What are joints and what are the conditions that affect joint health?
Joints are the connections made between different bones in the body. Joints are either movable – the ones in your hips, shoulders, and knees – or rigid – the ones in your skull. On each end of the bones that form some joints, there is a rubber-like elastic tissue called cartilage. Its function is to help the bones glide over one another without rubbing against each other which leads to pain and limited movement. The most common conditions that lead to pain in the joints are arthritis, osteoporosis, and gout.Keeping your joints in good condition is essential for maintaining your overall health and leading a life without pain and restrictions. Keeping your joints healthy can be done in a number of ways. Here we will focus on the most important and helpful ones.
How to keep your joints healthy
- A balanced diet will help for decreasing the pressure on your joints and decreasing the chances of developing a joint-related disease:
- Overweight people experience many joint problems. Weight-bearing joints such as your back, knees and hips have to support almost all of your body’s weight so losing weight has many benefits for your joints. Carrying too much weight can wear and tear your joints’ cartilage leading to a reaction that can damage your joints and thus lead to arthritis. Avoid eating junk food, learn to eat fresh fruit and vegetables and drink lots and lots of water.
- Adding these foods to your diet may prove beneficial for your combat against arthritis:
- Fish – many types of seafood are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids which help maintain your cartilage in a good condition. You can try increasing your intake of these types of fish to fight the inflammation caused by the degenerative disease: herring, salmon, mackerel, tuna.
- Foods from the allium family (onion, garlic, leeks) – according to studies, people who regularly consume these foods have shown fewer signs of the early stages of osteoarthritis.
- Nuts – all types of nuts do miracles when it comes to weight loss, they are a great substitute for meat (provide protein) and are full of arthritis-battling vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, calcium and much more. You can add almonds, walnuts, and pistachios to your diet.
- Beans – another great source of protein (and also quite cheap) that has the added bonus of being rich in magnesium, potassium, zinc and folic acid (some types). Great for muscle health, as well as keeping the heart healthy and for overall immune system boost. Try eating more kidney beans and red beans.
- Some beverages have a positive effect on arthritis and in general for combating pain and inflammation in the joints. The most important ones include water, some teas, and juices. Smoothies are especially helpful since the juices are not squeezed off the fruits and vegetables and thus you get more fiber (great for fighting constipation for example). Try these tasty smoothie recipes for joint pain.
- Physical activity is of vital importance for keeping your joints in shape. You can improve your joint strength by strengthening the muscles around your joints and building some bone density. Lifting weights is an example of a low-impact activity that will give your muscles the strength and endurance they need to support your joints in the best way possible. To add, swimming and dancing are a perfect example of low-impact activities that help you shape your body and do not put too much stress on your joints. Be careful with running, as it is a high-impact exercise and may be harmful to your joints. All in all, seek professional advice to determine whether certain activities are good for your joints or may lead to problems. It is important to know your limits and listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel pain and you are sure it is not in your muscles (some muscle pain is normal especially until your body gets used to exercising, and means that you are building muscle) but rather in your joints, stop immediately and rest. If the pain continues, contact your physician.
- Make sure to wear appropriate protective equipment to avoid any joint injuries.
- Warm up! Stretching before a workout is of vital importance if you wish to avoid any possible injuries. Also, you should find the time to stretch even if you are not going to be working out afterward, especially if your job is static and involves sitting at your desk for long hours on end. Take small breaks every now and then and try alternating between sitting and standing, as neither standing on your feet all day nor sitting on your chair all day is good for your joints. To add, make sure to properly organize your workplace so that you help joints and yourself as a whole stay comfortable and minimize stress.
- Talking about stretching, why don’t you try doing Yoga or Pilates? These are perfect for erasing stress and not only do they keep your muscles flexible and your joints strong but they also help you train your mind while training your body. They help you make peace with yourself and last but not least teach you how to properly breathe which is an essential skill to learn, as many of us forget the importance of proper breathing – posture improvement, nerve relaxation, pain relief and so on.
- If you have not already done that, consider seeing a therapist for a massage. Choosing the right type of massage depends on your current condition. Contact your doctor to discuss this.According to studies, the benefits of massage for people with arthritis are that it leads to pain relief and improvement in the overall function of the joints – increased range of motion, hand grip strength and less stiffness.
- Not only is smoking related to heart and respiratory diseases, but it also has a negative impact on musculoskeletal health. If you are a smoker, you should know that according to research, you have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lower back pain. You are also more likely to suffer from overuse injuries such as bursitis or tendonitis and/or traumatic injuries, for example, sprains and fractures. Doesn’t sound that great, does it? We strongly recommend you quit smoking or at least try to cut down on it so as to make sure not to increase the chances of traumatizing your joints. Health comes first, right? If you are having problems restraining yourself, seek the help of a friend or family member. Keep telling yourself that you can do it and stay away from people, places and activities you associate with smoking. Keep your mind on the goal and remember that it will get easier with time.Good luck!
Having healthy joints helps for having a better life in general. Everybody wishes to be pain-free, flexible and agile but it doesn’t always come easy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle consists of having a balanced diet, doing regular exercise consistent with your body’s needs, attempting to cut down on bad habits such as excessive alcohol intake, smoking and eating junk food, and last but not least – having a positive attitude towards life. Keep in mind that a strong body starts with a strong mind and work towards achieving your goals. Make sure to listen to your body’s needs and educate yourself about your health from reliable sources (the best being your doctor and/or physical therapist).