Can arthritis be prevented?

We’ve all heard the term arthritis and know that it is a very painful condition that we definitely want to avoid. But, what exactly is arthritis and what can we do to prevent it?

Arthritis is a layman’s way of referring to any type of pain in the joint.  In reality, arthritis is a group of more than 100 diseases and conditions.  However, generally speaking, arthritis is the loss of the soft cushion on the ends of each bones that makes up a joint.  When this spongy cushion, called articular cartilage, wears away, the bone itself becomes exposed along with many painful nerve fibers.

Gregory C. Mallo, M.D., an expert in the treatment of Shoulder Arthritis, tells patients it is like having a pothole in the road.  If there is a very small hole in a freshly paved road, then there is little risk to cars when driving over it.  However, large sink hole can cause a major blowout.

Similarly, as arthritis becomes more and more extensive, the typical smooth gliding of two cartilage surfaces, becomes creates a rough, grinding sensation. This painful grinding of rough surfaces leads to dramatic pain and loss of function.

While it is true that, some forms of arthritis have a genetic component, making some people prone to developing it, there are definitely some very basic daily life habits, choices, or modifications that can be implemented to help avoid suffering.

Below are 5 habits or vices which may be contributing to the development or progression of arthritis.

Weight Control:

Obesity in America has reached epidemic proportions, however even being slightly overweight can cause or exacerbate arthritis. Did you know that when climbing down a set of stairs, the force across your knee cap is 3.5 times body weight? This means that 520 lbs of forces is transmitted across the joint every time a single step is taken by a 150-lb individual.

Put another way, the loss of just 10 lbs results in 35 less pounds across the joint.

If you have arthritis in your knee, the best way to prevent progression and improve pain is to control weight through diet and exercise, because every single pound truly does matter!


Cardiovascular activity of at least 20-30 minutes per day 2-3 times per week is great for heart health, blood pressure, and overall longevity. However, the activity you choose can be accelerating the development of arthritis.

High impact activities, like basketball involve repetitive jumping and result in high forces being transmitted across your ankle, knee and hip joints. Also, running on firm surfaces like concrete can dramatically increase your risk of osteoarthritis.  Lower impact exercises like swimming, elliptical training, or running on grass is preferred.


Add the development of arthritis to the seemingly endless list of side effects and health risks associated with smoking.  According to researchers at the Mayo clinic, smoking is linked to the development of rheumatoid arthritis as it is thought to ignite and fuel overactive immune systems in individuals with other autoimmune conditions. Kicking the habit, with the help of a medical provider, is the best way to prevent this from happening.


Drinking large quantities of beer and other alcoholic beverages can cause an elevation of uric acid and consequently gout. Gout is the accumulation of crystals within a joint. Frequent or persistent gouty attacks cause the release of erosive enzymes into the joint which damage the soft, spongy articular cartilage.  If you suffer from gout, drinking in moderation or avoiding alcohol is an excellent strategy to prevent arthritis.


“Style over comfort,” is the mantra espoused by advocates of stilettos or other high-heeled shoes as they shuffle about their day. What they fail to realize is that narrow, pointy shoes that squish the toes together stretch the stabilizing ligaments of these toes. Repetitive use of narrow toe-box shoes causes permanent deformity and results in painful bunions. This eventually progresses into destruction of the cartilage, and arthritis especially in the large toe. Wearing comfortable, practical shoes or minimizing the use of heels can prevent severe foot and toe pain from arthritis.