Joint Health 101
Joint pain is a common but serious condition that may keep you from partaking in various day-to-day activities. Many people think of joint pain as something that only occurs in older adults, however, younger generations may also suffer from it. The key is to tend to your joints while you are young and growing—it’s never too early to start taking care of your body with a future-facing perspective. Let’s talk about a few ways that you can prevent joint pain and maintain their current health for longer.
Exercise for Healthy Joints
Exercise is one of the primary ways that you can maintain strong and healthy joints. As you sit throughout the day, your joints tend to tighten and swell, making it harder to move. Partaking in daily exercises such as walking, aerobics, swimming, or even stretching can provide your joints with the regular motion they need to loosen, giving them a wider range of motion and better support to the body. Even taking short breaks from a seated position to walk around or stand can help alleviate constriction, and therefore prevent strain, wear, and injury in the long run.
Building muscle and strengthening your core may also counteract joint pain. Developing muscle naturally reinforces the ligaments and tendons that surround the joints, protecting them from wearing down cartilage tissues as you age. However, it’s vital that you know your limits, wear protective braces where needed, and practice proper form. Don’t overwork your body to the point of exhaustion or pain. Modifying exercises like weightlifting or core stimulations to fit your body’s fitness level and slowly increasing intensity will help you avoid harmful strain. Furthermore, strong muscles also give the joints a break by helping support your weight. This leads to the next tip−maintaining a healthy weight.
How Weight Affects the Joints
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for joint health. Joints support the weight of the body against the pull of gravity, so they’re constantly working. By not maintaining a healthy weight, you put more strain on them, which causes inflammation. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet may help you shed a few pounds while decreasing swelling in the joints. In fact, each pound lost will take an average of 4 pounds of pressure off major supporting joints like the knees. If left unaddressed, inflamed joints can become arthritic, making it difficult for them to move properly. Arthritis causes the joints to stiffen chronically, resulting in a decreased range of motion that may trigger frequent pain.
Scientifically speaking, putting too much stress on your joints forces tiny water molecules out of the cartilage tissue, decreasing the amount of vital oxygen and nutrients needed to protect your bones and joints. Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue that cushions the ends of your bones while lubricating the joints, allowing them to move with ease. If the cartilage cushion is depleted due to excessive weight or stress, a form of arthritis called osteoarthritis can occur. Osteoarthritis hinders the bones’ ability to glide smoothly as they lack the needed assistance from the cartilage’s natural lubrication. This results in vigorous bone-on-bone collisions during normal bodily movements, causing extreme levels of pain and damage to the joints. Osteoarthritis is a very common type of joint pain and usually worsens as your body ages. It is important to maintain a healthy weight that your joints can easily support.
Caring for Your Joints
We know that joint health can be managed through external efforts, like maintaining a healthy weight, stretching, and exercising. However, joint and bone strength can also be supported internally by getting proper nutrients either through food or by taking supplements such as Vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D helps the body absorb the nutrients from foods that are rich in calcium, like milk and dark, leafy greens. Eating high protein and vitamin D-rich foods like fish and eggs may also lead to better bone health.
It is very important to care for your joints while you are young and especially as you begin to age. The more your body grows and matures, the more wear and tear you’ll take on. If you suffer from joint pain, talk to a trusted healthcare provider who specializes in joint health.
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