The Best Ways to Protect Your Joints
There’s no reason why you should wait until you’re already experiencing joint pain to start taking better care of your body. If anything, you’ll appreciate it in the long run.
According to Frank Giammattei, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Crozer-Keystone Health System, one of the biggest causes of joint pain and injuries results from weekend warriors engaging in strenuous physical exercise after a long period of inactivity.
“It’s important for all of us to get mild, consistent exercise so that when we try to do more, we have a fitness base on which we can build,” Dr. Giammattei says.
While exercising regularly (at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week) is key to maintaining the mobility of your joints, you can also protect them by:
- Eating healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish and nuts are great for reducing inflammation in the joints. And as you likely know, calcium, which can be found in dairy products and certain vegetables, is great for preventing and reducing bone loss. Additionally, you should aim to get more Vitamin D, since this helps your body absorb calcium from the food you eat.
- Building muscle mass. Strong joints need strong muscles to support them. As a result, weight-bearing exercises are perfect for building muscle mass. Strengthening your muscles can improve your balance and posture as well, which relieves extra pressure on your joints caused by hunching.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. The less you weigh, the less strain you’ll place on your joints. As a result, it’s important that you get down to a healthy weight if you’re not already there.
- Quitting smoking. According to Dr. Giammattei, smoking cigarettes is detrimental to the soft tissues and overall joint health.
- Treating Pain. Taking anti-inflammatories and icing a painful joint can be really helpful, especially after an intense workout.
- Working right. If you have a desk job, you may not be aware of the ways in which sitting and working at your computer can harm your joints. When using a computer, make sure you’re not hunching over your keyboard and keep your elbows and forearms comfortably supported. Those with back pain might also need a proper chair. Additionally, Dr. Giammattei recommends getting up once an hour and walking around to give your body a break from sitting, which can fatigue your muscles after an extended period of time.
- Visiting your physician. If you’re experiencing ongoing joint pain, Dr. Giammattei advises that you visit your healthcare professional to discover what’s causing the pain. About 80 percent of the time, you can make a joint feel better with strengthening, stretching, and anti-inflammatory medicine. However, if there’s a greater issue such as significant arthritis, you might need a cortisone shot, professional physical therapy, or even a joint replacement to relive the pain.
Crozer-Keystone Health System offers comprehensive musculoskeletal care. From conservative approaches to managing pain to spine and hand services, rehabilitation, and joint replacement surgery, our sports medicine physicians and the physicians of the Premier/Crozer-Keystone Orthopedics Partnership can help determine what plan works best for you. Appointments within 48 hours; call 1-877-CK-MOTION (1-877-256-6846) or visit http://orthopedics.crozerkeystone.org.