Top Tips for Healthy Joints
Being able to move with ease and do the things we enjoy is something many of us take for granted. It’s only after we experience mobility issues due to joint pain, arthritis or stiffness that we realize what we’ve lost. But it’s possible to have healthy joints well into your later years if you start taking care of them now.
Cartilage and synovial fluid are found within the joints of our knees, elbows, shoulders, hips and more; they help protect joints and keep bones from rubbing together. But as we age, it’s not uncommon to experience wear and tear or injuries to the cartilage, which can ultimately lead to damaged joints, arthritis and pain.
5 Tips to Improve Joint Health
If you’ve ever experienced joint pain, you know how seriously it can affect your quality of life. Whether joints are damaged by injury or disease, joint pain can inhibit your movement and make everyday activities difficult. According to WebMD, one-third of adults reported experiencing joint pain over any 30-day period.
Luckily, there are things you can do to protect your joints and improve overall joint health. Here are 5 tips to make sure your joints stay healthy as you age:
- Exercise regularly. Having strong muscles helps ease some of the strain on your joints, so incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Stick with low-impact workouts like walking or swimming to avoid damaging your joints, and be sure to stretch before and after your workout. Stretching is a great way to warm up the tendons and eliminate joint pain. “Low impact” means not pounding heavily on your feet, and would eliminate things like jogging, jumping rope, aerobics, and dancing that involves a quick tempo.
- Drop a few pounds. Extra weight creates added strain on your joints, and losing as little as 10 pounds helps reduce pain. So if you’ve been meaning to lose some weight, now is the time to put that plan into motion. Along with regular exercise, stick to a healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood and nuts.
- Get your calcium and vitamin D. Calcium helps build stronger bones, which is important for joint health. Adding vitamin D as a supplement is a great way to help your body absorb calcium, plus it aids in bone growth. In fact, those with low levels of vitamin D are known to be more susceptible to conditions like osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones. Vitamin D is naturally found in sunshine, and in foods such as dairy products and breakfast cereals (both of which are fortified with vitamin D), and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.
- Keep moving. If you can, avoid sitting for long periods of time. Remaining in the same spot for hours at a time isn’t good for our bodies for a variety of reasons, but especially for healthy joints. Every hour, make sure you get up, move around, and stretch a little to keep your body flexible and in good shape.
- Kick unhealthy habits. If you’re a smoker, it’s time to quit. Smoking is harmful to our bodies in so many ways, and people who smoke tend to have a lower bone density than those who don’t. This leads to a higher risk for developing osteoporosis and a higher risk for fractures.
How to Ease Joint Pain
If you’re currently suffering from joint pain, consider these approaches to help ease any pain or swelling :
- Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen are helpful in reducing mild to severe joint pain, with or without swelling.
- Skin creams like capsaicin can help block some of your pain.
- A doctor can inject steroids directly into the joint every three to four months; this procedure is commonly performed in those with arthritis, tendonitis or joint disease.
- Moist heat, jetted tubs or whirlpools can also provide comfort.
Of course, before doing any of these things, it’s wisest to talk to your doctor to see what approach(es) might be best for you. Your doctor can also ensure these kinds of therapies won’t interfere with prescribed and over-the-counter medications and supplements you may be currently taking.
Physical Therapy Can Keep You Moving
For joint pain sufferers, physical therapy can be extremely beneficial by helping you find ways to improve and maintain joint health and reduce joint pain. A physical therapist knows how much weight or stress your joints can take, and will select exercises and activities to strengthen your muscles around the joint, stabilize the joint, and improve your overall range of motion. Physical therapists are also skilled in selecting modalities (heat, cold, water, electricity and light) that can reduce pain and swelling. They may also provide you with equipment to make walking safer and more comfortable for you, reducing any chances for further joint damage.