms of Osteoporosis in people aged in their early 40's and some even in their 30's! Osteoporosis is now so common I am working with many clients with severe postural problems causing severe injuries like disc bulges in the lower back and neck due to their bones becoming so weak and brittle. Take a look at the picture below to see what I mean.

 

Osteoporosis is causes the gradual loss of bone density and strength and when the thoracic vertebrae are affected like in the picture above, there can be a gradual collapse of the vertebrae. This results in kyphosis, an excessive curvature of the thoracic region. This causes what is known as a Dowagers Hump! Not very attractive but even worse than how it looks is the damage it creates to rest of the body. Multiple injuries begin to surface when this poor posture is left untreated. It is a very long slow process to correct this condition, it is so much easier to prevent it from happening. Read about how we correct Postural faults in this article here Posture Is Everything When Trying To Get Out Of Chronic Pain. The reason Women are 3 times more likely to develop Osteoporosis than men is due to their overall lack of muscle mass to begin with, the aging process combined with menopause, poor lifestyle and lack of resistance training just speeds up the problem. But did you know that about 20% of people with Osteoporosis are men! Sarcopenia which is the loss of muscle mass as we age plays a significant factor in the development of all these problems. There has been countless studies and research that have proved the capability of people as old as 100 years to build muscle through high-intensity resistance training.

Read our article on Why Older Adults MUST Complete Strength Training. Strength training is essential for not only preventing bone density loss, fractures and osteoporosis but also for improving overall movement function for life and avoiding disability.

If you want to know more about this get a FREE copy of our Stronger For Longer program by clicking the image below.

But what if you have arthritis and find it hard to do strength training?

Explaining Arthritis

Arthritis is divided into two primary types: osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear form of arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. They are completely different, even though they appear to be the same with symptoms of joint stiffness, pain, inflammation and swelling. Many people make the mistake of thinking there is nothing they can do about it and resort to a lifetime of anti-inflammatory medication. Having a better understanding as to what your condition is will help identify what action you can take and try to deal with the condition at the root cause instead of treating symptoms.

The two types are:

Osteoarthritis – Degenerative joint disease usually affects the distal joints, or the joints at the end of your fingers and toes, not the middle ones. You typically you may have it on just one joint, or on one hand or foot and not the other. I myself had issues with my left knee and right wrist and right big toe at different times before getting on top of my problems. It is this type of arthritis that is now so common even in younger people due to poor bio mechanics, sedentary lifestyles, poor posture and lack of muscle that now sets up joints to be worn out and exposed to all types of problems. This is very common with knee pain where we see people presenting with severe pain and stiffness in their legs. After implementing a well designed strength program their pain reduces and even disappears and their stiffness is significantly reduced improving their ability to move. Strength training is crucial for the person with Osteoarthritis.

Although OA occurs in people of all ages, osteoarthritis is most common in people older than 65. Common risk factors include increasing age, obesity, previous joint injury, overuse of the joint, weak thigh muscles, and genes.

  • One in two adults will develop symptoms of knee OA during their lives.
  • One in four adults will development symptoms of hip OA by age 85.
  • One in 12 people 60 years or older have hand OA.

Rheumatoid arthritis – is a lot more severe and is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to break itself down. It tends to affect both sides of the body and is associated with joint deformities, especially your hands and fingers. It can be very crippling, and people can die from rheumatoid arthritis! A much more difficult condition to treat but there is still things you can do apart from medication to help relieve the severity. Treating Rheumatoid arthritis this is a lot more difficult to use the strength training approach. Aggressive medications and use of acupuncture and Vitamin D supplements are common for this condition. Exercise can be very difficult to do but not impossible. Gripping weights or cables I have found can be a real problem, and body weight exercises even harder. However if you apply some sensible strategies and improvise you can come up with some great solutions. With all the people I have worked with with this condition who attempt to do what they can, are ALWAYS better than those who do nothing.

Secrets To Making Bone Respond Quickly

Tissue adapts when it is faced with a challenge that is beyond what it encounters in everyday life. This is the beauty of strength training as it can be easily manipulated or altered to create new challenges. The overload produced from the exercise challenge is the stimulus for tissue change. Constantly changing exercises, intensity, tempo and methods are just some of the variables you can use to promote this overload. One big secret is to use exercises that challenge the body in multi directional angles and directions. Research has found that multi directional exercises with load improve bone density and bone strength faster due to the fact that they incorporate so many of the structural lines needed for everyday life moving. By forcing challenges with these exercises with either load or speed these lines adapt and create a structural change to the bones. This is one reason why machine training provides little to no effect. Read our article on Why Movement Skills Are Better Than Isolated Training to see exactly how to do this.

Below is two perfect examples from our Stronger For Longer program where we use Multi Directional strength training exercises to achieve our goal of building muscle, bone density but improve movement skills for life. These exercises can be modified for all types of conditions but our end goal MUST be to get to this point as this is what you need for life! Sitting on a machine or lying on the floor may build some muscle but it will not improve your ability to do these movements.

To know how often to train I suggest reading our article on Progressive Overload as I go into great detail as to how many times per week is best to train whether you are training for rehab, sports, older adult or whatever your goal may be.

For Bones To Adapt There Must Be Sufficient Nutrition

Now for all of our exercises and programs to have the best chance of succeeding their must be adequate nutrition provided to allow the repair and recovery process to take place. Developing new bone or muscle is what is known as the anabolic process. Your body requires you to eat foods that contain the necessary building blocks to repair the damage caused from your workout. Proteins contain all the essential amino acids required for this process and is the reason why body builders carry protein shakes everywhere because they know how important high quality protein is to reap the rewards of their training. Unfortunately older adults and even many younger people eat not enough high quality protein and too much high refined processed foods or sugar laden food that does the exact opposite of the anabolic process and create a catabolic process.

Do not underestimate the value of Vitamin D here as well. Due to our sedentary lifestyle and being stuck indoors to often combined with poor nutrition a lack of Vitamin D now causes massive problems. Completing any kind of construction requires raw materials to build the structure and vehicles to deliver the raw materials. In this case calcium is the main material needed for building bone along with magnesium and phosphate but the vehicle to deliver them from the digestive system to the building site in the bones is where Vitamin D comes in. Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphate through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.

I suggest reading our article on Why Poor Nutrition Creates Back Pain for more information on this.

Conclusion

I hope this article sheds some light on the value of strength training and improving overall nutrition and lifestyle habits to prevent what are some of the most common diseases and chronic conditions facing many people today. As I always say "it is far easier to prevent problems than to fix them later". It is also far less expensive or invasive to complete a strength training program 3-4 times per week. Even twice a week can still provide some great results for people. You just must understand that you must be consistent and you can never stop!

And if you don't believe me that it can work watch this video of 79 year old Laurie Ford who trains twice a week with us each week and every year gets better!

If you live in Melbourne and would like to know more about our Stronger For Longer, Lift For Life or even just one on one Personal Training fill in the form below and I will get back to you within 24 hours to schedule a Free consultation to discuss how we can get you into top health and fitness.