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alberta_bone_and_joint_if_you_could_see_your_bones_and_jointsTogether, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage make up the structure and form of the body. They form the musculoskeletal system that holds us together, protects our internal organs and serves as the machinery we use to move and carry out our daily activities. Our bones also serve as the storehouse for essential minerals.

Our musculoskeletal system is made up of the parts of the body we can’t see and pay little attention to until we feel pain, our movement is restricted or we can no longer do the activities we enjoy.

Take care of your musculoskeletal system.

Exercise regularly: physical activity can improve bone, joint and muscle health.

Eat nutritious foods: a diet high in saturated fats and sugar blocks bone-building calcium from being absorbed.

Make your home safe: falls causing injury are most likely to occur in or near the home.


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Common Bone and Joint Problems

Strong and flexible bones and joints move smoothly. They allow people to go about their daily activities free of pain and without restriction.

But millions of Canadians suffer from chronic musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, back pain, and osteoporosis. These conditions cause pain. They can shut people off from everyday activities – a job, a sport, a walk, time with family and friends. People with musculoskeletal conditions are more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression.

Add in fractures and sports trauma and the problem is multiplied. It’s no wonder Canadians see orthopaedic surgeons more frequently than any other type of specialist.

The prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions generally increases with age. In Alberta, one in five people will be a senior by 2031 – a strong indicator of rising need for musculoskeletal care.

Arthritis the Number One Cause of Long-term Disability in Canada

Arthritis is the leading cause of long-term disability in Canada. It afflicts more than 4.6 million Canadians. Many arthritis sufferers face a burden of pain and disability every day. More Canadians have died from arthritis and related conditions than from melanoma, asthma or HIV/AIDS.

There are more than 100 forms of arthritis and they can strike anyone at any time, including young children. The most common forms are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The Arthritis Alliance of Canada estimates there are more than 4.4 million people living with OA in Canada. Within a generation, the number of Canadians with OA will more than double to 10 million, or one in four. There will be a new diagnosis of OA every 60 seconds and almost one in three will have difficulty working due to OA.

The Alliance estimates that approximately 1% of Canadian adults has RA. This will increase by almost one-third within a generation. Left untreated, 50% of RA sufferers will be disabled within 10 years of the onset of the disease.

Arthritis costs the Canadian economy an estimated $33 billion a year.

Women are most at risk. They account for two-thirds of arthritis sufferers in Canada. In fact, arthritis is the number one cause of disability among women, and second among men.

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Osteoarthritis the Most Common Form of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis – or degenerative joint disease – is the most common form of arthritis. It affects one in eight, or about 4.4 million Canadians. It usually attacks the weight-bearing joints striking most often in the hips and knees, the largest weight-bearing joints in the body.

It is responsible for eight of every 10 hip replacements and nine of every 10 knee replacements.

Osteoarthritis is a progressive joint disease. It occurs when damaged joint tissue loses its ability to repair itself. The bones in the joint and the cartilage, a tough elastic substance that allows the bones to move smoothly, break down causing pain and stiffness. As the condition worsens, loss of mobility and, in extreme cases, dysfunction and deformity can occur.

The prevalence of osteoarthritis increases with age but it is not a normal part of aging. The risk of developing osteoarthritis rises with excess body weight – and the risk is nine-fold for obese people. Consider that carrying just 4.5 kg of extra weight increases the force on your knees by 13.5 kg to 27 kg with each step.

With Alberta’s population aging and living longer and an estimated one-quarter of Albertans being obese, rates of osteoarthritis are expected to rise.

The good news is that there are many effective ways to treat osteoarthritis, including:

  • Medications
  • Exercise
  • Strategies to protect the joints from excess strain
  • Surgery

Some people also experience temporary pain relief through acupuncture and massage.

Surgery to reconstruct or replace the joint is a highly effective treatment for end-stage osteoarthritis. Hip and knee replacements are among the most successful surgical procedures in orthopaedics, and are a proven method of alleviating pain and restoring function, mobility and quality of life.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis an Autoimmune Disease

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. It causes the body’s immune system to become confused and attack the body.

When RA strikes, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints causing swelling and pain and destroying the joints. Sometimes it also attacks the lining in internal organs, such as the eyes, lungs or heart.

Anyone can get RA but it strikes most frequently between the ages of 25 and 50 and affects women three times more often than men. It usually begins slowly, attacking a few joints and spreading over a period of a few weeks to a few months. More and more joints are attacked over time.

There is no cure for RA but the disease can often be controlled and severe joint damage avoided with early diagnosis and medication, exercise, rest and joint protection.

Prevent Injury with a Few Minutes of Planning

Most injuries are preventable. A few minutes of planning can make the difference between participating in your favourite activities and watching from the sidelines as you nurse an injury. No matter what the activity – walking, gardening, sports, home maintenance – take some time to consider the risks and the steps you can take to eliminate or reduce them. Here are a few common-sense ideas for preventing injury:

  • Warm up before and cool down after strenuous activity – stretch your muscles and ligaments and loosen up stiff joints.
  • Make sure you have the equipment and skills needed to do a task safely.
  • Remove clutter that can cause you to trip or slip.
  • Use appropriate footwear for outdoor conditions – especially in winter.
  • Keep stairs and walkways clear and in good condition.

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Falling Is a Major Risk for Seniors

Falls are the cause of more than half of all injuries to Canadians 65 years and over. Four in 10 seniors who fall will fracture a hip.

A fall causing injury is most likely to occur in or near the home. Many falls occur in the bathroom and on stairs. The most common risk factors are poor balance and hazards around the home.

Wearing shoes with good support, using cordless phones, and exercising regularly are just a few of the ways you can reduce the risk of falling. Click on these links for more information on preventing falls and living safely:

Shut Out the Silent Thief – Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is known as the “silent thief” because, with no symptoms, it robs the bone of tissue leaving it with thousands of tiny pores, like a sponge. Porous bones become fragile and can break with little stress. Hip, spine and wrist fractures are most common.

Approximately 2 million Canadians suffer from osteoporosis. Half of them will eventually suffer a bone fracture. Half of those who have osteoporosis and fracture a hip will not return to their previous level of activity and will become dependent on others for at least some of their normal daily activities.

Women are particularly at risk because their rate of osteoporosis is twice that of men. One in four women in Canada over the age of 50 has osteoporosis.

In Canada, one in three women over 65 will suffer a hip fracture. The World Health Organization predicts hip fractures will more than triple by 2050.

Diet can be an enemy or an ally in the battle against osteoporosis. A diet high in saturated fats and sugar blocks bone-building calcium from being absorbed. But a healthy diet together with physical activity helps to build bone in children and young adults. It also helps to slow bone loss in older adults.

Don’t let the “silent thief” in the door. Preventing osteoporosis is easier than treating it. Keep your bones strong by staying physically active. Eat nutritious foods and make sure you get enough calcium.

The “silent thief” can be arrested. If you have osteoporosis, there is a variety of drug treatments to prevent further loss of bone density and reduce fractures. Be physically active to build bone strength and improve muscle strength and balance, reducing the risk of a fall.

Make sure your calcium intake is adequate. Studies of older adults show that adequate calcium intake can slow bone loss and lower the risk of fracture.

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