How to Protect Your Joints as You Age
posted by Michael Carlson, MD | January 11, 2017
If you’ve ever walked across the street, ran a 5k, danced or thrown a baseball, you’ve used joints in your body.
Your joints are the connection between two bones in your body. They are a smooth tissue (cartilage) that’s meant to keep your bones from rubbing together and causing friction. Every time you bend your leg to jump, for instance, you’re using the cartilage in your knee to cushion the landing and prevent bones from colliding.
Because of how often they’re used, keeping joints healthy is important as we get older. Worn down joints can lead to a number of chronic pain issues, including arthritis.
Keeping joints healthy is about taking smart, preventive steps throughout your life. By taking the right steps early on, you can help avoid costly hospital visits later in life that may result from not properly caring for joints. Here are a few tips.
Weight is an important factor in joint health. More body weight means that there is more pressure on the joints in your body when you move. Especially in the lower body (knees, ankles, lower back), the stress that can build up over time from being overweight can put a strain on your joints.
There are a few areas to pay attention to with regard to weight and joint health:
Exercising is a great way to keep weight off and help your joints stay active. In fact, too much inactivity can actually make your joints stiff. Some of the best exercises and activities for joint health include:
Exercise that helps build muscles gives the joints much-needed support. Your muscles can take some of the strain off joints, but only if they’re strong enough. In particular, ab and core muscles help build up balance and limit the risk of accidents or falls which might cause joint damage.
Weight training is difficult to get involved in for some people, and it can be risky to both joints and other areas of the body if you don’t know how to do it properly. Some people might benefit from a personal trainer, or taking advice from your doctor or physical therapist.
What we eat and drink plays a large role in maintaining our weight. A few things are important here:
Whether you’re exercising or sitting still, your posture has a big impact on your long-term joint health. Slouching while you sit or lifting heavy objects with your back instead of your legs are examples of bad posture – they can put your joints at major risk.
Try to sit up straight and keep your back straight while walking or running. Lift with your leg muscles, and stretch beforehand if you’re worried about straining yourself.
There will be times where joint pain is unavoidable, but treating the pain right away can help prevent long term problems. A few of the simplest ways to relieve pain and swelling in joints include:
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.