Keep Your Joints Healthy and Recover Faster After Injury


It’s a new year and that means fitness goals galore. As you jump back into action, pay attention to your joints, especially the body’s largest joint, the knee.

As we get older, the lubrication and cartilage diminish in the joint and cause friction resulting in painful inflammation. Possible injury and the need for surgery increase with age and activity if we don’t keep our joint health on track.

Exercise and good nutrition are critical to joint health. Omega-3s may help slow inflammation in the body, and vitamin C supports the production of collagen. New research is now inviting vitamin D to the joint health party.

Knee Injury
Getting an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injury is just like having your knee age 30 years, according to one medical study.

Other studies show that people with previous ACL injuries commonly develop arthritis of the knee as early as five years after their ACLs are repaired – which means that in addition to the immediate pain and disability caused by the injury, you’re more likely to have arthritis down the road and you may require further surgery, such as a total knee replacement.

What causes those problems? Weakness in the quadriceps(muscles of the front thigh), or the group of four large muscles at the front of the thigh, contributes to arthritis of the knee. So does surgery to the meniscus and other factors.

New Research
But there may be a solution – and it may be as easy as supplementing vitamin D. Data from a large-scale study had found an association with low levels of low vitamin D and being more likely to have joint problems, including ACL injuries and arthritis of the knee.

That’s potentially important because vitamin D is an essential micronutrient that regulates inflammatory events, skeletal muscle size and function and bone health.

Research done by the Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Salt Lake City showed that low levels of vitamin D slowed the recovery of the muscle strength after damage, which could be big news for those who suffer from osteoarthritis.

Although more research is needed, the implications are becoming more clear: joint health is likely enhanced by a healthy diet rich in a variety of micronutrients including vitamin D.

Eating a healthy diet could help people maintain an active lifestyle, avoid knee problems and even increase their longevity.

Research into the influence of vitamin D on the knee is continuing. We know vitamin D is an important factor in a patient’s recovery after an orthopedic procedure. As we learn more about why vitamin D levels decrease after surgery, we can more easily identify ways to manage that decrease and improve the recovery of patients across the nation.

Written by Tyler Barker, Ph.D. Intermountain Health Care, The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital
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