The joints of your body are the place where bones meet, creating the possibility of movement. Our hips, knees, shoulders, wrists, and fingers are examples of movable joints where healthy cartilage allows the bones to slide back and forth, creating smooth movement. Ligaments are the strong bands that hold the bones together. Injury and pain can occur if there is a problem with the bone, ligament, cartilage or fluid within the joint. Traumatic injury or constant stress on your joints can eventually lead to osteoarthritis and chronic pain. This is why it is critical that you protect your joints throughout your life. Here are 5 simple tips to maintain healthy joints.
Good Nutrition and Weight Control
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is sustain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases stress on many areas of your body, and your joints are no exception. Imagine how you would feel if you had to carry a 25 pound box of lead all day, every day. Do you think your back, hips, or shoulders might ache? Extra weight causes additional wear and tear on your weight-bearing joints (knees, hips, ankles, etc.), resulting in damage to cartilage and other structures in your joints. If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss can decrease your risk of osteoarthritis or injury. So fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt, lean meats, seafood, beans, eggs and nuts; and be careful with portion sizes, because too much of a good thing is still too much.
A good way to monitor your weight is to know your body mass index (BMI). Your BMI gives you an idea of the amount of fat in your body, and a healthy BMI is considered between 18.5 and 24.9. Some tips to maintain a healthy BMI include avoiding fast food and soft drinks, filling up on fruits and vegetables, and grilling instead of frying, You can also keep your bones healthy and strong by avoiding large amounts of caffeine, making sure you are getting sufficient calcium and vitamin D in your diet, and taking a daily multivitamin.
Exercise Regularly and Exercise Right
In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, exercise has other benefits for your joints. Aerobic exercise keeps the blood and oxygen flowing to your joints and helps keep your cartilage healthy. However, high impact exercise such as running and jumping places undue stress on your joints, so activities like swimming, walking, or biking are better choices. Your goal should be 30 minutes per day, at least 5 days per week.
It’s also important to build strong muscles. Weight training, with proper technique or supervision, can go a long way to protect your joints from injury. If you build muscle around your joints, you develop a sort of armor to protect them. The muscle becomes a shock absorber, protecting your joint from the full impact of your activities. A crucial thing to remember with exercise is whether you are performing aerobic activity, or weight training exercises; you should warm up, working yourself up gradually to full speed or intensity.
And let’s not forget about your core. The muscles of your abdomen, back and hips make up the powerhouse that supports your entire frame. Strengthening these muscles will improve your overall balance and strength. Studies have shown that good strength and balance helps prevent falls; and prevention of falls will result in fewer injuries, including those to your joints. So make sure that your workouts include core-strengthening exercises.
Don’t Forget to Stretch
Think about how you feel first thing in the morning when you wake up, and you enjoy that initial stretch that gets the blood flowing. That is how your joints feel when you take the time to stretch them. Routine stretching keeps the fluids that nourish your joints flowing, and increases your flexibility, which ultimately helps to prevent injury. Stretching after a workout will help prevent muscle tightness and stress on your joints. However, stretching can be the whole point of a particular workout. Participating in Pilates or yoga are two excellent forms of joint-healthy exercise.
Posture is Important
Your posture at work, play and at rest has an impact on the health of your joints. Maintaining any one position for too long is never a good thing. If you sit at work, stand up every thirty minutes and give yourself a stretch. Walk around the room. If you are on your feet at work, take a seat. And whether you are sitting or standing, try to keep your back straight and your shoulders down.
Whenever you lift something heavy, you should use your most powerful muscles. Give yourself a wide stance, squat instead of bend, and let the strong muscles of your legs and core do the work. You should also carry things close to your body and use your arms and the palms of your hands, protecting your wrists and fingers. And never lift and twist. Turn your entire body to spare your joints.
There’s a lot to be said about protecting your joints with specialized equipment. Depending on the type of activity or sport you are participating in, you may need elbow pads, shoulder pads, or wrist guards. If you are playing a full contact sport, wear the protective gear appropriate for that sport. Don’t overestimate your strength and agility. Even the most seasoned athletes can take a tumble, so protect yourself.
And then there’s the “equipment” we wear every day that can have a positive or negative effect on our joints. High heels might be the height of fashion, but they’re not joint friendly. A heel higher than one inch puts unneeded stress on the joints in your foot. And high heels increase your risk of knee and ankle injuries. The best shoe to wear is one that has support, fits well and is flexible. Rubber soles also give you more cushioning, supplying additional protection for your joints.
We care about your health and safety. If you have any further questions about joint health or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained, board certified medical staff, please contact us at Patient Care Now Urgent Care at (267) 202-6433. We’re open from 8 am – 8 pm during the week, and 8 am – 6 pm on weekends.