Health Tips for Healthy Joints
You want to be able to remain physically active throughout your life. It’s one of the keys to good health. Protecting your joints now is one way to give yourself the ability to keep moving as you get older. One of the most common barriers to exercise as you age is osteoarthritis. It causes joint pain that often makes people want to avoid moving. But there are plenty of things you can do now to minimize your risk of developing osteoarthritis and to slow down its progression if you do have it.
►Try to maintain a normal weight
The more you weigh, the more you strain your joints, and the harder it is to get regular exercise. Regular, low impact exercise is good for your joints, so you really do want to keep yourself at a weight that allows for that.
►Choose exercise that’s appropriate for you
Getting regular exercise is one of the best things for joint health. Exercise provides circulation to the joints and helps keep them stable. It strengthens muscles, which then provide joint support. But some exercises are better for some people than others.
For example, running and jogging aren’t for everybody. People who have bowlegs, hip dysplasia or double jointedness already have conditions that place extra stress on the joints. It’s common for many people to have knee problems such as tears in their ligaments and cartilage. Exercises like running, skiing and tennis may be too hard on their joints and increase their chances of developing osteoarthritis in their knees—sooner rather than later.
Swimming, fast walking and other water exercises may be more beneficial.
It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure that your choice of exercise is good for your body. And that’s especially true if you notice aches and pains and suspect your exercise program is the cause. It can be hard to hear that an exercise you love isn’t good for you, but the knowledge can save you a lot of pain and suffering in the years ahead.
►Be aware of any occupational risks
If your job requires you to put a lot of stress on your joints, be sure to talk to a physical therapist about ways to protect yourself. Physical therapy can help you learn how to
- Move in ways that minimize joint stress
- Increase muscle strength to provide more joint protection
- Use braces and shoe inserts to reduce joint stress
- Apply heat and cold when joints are painful
Common sense, moderation and listening to your body will go a long way toward keeping your joints in good condition. You may have to modify some of your habits now, but if it helps you put off or avoid joint replacement surgery or just the general pain of osteoarthritis, it’s worth it.
Be sure to read this month’s Topic of the Month articles about joint replacements and our new approach for grouping patients together as they go through their rehab.
Arthritis National Research Foundation; The New York Times, Personal Health, 30 July 2002.