Your joints are the connections between your bones that allow body parts to move, such as your knees, elbows, shoulders and hips. Cartilage and synovial fluid are found within the joints to protect them and keep the bones from rubbing together. However, it’s not uncommon for older adults to experience wear and tear or injuries to the cartilage, which can ultimately lead to damaged joints, arthritis and pain which can limit your ability to move comfortably.
5 Tips to Improve Joint Health
Whether joints are damaged by injury or disease, joint pain can seriously affect your quality of life. Joint pain inhibits your movement and can make everyday activities difficult. According to WebMD, joint pain is extremely common. In a national survey, it was revealed that 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 joint health overall. Here are five 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 make 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 preventing 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. If you’ve been meaning to lose some weight, now is the time to put that plan into motion. Extra weight creates added strain on your joints, and losing as little as ten pounds helps reduce pain. 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 foods such as dairy products and breakfast cereals (both of which are fortified with vitamin D), and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.
- 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 fluid and in good shape.
- Ditch 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, too.
How to Ease Joint Pain
If you’re currently suffering from joint pain, these tips can help you. There are some other things you can do to help ease any pain or swelling as well. Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen are helpful in reducing mild-to-severe joint pain, with or without swelling. There are also skin creams like capsaicin that can help block some of your pain. A doctor can also provide steroid injections directly into the joint every three-to-four months, a procedure commonly performed in those with arthritis, tendinitis or joint disease. Moist heat, jetted tubs or whirlpools can also provide comfort. Of course, before taking or doing anything, be sure to clear it with your doctor to be sure these suggested medications don’t interfere with ones you are already taking.
Physical therapy can be extremely beneficial to joint pain sufferers. A physical therapist knows how much weight or stress your joints can take and will select exercises and activities to to strengthen your muscles around the joint, stabilize the joint and improve your overall range of motion. They 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.