Exercise can help prevent and relieve common musculoskeletal conditions.

Chronic musculoskeletal conditions including osteoarthritis, joint disorders and back pain are some of the biggest cost drivers of the US healthcare system because they are very common ailments.

Exercise is one of the most cost effective ways to prevent musculoskeletal injuries and conditions and to reduce the severity of the condition.

Let’s look at how exercise helps the three main musculoskeletal issues driving healthcare costs:

1/ Osteoarthritis:

We spoke with Peter Gerbino MD earlier this year about how to preserve cartilage and prevent osteoarthritis so let’s just do a quick review of how exercise helps.

The best way to prevent osteoarthritis is to preserve your cartilage with a balanced exercise program that includes cardio, strength conditioning and stretching. Specifically:

  • Aerobic and endurance training has a healing effect for your cartilage. The compression and decompression that happens when you move helps to deliver nutrients to the cartilage. The nutrients helps to rebuild the cartilage that gets damaged and worn over time. Plus aerobic activity helps you maintain a healthy weight which reduces the amount of pressure on your joints and the amount of pain you feel.
  • Strength training helps to develop your muscles and take pressure off your joints as you move. Again, when there is less pressure you feel less pain.
  • Stretching helps to maintain flexibility and range of motion in the joint.

A balanced exercise program will also benefit those with osteoarthritis by reducing the pressure on the joints. You may feel uncomfortable initially but you will start to feel good as your body warms up.

2/ Joint Disorders:

Arthritis, bursitis and dislocations are all joint disorders that cause joint pain.

Bursitis is a painful condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs — called bursar — that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints. Bursitis occurs when bursae become inflamed.

Bursitis may not be entirely preventable if your job requires repetitive movement or have an underlying condition such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pseudogout or ankylosing spondylitis. However, taking measures to reduce the pressure on your joints can reduce your risk and the severity of flare-ups. Warming up before demanding physical activity, taking frequent breaks, strengthening and stretching the muscles around your joints and maintaining a healthy weight will reduce the pressure on your joints. Reducing pressure will reduce your risk for bursitis and flare-ups.

3/ Lower Back Pain:

Back pain is very common. Reportedly 80% of American adults will experience back pain at some point in their life. Back pain can be the result of strained muscles or something more serious such as a herniated disk, arthritis, skeletal irregularities or osteoporosis.

To prevent back pain and keep your back healthy and strong:

  • Exercise. Strengthening the trunk muscles helps stabilize and support the spine.
  • Maintain good posture. Good posture reduces the pressure on your spine and disks. Keep your back straight and aligned, particularly when sitting for long periods. Lift heavy objects properly, making your legs — not your back — do most of the work.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts more pressure on the spine and disks, making them more susceptible to herniation.