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Preventing OA

Although there is no guaranteed way to avoid being affected by osteoarthritis, there are several external risk factors that can be reduced to prevent developing the joint disease.

A photo of a woman running on a concrete footpath. The woman is wearing a black tank top and black and pink shorts. The photo is taken from behind.

There is no guaranteed way to avoid being affected by osteoarthritis (OA), however, the fewer risk factors present, the smaller the risk is of being affected by the disease. Risk factors such as genes, biological gender, and age cannot be changed, but external risk factors such as body weight, lack of physical activity, and work-related factors can in most cases be modified.

It is often difficult to give a person an exact answer to why they have been affected by OA as even those with no known risk factors can develop the disease. What we know is that previous joint injuries, heavy physical work, and being overweight increases the risk of developing OA, especially OA of the knee.  We also know that our joints are meant to move and that the muscles surrounding our joints need to be strong enough to carry our body weight. Therefore, a lifestyle consisting of regular physical activity and a healthy diet helps prevent OA and promotes overall good health.

Effects of physical work environment on the joints

If your profession requires heavy lifting, a lot of kneeling, or climbing stairs, it can be a good idea to try to vary or change your working position. This may of course be difficult to do for certain professions, for example, if you are a floor layer.  However, if you have the opportunity to reduce knee or hip loading and hips at work, it is important to think about how and when it is possible to do so.

It is not only physically strenuous work that can increase the risk of joint problems. Jobs that require long periods of sitting still much sitting still may also create problems. As our bodies are created to move, our joints need a certain degree of joint load. It is therefore always good for the joints to vary working position and physical workload, whatever your profession.

Preventative measures in sports

A former joint injury (most commonly an ACL tear and/or a meniscus injury) is a common reason why many young athletes develop OA later on in life. Around 50% of all individuals who suffer an ACL tear or a meniscus injury, risk developing OA 10-15 years after their injury. It is therefore vital to try to avoid an injury when practicing sports where the risk for suffering a knee injury is high.  To prevent knee injuries, it is recommended that injury prevention training is integrated into every training session. Parents to children who participate in sports that increase the risk for knee injuries (such as football and basketball) can for example demand that their child’s sports club implements an injury prevention program into training sessions.

Managing OA with lifestyle changes

If you have already been diagnosed with OA, a good first step is to learn more about the disease to better understand your symptoms and find out what treatment methods are available to you. One treatment method to reduce OA symptoms is to lose weight (if necessary) or at least maintain your normal weight. You should also exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles around your joints. By doing this, you can often slow down the progression of the disease, minimize pain and improve mobility.