5 Tips to Improve Joint Health

two senior women walking in a park

If your joints hurt, you could just chalk it up to getting older. But if it’s affecting the quality of your life, you really should see a doctor. The source of your pain could be something serious, such as a torn meniscus in your knee or a frayed tendon in your shoulder. The sooner you take care of it, the less damage you’ll inflict on your joint. And the better your prospects for continuing an active lifestyle.

To improve joint health, reduce pain, and avoid or delay having joint replacement surgery, here are five tips to keep your hinges healthy.

 

1. Exercise regularly.

Regular exercise helps keep joints flexible. It helps lubricate and nourish your joints. Strengthening the muscles around your joints enables your joints to bear more load with less strain. Stick with low-impact exercise that doesn’t pound your joints. Aerobic exercise such as swimming, biking, walking, or using an elliptical machine are great ways to get a low-impact workout. Range-of-motion exercises and weight training should also be part of your routine. A physical therapist can tell you which exercises are best to help you reduce pain and move easier. The Arthritis Foundation also has exercise tips to get you started.

 

2. Drop a few pounds.

Excess weight puts more stress on your joints. Losing 10 pounds can take 30 to 40 pounds of pressure off your knees when you walk. Which means less wear and tear on your cartilage and less chance of developing osteoarthritis, the most common joint disease in people over 55. Regular exercise, along with a healthy diet, can help you lose weight. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, broccoli and edamame, may help reduce inflammation and curb joint pain.

 

3. Get your calcium and vitamin D.

Calcium helps build strong bones. In fact, about 99% of calcium in your body is stored in bones. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, white beans and fish. If you’re lactose-intolerant, nut milks, kale and broccoli are good sources of calcium. 

Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium. Salmon, eggs and enriched milk products contain vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight will also increase vitamin D levels. You might also consider taking a multivitamin, though most dietitians recommend getting your nutrients from food.

 

4. Avoid sitting for long periods of time.

Sitting in one position for long stretches of time can be just as painful as physically overdoing it. Your joints stiffen and you get as creaky as a rusty old gate. So be sure to break up long bouts of sitting to flex your muscles. Get up and move around for at least a few minutes every hour. Better still, stretch a little to keep your body fluid and in good shape.

 

5. Quit smoking.

Nicotine reduces blood flow to bones, decreases calcium absorption and interferes with estrogen (which women need to maintain healthy bones). All this results in weaker joints, increased risk for developing osteoporosis, and greater possibility of fractures and other joint injuries.

 

How to Ease Joint Pain

In addition to exercise and shedding excess pounds, there are over-the-counter products that can help relieve joint pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen reduce pain and swelling. Tylenol can also be used in combination with NSAIDs. Some people suffering from arthritis pain do well with capsaicin cream, a natural pain reliever that depletes levels of Substance P, a pain neurotransmitter. Joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may also provide some relief. In addition, there are lotions and patches containing diclofenac.

Simple treatments such as ice and heat may reduce swelling and pain as much as anything. Injections are another option you may want to consider after talking with your doctor or orthopedic surgeon. Cortisone or viscosupplement (lubricant) injections may be recommended. Being fitted for a brace might also do the trick.

 

Get back on your feet at Galleria Woods.

If you’re planning joint surgery and looking for a place to rehab, consider Galleria Woods. Our physical and occupational therapists will develop an individualized plan to help you recover quickly and safely. When you’re not working on your recovery, you can relax in a private suite, enjoy chef-prepared meals and participate in a variety of life-enriching activities. To learn more about short-term rehabilitation at Galleria Woods, contact us.