By Kathy Hubbard
No, we’re not going to talk about marijuana, nor where you live, today we’re talking about the type of joints where two bones connect. You know, like your elbows and knees, your hips and your head and having fingers that can wave goodbye.
“Smooth tissue called cartilage and synovium and a lubricant called synovial fluid cushion the joints so bones do not rub together. But increasing age, injury, or carrying too much weight can wear and tear your cartilage. This can lead to a reaction that can damage your joints and lead to arthritis,” WebMD says.
They also tell us that the best way to care for our joints is to keep our muscles, ligaments and bones strong and stable. That makes sense. It all works together.
The Arthritis Foundation (AF) gives us fifty-one ways to be good to our joints that, honestly, are a bit repetitive. The nine steps WebMD gives us can be expanded on. So I’m going to credit both these reliable websites while I combine their very good advice.
First up, you won’t be surprised to hear, is that healthy weight equals healthy joints. Carrying extra pounds puts extra stress on your knees, hips and back. Research has shown that with every pound gained, a person puts four times more stress on the knees. On the flip side, even the loss of a pound or two will give your knees relief.
“Research has shown that losing as little as eleven pounds may improve your joint health and cut your risk of osteoarthritis of the knee by 50 percent,” AF says.
And, not surprisingly, exercise can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. “Some research suggests that aerobic exercise – activities that get your heart rate up – can reduce joint swelling,” WebMD tells us. “If your joints bother you, opt for exercises that won’t give your joints a pounding. Instead of step aerobics, try low-impact exercises such as swimming or bicycling.”
Did your mother tell you to stand up straight? She was right. Posture is very important, not only when we’re standing, but even more importantly when we’re sitting down. You should check out how your computer and chair is set up. Do you know that your upper body should be spaced 20 to 26 inches from your computer monitor, the top of which should be at an even line with the top of your head when your head is in a neutral position?
Watch that you don’t slouch in any chair you sit on. Make sure you’re sitting on your buttocks, not your lower back. And, while we’re talking about sitting, don’t do it for long periods of time. Get up walk around. Stretch. Do a few exercises that will strengthen your core.
“Stronger abs and back muscles help you keep your balance and prevent falls that can damage your joints,” WebMD says.
Toss the high heels. A three-inch heel stresses your foot seven times more than a one-inch heel and it puts more stress on your knees.
“Look for flexible, supportive shoes that are squared or rounded at the toe so your toes can move around,” AF says. “Make sure your shoe is flexible at the ball of your foot, where you push off.”
WebMD reminds us to make sure we always wear a “helmet, knee pads and elbow and wrist pads when taking part in high-risk activities, including work-related ones such as repetitive kneeling or squatting. Serious injuries or several minor injuries can damage cartilage. Injuries can lead to long-term joint problems.”
Another thing to think about is what you’re carrying and how you’re lifting. As in, if you’re carrying a back pack make sure to put it on both shoulders rather than slinging it over one. Adhere to the adage “lift with your legs not your back.”
Eating a healthy diet is good for your joints. It helps build strong bones and muscles. Talk to your primary care provider to determine if you need to add vitamin supplements to your diet. Keep a food diary so you know what nutrients you’re getting.
Calcium builds strong bones. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Protein builds strong muscles and some studies concluded that vitamin C and other antioxidants can help keep your joints healthy.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.