The best way to care for your joints is to keep them, your muscles, ligaments and bones strong and stable.Increasing age, injury, poor posture, lack of movement and carrying too much weight all contribute to joint damage. So, what exactly causes joint pain and what are some things we can do to take better care of ourselves and improve our joint health..
What causes joint pain?
Smooth tissue called cartilage and a lubricant called synovial fluid cushion joints, with overuse or injury, cartilage on the end of the joints can break down, causing a narrowing of the joint space and bones to rub together. This can lead to painful bony growths called spurs that cause swelling, stiffness and heightens the possibility of osteoarthritis, (the most common type of arthritis). Joint pain can also be the product of excess weight, caused by poor diet, poor posture and lack of movement causing the loss of synovial fluid leading to stiffness.
Here are several ways to prevent unnecessary joint damage and tips for caring for your joints:
Keeping your weight within in a healthy range is the best thing you can do for your joints. This relieves joints of bearing unnecessary weight and enables your whole body to move more freely encouraging movement and flexibility.
Aerobic exercise- activities that raise your heart rate- can reduce joint swelling. If your joints bother you, try lower impact exercises like biking or swimming. Sitting still increases the risk for joint paint too, less movement means more stiffness in your joints. Strong muscles support your joints. Without enough muscle, your joints take a pounding especially your spine, hips and knees which support your entire body weight. Weight training exercises help build muscle and keep your muscles and surrounding ligaments strong. A personal trainer can show you the best exercises for healthy joints and how to do them correctly.
Know your limits.
Certain exercises and activities might just be too much for your joints to handle at first. To prevent pain and the risk of further damaging your joints, modify any exercise that causes joint pain. Ask a trainer or physical therapist to help you with modifications. You will likely feel some muscle pain after working out, but listen to your body. There is a difference between threatening pain and good muscle pain.
We all slouch, but doing this too often and not making an effort to sit and stand up straight is bad news for your body, especially your joints. Good posture protects your joints and muscles and is
also important when working out and using weights.
The right food helps build strong bones and muscles and strong bones and muscles support good joint health. Calcium for your bones can be found in milk, broccoli and soy or almond milk. Protein is important for your muscles and can be found in lean meats, seafood and beans and legumes. Vitamin D is also great for bones and joints and helps your body absorb calcium from the foods you eat.
The less we move, the more stiffness and/ or weakness occurs in the muscles that support our joints. Stretching regularly is extremely important to maintain joint health and muscle flexibility. Some major stretches to consider; chest stretch, hamstring stretch, piriformis stretch (gluteal/ hip area) shoulder and upper back stretch and hip flexor stretch.
Joint health works in synergy with the rest of our bodies and is reliant on our overall health. Caring for our joints means being mindful of our diet and weight, muscles and posture and how all these things work together. Paying attention to your body and learning how to make adjustments is a great first step towards not only good joint health, but whole body health!