Keeping your joints healthy is key to maintaining a healthy body. You have 360 joints in your body, which are made of collagen or cartilage, depending on the type of joint (1). The older you get, the higher the risk you have of tearing or injuring a joint. You also have a higher risk of joint injury if you are overweight. The best care for your joints is to keep them tough and durable, so they can endure strenuous exercise and heal faster after tearing. Keep reading to find out how to care for your joints, to avoid injury, and how to keep your joints in full health.
How To Manage Joint Pain
If you have a joint condition, there are a few home cures that you can do to ease your discomfort. There are many conditions that have symptoms of joint pain, including: (2)
- lyme disease
- CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome)
- some types of cancer
It goes without saying that a broken bone or sprain also leads to joint pain, but the treatment for a break is very different than other conditions like arthritis. Treatment for painful joints varies depending on the cause, but there are a few things you can do to ease your aches.
- Use a warm compress. Adding a touch of warmth to your joint increases blood flow in the area.
- Use a cold compress. Make sure not to put the ice directly on your skin because it could cause even more damage. Ice can reduce swelling and numbs the area (3).
- Do healing exercises (4). Some people think that moving the joint more will damage it, but that is not true. Gentle exercises help build stronger joints and prevent them from becoming stiff or difficult to move. People suffering from an injury or from arthritis often have physical therapy to help them start moving again and prevent any further injury.
- Stretch. If you are recovering from an injury or a broken bone, do not do any kind of strenuous exercise. Instead, you can do different stretches to open up the joint and increase its elasticity. Physical therapy includes many of these types of stretches.
- Take medication. Sometimes a heating pad is just not enough to diminish your pain. You can take over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like aspirin, or your doctor may prescribe you some opioids for more severe pain.
- Add supplements to your diet . There are supplements formulated to improve your joint function. Look for products that contain glucosamine and chondroitin, which help your cartilage heal. Some supplements don’t show any positive results, but there are no unpleasant side effects that medications may have (5).
Take Home Note:
Many conditions cause joint pain, from a simple sprain, to arthritis or lupus. Getting a proper diagnosis is important to ensure you will be prescribed the correct treatment. There are so many things you can do to help bring relief to joint pain. Using compresses, hot or cold, can bring you instant relief. To avoid your joints from becoming stiff, make sure to exercise and stretch often. There are also non-prescription medications and supplements you can take to help build up your joints, and some conditions require taking prescription opioids as well.
Healthy Life, Healthy Joints
From your diet to your exercise routine, there are so many things you can do to keep your joints healthy. Below are diet tips, special exercises you can do, and information about why you should improve your posture to keep your joints happy.
To maintain the strength and durability of your joints and bones, you need a healthy diet with plenty of calcium and protein.
Foods that contain high amounts of calcium are (6):
- cottage cheese
- dark leafy greens like broccoli or kale
- soy or almond milk fortified with calcium
You also should add foods that are rich in vitamin D to assist your body to absorb the calcium (7).
Good sources of protein are (4):
- chicken breast
Take Home Note:
Diet plays an important role in the health of your joints. Make sure you are consuming enough calcium, protein, and vitamin D.
Working Out: How to Exercise with Weak Joints
If you have irritated or swollen joints, you can’t just go for a run and assume it will help your pain dissipate. In fact, exercising the wrong way or too strenuously could exacerbate an injury. (8). You should keep moving your joints, especially after an injury, or they will become too stiff and may not fully heal. The best exercises to speed up your healing and avoid further damage are called low-impact exercises (9). This means you’re not supporting your full weight nor straining your muscles, like you do in most workouts. Bicycling or swimming are perfect for your joints: you still get your heart rate up which reduces swelling and inflammation, but you also avoid any kind of strain.
You need to strengthen the muscles you have in your spine, hips and knees. Once you are on your way to healing from an injury, you should begin weight training to build up the ligaments and muscles to decrease any pressure you are putting on your joints. Start simple and include frequent rests. Depending on where your injury is, start stretching in that area first, and then begin weight lifting. You can find special exercises for people who suffer from arthritis who need to stretch out their joints (10).
Building up your core muscles help avoid further injury by improving your balance. Lift weights to strengthen your abdomen, back and chest. Aerobic exercises like yoga or pilates also are helpful for your core.
Exercise in general keeps your weight in check, and if you are overweight, you will probably be advised by your doctor to lose weight for your joint health (11). The heavier your body is, the more strain you put on your muscles and joints. Even if you are working on building up your core, your hips, back and knees can suffer from supporting your body weight.
The best way to lose weight is a combination of diet and exercise, and as long as you stay consistent, you will be shedding pounds in no time. When you first begin your new workout routine, you will be surprised how easy it is to lose weight, but soon the number on your scale will stop falling due to your muscle gain (12). Don’t feel discouraged when you aren’t losing as much weight as you were in the beginning; your body is now adjusting to building lean muscle, which actually weighs more than fat cells (13).
Take Home Note:
Exercise is key when trying to heal swollen or injured joints. Try aerobic or low-impact exercises like bicycling, yoga, swimming or pilates. Keep moving to avoid your joints from stiffening, which could lead to a permanent injury. If you are overweight, you are putting too much strain on your joints and can cause injury in your knees, hips and back. Not only will a new exercise routine remove any potential risk of injury for your joints, it also helps strengthen your ligaments and muscles to maintain your joint health. Take time out of your schedule to work out, lift weights and strengthen your core so your joints will be as healthy as possible.
Joints: Summed Up
Whether you’re nursing an injury from playing sports, or you are suffering from arthritis and trying to find a good method for pain management, keeping your joints healthy should not be too difficult. Eating the right foods to keep your bones and ligaments strong is a serious way to keep up with healthy joint function. Remember to exercise, especially your core, to avoid putting strain on your joints. Losing weight in general can relieve any aches or pressure your body may cause on your knees, back and hips. No matter what is causing your joint pain, there are many methods to help manage the pain, from using a warm compress, gentle exercises, or medications.