Learn to Prevent Arthritis Not Just Live With It
by Ronald M. Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D., and Martin Zucker
Many people think of arthritis as a nuisance that causes some pain and discomfort but that can usually be eliminated with a pill or joint replacement and puts you right back on track again. You'd be misguided if you think that way.
During fifty years as a pain specialist, and having treated more than 150,000 patients, I have seen arthritis ruin many lives. The reality is that no condition impairs the quality of life as we age and to a greater extent than does arthritis. It erodes basic functions and prevents you from taking part in elementary and cherished activities, leads to inactivity and other health problems, and can rob you of longevity as well.
Unfortunately, the solutions we in the medical profession offer are much less than ideal and often the cause of additional problems. For instance, when individuals have to rely continually on painkillers, they often put themselves at risk for developing serious side effects.
Over the years I have treated thousands of patients with osteoarthritis, the aging human's most common affliction. Osteoarthritis involves deterioration of joint cartilage, the rubbery tissue at the ends of bones that allows for smooth movement and shock-absorption. When cartilage erodes, due to a variety of risk factors, the frequent result is pain, loss of motion, and in many cases even disability and dependence on others.
Health officials predict an epidemic of osteoarthritis within two decades as the Baby Boomer generation ages. "As the leading edge of the baby boom generation enters the prime years for arthritis," the Arthritis Foundation has warned, "a quantum leap will take place as the number of people affected surges and the impact on individuals and the nation's health grows dramatically."
With an anxious eye on a medical crisis ahead, health officials have created a National Arthritis Action Plan with a goal of delaying the onset of pain and disability among individuals by ten years and extending a more vigorous, vital life. Research indicates this is possible.
On a personal level I know this is possible from my pain practice. I have seen many patients stay free of arthritic symptoms well into their seventies and eighties by following a good lifestyle. In other cases, I have been able to help arthritic patients substantially minimize pain or prevent it from getting worse.
My positive experience with patients over the years inspired me to write "Preventing Arthritis: A Holistic Approach to Life Without Pain ". This is the first major book that offers a comprehensive program to minimize the chances of developing painful, debilitating arthritis. My purpose was to warn people not to take arthritis lightly and to offer ideas for preventing it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the old saying goes, but with arthritis, there is no cure. Once you've got it, you've got it, and have to deal with it. That makes every ounce of prevention worth a ton. Preventing Arthritis is my attempt to help people meet and even exceed the declared goal of the National Arthritis Action Plan.
There is much you can do to protect and fortify yourself. Many of the physiological changes leading to osteoarthritis are not clearly understood yet by medical science. So prevention is an effort in which you take aim at the risk factors that contribute to joint damage. In this book, I will arm readers with the guidelines to do so, the very same advice I share with my patients. The practical information includes the following points:
The bottom line - Become an antiarthritis warrior. For years doctors have been spreading the message of cardiovascular prevention how to protect our hearts and blood vessels. But little has been said about protecting our joints. We need to develop "joint awareness." Studies show that disability, due to arthritis, can lead to debilitating inactivity that in turn can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Become an "antiarthritis warrior" and incorporate as many joint-friendly strategies as possible into your lifestyle. In doing so, you'll be helping not only your joints but the rest of your body as well.
© 2001 Ronald M. Lawrence, MD, and Martin Zucker
Ronald M. Lawrence, MD, Ph.D., is a renowned expert in the field of pain, geriatrics, and sports medicine. He is a founding member of the International Association for the Study of Pain, a senior member of the American Academy of Neurology, and founding president of the American Medical Athletic Association. He has served on the National Institute of Aging's National Advisory Council on Aging, as well as co-chairman of Sports Medicine of the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, and medical consultant to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Health writer Martin Zucker, a former Associated Press newsman, has written extensively on natural healing, nutrition, fitness, and alternative medicine for more than twenty years. Lawrence and Zucker are co-authors of "Preventing Arthritis ".