Winter can bring joint pain
January 30, 2016
Craig — Joint stiffness of some kind may be commonplace during many people's lives, and right now — during the cold months — it can come down particularly hard.
"Cold fronts are low pressure," said Dr. Kevin Borchard, "and so the low pressure does impact the soreness or stiffness that someone may feel on a knee that's already kind of predisposed to it."
Borchard is an orthopedic surgeon with The Memorial Hospital in Craig.
When joint stiffness does descend, Borchard noted a number of treatments that can help.
"I've had a lot of patients who have stiffness, and sometimes they have arthritis, and we try those anti-inflammatory treatments: ice, compressive wraps and anti-inflammatory (medicines)," Borchard said. "Sometimes when people do those things, it allows them to continue (their) activities as long as possible."
Borchard also stressed the importance of physical activity in maintaining joint strength. He mentioned swimming, cycling, skiing and walking as helpful exercises — and he said running can also be beneficial.
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"Short to medium (running) distances can actually help cartilage," Borchard said, and he specified distances of about 3 to 13 miles. He said running marathons "is not protective" of cartilage, but he added: "I wouldn't necessarily say that it damages cartilage because there are certainly a lot of marathon runners in their 50s and 60s who would not agree with that."
Some of the orthopedic injuries Borchard sees come from the sorts of lifting people do on the job.
"Craig's very active for people lifting," he said. "So there's lots of overhead lifting motion, and lots of repetitive motion."
Borchard said that since much of that motion is associated with work, people generally can't stop doing it altogether. So, he helps them to develop strategies.
"I try to rehab the shoulder and get them back to the activity with maybe changing their lifting mechanics a little bit," he said, noting that he might also recommend regular exercise to maintain shoulder strength.
"Around here in general people have jobs that are very demanding, and they don't necessarily have time to fully recover from injuries when they happen," Borchard continued. "Ranchers have a really hard time slowing down when they have an injury, and, similarly, folks that I've treated who work in the mines doing hard, heavy work have a hard time taking a break and slowing down to recover from injuries."
Borchard said modifying activities can serve as an important strategy for recovery.
"In some cases we're able to get them to change their duties at work for a short time while they recover, but it's not easy because these jobs are very demanding," he said.
Focusing on lifting mechanics, such as using a full-body lift, can help ease the strain on a person's shoulders, Borchard explained.
People with sedentary jobs can also encounter joint and other physical problems, and Borchard mentioned strategies for them to prevent injuries, as well.
"Even a very short, minimum (period) of exercise of 15 to 30 minutes in the morning or at night — even low-weight strength training — keeps tendons and ligaments toned," he said.
One of the key goals of an orthopedic surgeon, Borchard said, is to help people continue the activity they like to do, rather than curtail it.
"I don't think arthritis or stiffness in any joint is a reason to not do exercise or to not do an activity," he said, adding that activities ranging from running to skiing can all be beneficial — particularly if people relish those activities.
"If an injury happens, or they have arthritis, that's why orthopedic surgeons are here," he added. "Part of what I find rewarding with this job is being able to get people out there doing those activities again."