You may have heard of sports injuries – very common among athletes and sportspersons. But even for common people, any kind of injury to the joint, either by falls, accidents, or blows can be troublesome. Let us understand how injuries can cause arthritis and know the ways to protect your joints.

Can Injuries Cause Arthritis?

Sports injuries usually affect people when they are young and active. The injuries often heal but sometimes, they can leave a lasting effect on the joint. Sportspersons may focus on joint rehabilitation to resume the game at the earliest. However, in other people, injuries to the joints, ligaments, and other soft tissues sometimes go unnoticed, may not receive proper treatment, or may not heal completely. If you have sustained an injury when you were young, your risk of problems in that joint increases in your middle age.

Common injuries that can contribute to early arthritis include fractures, dislocations, knee injuries, cartilage tears, ligament tears, and sprains. When your joint or the tissues surrounding it gets injured, you experience pain and other complaints depending on the severity of the injury. Most of these complaints are treated with medicines, rest, crepe bandage, physical therapy, while some may need surgical intervention. In any case, if the injury does not heal properly, the area can remain vulnerable to more injuries or develop joint arthritis later in your life.

Injuries can cause arthritis as the injured area may be improperly healed. It can remain weak and can undergo repeated trauma in the future. The cartilage in the joint can get deteriorated. Also, the supporting structures can get damaged, which can cause more wear and tear of the joint. It is termed as post-traumatic arthritis, which is arthritis caused following an injury. It is believed that some severe injuries can lead to osteoarthritis, which often occurs about 10 to 15 years after the initial injury. Post-traumatic arthritis is also one of the leading causes of joint disability among middle-aged people. This is particularly important for 45 plus people.
It can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and make it difficult to move the joint. Osteoarthritis of a joint resulting from a previous injury is often seen occurring in a single joint. For example, only one knee shows symptoms and you may also recall having experienced some injury to the knee in the past. This condition can further advance as you age but there are a few things that you can do to protect your injured joints and to manage post-traumatic arthritis.

How To Protect Your Joints?

Let us look at ways to protect your joints, particularly, if you have had injuries in the past. But as you may sometimes be unaware of injuries like sprains, ankle twists, and minor blows or falls. Hence, it is best to protect your joints, prevent injuries, reduce bone loss, and strengthen your joints.
Here are some important ways to protect your joints.

Plan a healthy and safe lifestyle
Plan a lifestyle that involves being active, regular exercises, and enough rest to your body and mind. Manage your work and household chores such that you get time for yourself to unwind and relax after a tiring day. When playing, wear proper sports gear. Follow guidelines when participating in adventure or contact sports to prevent injuries. If you have an injured joint, take care of it, wear braces, if needed and follow medical advice. Avoid consuming alcohol and smoking if you wish to keep your bones and joints healthy.

Exercises play an important role not only in the healing of injuries but also to maintain the strength and flexibility of joints. Plan an exercise routine focusing on healthy joints and muscles, apart from overall health. The main types of exercises include
• Aerobic or cardio fitness like brisk walking, jogging, treadmill walk, swimming or dancing for healthy blood circulation, weight management
• Flexibility exercises like whole-body exercises, yoga poses, or certain dance moves to keep joints and muscles supple. It helps to improve the range of motion of joints and prevent injuries.
• Strength training with weights and bands or resistance exercises to build strong muscles and joints. These help improve bone mass in aging people and also help in the healing of injuries. For weak or injured joints, experts advise strength training to prevent injuries and joint damage. But these are best done with guidance from an expert, as they are often graded based on your health.
Make sure you have a proper warm-up session before and cool-down stretches session at the end of your workout.

Dietary Tips
Healing is best promoted by a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Include foods rich in proteins – beans, lentils, sprouts, soy, eggs, fish, and lean meats. Make sure you get a daily dose of calcium through milk and milk products, ragi, green leafy vegetables, drumsticks, and shellfish. Go out in the sun for vitamin D and consume healthy fats like walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds.

Manage your weight
Losing weight can help take the pressure off your joints. Weight-bearing joints like the knees, ankles, hips, and back and more affected by body weight, neck, shoulders, and hands too can feel better if you have an ideal weight. As an injured joint may feel weak, having more body weight can cause more wear and tear, resulting in more pain. Try to reduce your weight gradually, with the help of a healthy diet and some daily exercises. Cardio exercises help to burn fat but if your movements are restricted due to joint pain, you can choose to walk, cycle or swim. Water aerobics or exercising in water is good as you do not feel the weight, not do your joints feel the pressure – but they can give you a great workout to burn calories and reduce some weight.

Medical Advice
Seek timely medical advice for any joint pain, stiffness, or swelling. Your doctor may prescribe medicines depending on your symptoms. Consider taking multivitamins, calcium, and vitamin D supplements, after speaking to your doctor. Consult a physical therapist for therapeutic exercises specific to your joint, severity of symptoms, and your overall health condition.