Arthritis at 20? Runners and Athletes Can Change their Routine

Arthritis is something we usually associate with the late 30s – at the earliest.  But maybe because of hte proliferation in IT and high-tech jobs, the symptoms are showing up much earlier.  It can come as a shock that arthritis might manifest so suddenly, but 20-somethings who’ve experienced any of these symptoms would be quick to rethink how unlikely it can be: muscle tenderness, joint pain and inflammation, stabbing muscle pain.

Arthritis: On the Lookout?

But if it is so common, is it on the list of things to watch out for in your 20s?  To be honest, there are far fewer health conditions that affect 20-somethings.  Even when they do appear, people in their 20s aren’t as habitual about visiting doctors or monitoring for possible problems growing older, like prostate or testicular cancer (even though testicular cancer can appear by age 20).  One of the few issues is vitamin deficiency, particularly Vitamin D.  More serious and common issues tend to revolve around the realm of depression for men in their 20s.

Nelson rheumatologist Dr David Porter thinks there’s gaps between what we think and what is true about the condition:

“Actually, my typical patient is middle-aged. I have plenty of young people on my books, teenagers and those in their 20s or 30s.”

There were also plenty of children and infants who suffered arthritis as well he said, though they were generally treated by paediatricians and paediatric rheumatologists.

Forums around the web are littered with questions by sufferers in their teens through their mid-20s asking if the condition is normal and what to do.

Arthritis at such a young age can be brought on after other injuries.  Joint injuries may not heal properly or be cared for after they happen, increasingly the likelihood of osteoarthritis developing later on.  What was remarkable about a 2009 study was the injuries that could cause the arthritis might not be noticeable.  Lighter injuries, with no apparent tearing, can do a number on the cells inside the cartilage (not on the surface), according to Dr. Constance R. Chu:

“We saw an expanding zone of (cell) death,” Dr. Chu said…

“I’m seeing so many patients in their 20s and 30s with knee arthritis after joint injury.”

Dr. Chu goes on to cite exercise injury as something affecting the whole of orthopedic surgery.  The doctor predicted that many teenagers could be developing high-impact injuries that make early-onset arthritis inevitable.

Cartilage replacement surgery is an available method of repair.

Adjusting Your Exercise

Traditionally, certain types of exercise can alleviate symptoms.  Among the main arthritis exercises for pain relief is the category of range-of-motion exercises:

Range-of-motion exercises
These exercises relieve stiffness and increase your ability to move your joints through their full range of motion. Range-of-motion exercises involve moving your joints through their normal range of movement, such as raising your arms over your head or rolling your shoulders forward and backward. These exercises can be done daily or at least every other day.

This can translate to the knees easily.  Many people, including myself, have given up running in favor of using an elliptical.

Ellipticals still require their users to stand, but they mimic bikes by requiring a circular motion.  That takes away the need for high-impact, for sure saving your knees a lot of trouble but also preventing other injuries in your ankles and hips.

This breed of trainers doesn’t have to be stationary.  Additionally, unlike a bike, it gives your glutes a chance for more of a workout.

File:ElliptiGO Miller Hiwy jeh.jpg
Some ellipticals are replacing bicycles on the streets, providing a more thorough workout even with less impact on joints.

More research in the exercise sciences promises more solutions in the near future – to prevent and possibly cure arthritis.  In the meantime, these exercises could help you alleviate the pain and get yourself back into a comfortable routine.

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