Treating Arthritis

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By Alan L. Hammond
 
Soon-to-be World Golf Hall of Fame professional Jose Maria Olazbal has enjoyed a golf career of which most golfers only dream. That same career has also been a nightmare, at times, due to near career-ending injuries and disabilities. In fact, last September, he was forced to miss the 2008 Ryder Cup and other events due to a severe rheumatic condition. Arthritis, in its many forms, is one such rheumatic disorder. Fortunately for Olazbal, he has been able to recover, even scoring a tie for sixth place at last weeks Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
 
According to Heather Millar, Occupational Therapist and advisory board member of the MLD Institute in Wellington, Florida, Rheumatic diseases and conditions primarily affect joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles. They are generally distinguished by the signs of inflammation which include pain, edema/swelling, heat, and redness. Depending on the level of severity and location affected it could impact all areas of the game for a golfer.
 
There are several methods for treating arthritis. Says Ms. Millar, Examples of arthritis treatment can include pharmaceuticals aimed at decreasing inflammation and treating pain, dietary changes, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy, joint replacements, and of course my favorite option ' manual lymph drainage (MLD). Certainly, the type of treatment is dictated by the severity of the condition.
 
For most golfers and other athletes seeking to reduce arthritis symptoms or prevent them altogether, simple actions can keep them active in their game. 'People with arthritis might be living under the myth that they can't be physically active, but now we know there is no doubt that, if you exercise, it keeps you more mobile as you age and builds muscle needed to support your joints,' says Patience White, a rheumatologist and chief public health officer of the Arthritis Foundation.
 
According to Dr. White, there are multiple ways to reduce the likelihood of experiencing arthritis pain. Incorporating strength and flexibility training into workouts help to strengthen joints and provide the support they sorely need. Cutting back or ceasing high-risk activities, such as football, skiing, soccer, and basketball, will reduce the potential for over-use and injury, both of which can hasten the progress toward arthritis. Reducing obesity and keeping off the extra pounds, through a healthy diet, will also reduce the impact on joints and reduce the onset of arthritis due to overuse. In fact, a recent study shows that older adults with a history of excess weight in mid-life or earlier had worse physical performance than those who were normal weight throughout adulthood or became overweight in late adulthood.
 
Medical treatments for arthritis pain can also be an alternative to consider. Anti-inflammatories, such as over-the-counter medications and prescription steroid injections, can be a near immediate relief of pain, but both can carry long-term side effects. Likewise, alternative treatments like Vitamin-D therapy and other supplementation havent, in many cases, been clinically proven.
 
Sources: International Journal of Obesity, 33, pp. 456'464, February 24, 2009; Arthritis Foundation; Boomers learn to work, and play, around arthritis. by Mary Brophy Marcus, USA Today, April 14, 2009.
 
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