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6,000-Year-Old Knee Joints Suggest Osteoarthritis Isn’t Just Wear and Tear

If you think you’re hearing about more and more people with arthritis in their knees, you’re not just imagining it. Scientists say it’s really happening: Osteoarthritis of the knee is twice as common now as it was before the 1950s, according to a report by NPR. To help with their research, study authors looked at human skeletons from people who died 6,000 years ago, and found that if you want to keep moving, you need to keep moving. In other words, you can improve your joint movement by strengthening your muscles. Dietary factors and weight count too.

By 2020, nearly 6.5 million Americans between the ages of 35 and 84 are expected to be diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis — a staggering number that could very possibly include you. And science isn’t wrong: Movement and exercise can, indeed, help you maintain or regain strength in your muscles that will help prevent and/or relieve knee pain. And, yes, dietary measures and weight loss factor in.

Unfortunately, rather than addressing the physical component with exercise and weight loss, many people simply turn to pharmaceutical answers — pain pills — when their knees hurt. The problem with these drug approaches is that regular, chronic use of arthritis drugs can result in liver or kidney damage. Yet, in an era when many people are turning to opioids when over-the-counters don’t work, we really need to look toward nondrug solutions.

First, address your diet by eliminating sugar/fructose and most grains; optimize your gut flora by consuming naturally fermented vegetables; consume whole, unprocessed high-quality foods, organic and locally-grown if possible; eat a large portion of your food raw; and get plenty of high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil.

Next, regular exercise is critical. Just be careful not to overdo it. Your program should include a range of activities, including weight training, high intensity exercises, cardio, stretching, and core work. Walking and swimming are also excellent (if you have access to a chlorine-free pool), as are practices like yoga and tai chi.