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Save Your Skeleton

At this time of year there are spooky skeleton decorations everywhere you look; but do you know what is really scary? More than half of adults in the United States are suffering from conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. These conditions include back pain, arthritis, traumatic injury, osteoporosis, and spinal deformity. In fact, bone and joint conditions are the most common cause of severe pain and disability worldwide.

Oct. 12-20 is Bone and Joint Health Action Week. There are five special days during Action Week:

  • October 12 - World Arthritis Day

  • October 16 - World Spine Day

  • October 17 - World Trauma Day

  • October 19 - World Pediatric Bone and Joint (PB&J) Day

  • October 20 - World Osteoporosis Day

Although some of these conditions are genetic, there is a lot that you can do to keep your bones and joints healthy and avoid the pain and suffering caused by back injuries, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

Exercise – Strength training is especially beneficial for bones and joints. Strength training is any exercise that requires the muscles to work against resistance using weight machines, barbells, resistance bands, or your body weight. The action of the muscle pulling against where it is attached to the bone or joint helps to stimulate bone growth. And developing stronger muscles helps to stabilize your joints. Strengthening the muscles of your “core” or the back and abdomen muscles that attach to the spine, hips, and ribs, is particularly important for preventing back injury.

Safe Lifting – No matter how strong your back is, you can injure it by lifting heavy objects in the wrong way. Minimize this risk by taking precautions. For example – save work by shortening the distance you will lift or carry the load (use a cart or wagon if you can). Remove obstructions in your path to avoid tripping. Squat and use the strength of your legs to lift while keeping your spine straight. Keep the object close to your body near your hips. Keep feet wide for better balance. Don’t twist at the waist to change directions; just reposition your feet. Most importantly, ask for help if you need to.

Diet – Everyone knows that calcium is important for strong bones, but it is just one of the many nutrients that promote bone health. Protein, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium, plus others all contribute. It’s easy to get these nutrients consuming whole unprocessed foods like fresh meat, poultry, and seafood, low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Highly processed foods do not contain many nutrients. Also, a high salt diet and excessive alcohol can lead to bone loss. And go easy on the Halloween candy; extra pounds increase the pressure on joints and create inflammation that makes pain worse.

Arthritis, osteoporosis, and back pain don’t need to be a normal part of the aging process. The trick is to exercise, eat right, and avoid injury and you will be treated to a more comfortable existence.

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