When your joints are healthy, these critical junctures might go unnoticed. It may only be when you feel a bit of stiffness or pain while exercising that you appreciate the important role our joints play in our day-to-day pain-free movement.
Keeping our joints in shape can go a long way to ensuring a better quality of life. It can be the difference between standing up to make dinner with ease instead of pain, getting out of bed without strain, running a race, or enjoying a walk around the block. Healthy joints allow us to move around freely – to be active on our terms.
As we age, our joints can become worn and may need some extra attention. You might experience problems due to overuse, inflammation, or various forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and other conditions.
If you are experiencing joint pain, always speak to your physician or healthcare provider for guidance. However, there are a few things you can do today to help support your joint health.
Safeguard your joints
They say the best defense is a good offense. Protecting your joints starts early. No matter what your age, you can help preserve the health of your joints in several ways.
Quit smoking today. Smoking has been shown to increase inflammation throughout the body and is a known risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking is also known to increase the risk of bone fractures, among other adverse effects on the bones and tendons. It’s a major lifestyle factor that affects many parts of your body.
Maintain a healthy weight. People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for joint pain and damage, as well as the development of conditions like osteoarthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce the daily load on your joints. This doesn’t mean you need to go on a crash diet. Instead, work towards making healthier food choices and incorporating more movement into your daily routine.
Avoid wearing high heels every day. This may be a tough one to accept for some, but heel height and shoe flexibility can play a role in joint health. Fashion preferences aside, consider wearing shoes with a lower heel most often. It’s also important to consider cushioning and support in any shoes you wear from walking to running shoes to sandals and everything in between. Your footwear can play a significant role in reducing the burden on your joints.
Warm-up before and cool down after exercise. This can help improve range of motion and flexibility, and potentially help reduce the risk of injury. While doing this, remember to stick to the recommended physical activity guidelines to avoid overdoing it on exercise.
Proactive Joint Health Tips
Get adequate sleep. Joint pain can make it hard to sleep – as it’s difficult to rest and get comfortable in bed when your body aches. But, it seems to work the other way too. Long-term sleep deprivation may lead to an increase in inflammatory markers associated with pain. Tips to sleep better at night naturally include avoiding caffeine after the morning hours, limiting food, alcohol, and screen time before bedtime and sleeping in a cool, dark room.
Support the joints. Strengthening the muscles surrounding major joints like those in the knees can help better support the bones and reduce stress on the joints. To do this, explore a variety of exercises to increase strength and flexibility.
Maintain a balanced diet. There is no one diet to protect your joints. Experts believe that focusing on foods that may have anti-inflammatory benefits like those found in the Mediterranean diet can help. You might focus on including a variety of those foods.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and other whole foods.
- Explore and add anti-inflammatory foods to the plate. Add a glass of tart cherry juice to your day, and consider incorporating a meal rich in omega-3s fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and black cod. Other foods like ginger, garlic, and greens, including broccoli, also have many joint heal benefits.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated can help cushion and keep your joints lubricated.
- Limit fried foods, ultra-processed foods, and excess sugar for overall health. Limit alcohol intake since it’s linked to an increased risk for gout.
Should you take a joint health supplement?
There’s ongoing research regarding the effectiveness of several supplements for supporting joint health. Discuss whether or not you could benefit from joint health supplements with your healthcare provider. The right supplements may be helpful for certain people, but you’ll need to research this based on your personal needs.