Just for reference, I’m 31 years old and slowly graduating from the “I’m bulletproof” mindset to “everything hurts all the time.” It might be from athletics when I was younger or because I’m a serial stomach-sleeper, but I experience some soreness in my joints and back from time to time. As a hospital, we don’t want to see you in pain, so I decided to write a short post of 5 things you and I can keep in mind to maintain joint health.
Whether you’re old or young, joint health should be a focus. Partially because our joints are so important (and, you know, pretty useful) but also because joint pain is really, really painful. Not only is it painful, but terribly inconvenient because you always need to be moving around. This is probably why the Arthritis Foundation has “Joint Protection” under their “Pain Management” section. They have an extensive list of tips to help keep your joints healthy that you can check out if you’re interested.
Like most things in life, it’s better to plan ahead and take preventative measures instead of waiting until you’re experiencing pain in order to do something about it.
1. Keep Moving
If you’re anything like me (my wife would say let’s hope you’re not!) a lot of the work you do is sitting at a desk. I get antsy at times, and tend to want to stand up and move around quite a bit. Many of us have likely experienced the stiffness when waking up in the morning, but as you get up, move around and stretch out, the stiffness and soreness subsides (if only just a bit). If you spend a lot of time at a desk or even if you spend a lot of time on your feet, it is a good idea to change positions regularly. If possible, it might also be a good idea to get a standing desk that allows you to change positions while working.
2. Watch the Weight
In some of my previous posts on the hospital’s blog, I mentioned that losing weight can help improve heart health among other things. Added weight causes unnecessary strain and stress on the joints, especially in hips, knees and ankles. Most information I’ve found online suggests that losing 1 pound of bodyweight reduces between 4 and 6 pounds of pressure off of knees and ankles depending on the activity.
3. Food Choices
Fish that contain omega-3s are known to reduce inflammation, which is a culprit in making joint pain and discomfort worse in those with arthritis. I mostly like my fish raw (think sushi) so I have a big bottle of fish oil that I take, which I didn’t take today, so thanks for reminding me!
I was about to title this tip “diet,” and although dieting isn’t a bad thing (as long as you’re being wise and responsible with your diet), that word is painful and often stirs up resistance in us because of negative experiences we’ve had with dieting. Instead, we can think about making healthier food choices. This is definitely related to tip #2, so think about adding some yummy fish to your food choices, or perhaps even replacing some red meats with some lean fish.
Supplements such as glucosamine, SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine) and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) can benefit joint health. Calcium might also be a great addition if you’re lactose intolerant like me and still want to keep your bones healthy. As always, if you’re planning on taking supplements, check with your doctor to make sure there aren’t any conflicts with medication.
Along with losing weight, you’ll probably find a ton of benefits from exercising in general. Low-impact exercises such as bicycling, swimming or light strength training can help build muscles to improve joint support.
In the event that you sustain an injury, make sure you visit your health professional for directions on proper healing and recovery. I think it’s safe to say that most people want to avoid chronic pain and discomfort, and taking care of your joints early on can prevent a lot of problems (and save a lot of money) in the long run.