Joint pain isn’t just common, it’s universal. In fact, it’s estimated that millions of adults—of all ages—experience joint pain each and every month. Ouch! Now before all of you under-50-year-olds start tuning out at the mention of joint replacement, there’s something you should consider: these are the most important years for your joints.
“That’s because everything you’re doing now can impact your joint health later,” explainsMary J. Albert, MD, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Gwinnett Medical Center. Whether we’re talking about your diet and exercise or your posture and stress, all of these minor factors can take a major toll on your joints.” So, what does this mean for you? Instead of just shrugging off that annoying joint stiffness, or complaining about pain like it’s going out of style, start protecting your joints with these expert-approved tips: 1. Remember to stretch. Despite its many benefits—improved balance, blood flow, energy and more—stretching remains an afterthought for many of us. “But with ample benefits for your joints, including improved range of motion, joint lubrication and injury prevention, it’s a must for lasting joint health,” notes Dr. Albert. 2. Reduce inflammation. Inflammation is known to impact everything from heart health and digestion to sleep and you guessed it—joint health. “To counteract the swelling, pain and stiffness that often come with joint inflammation, eat a diet rich in alkaline foods, such as berries, avocados, ginger, apples, dates, kale, spinach and papaya,” says Dr. Albert. 3. Maintain a healthy weight. Your joints already have a big job—helping you do pretty much everything—walking, sitting, lifting and more. “If you add extra weight to the mix, this increases the pressure and strain put on your joints, as well as upping inflammation,” emphasizes Dr. Albert. “In fact, every extra pound we carry places six pounds of pressure on our hips and knees.” So if you’re trying to lose weight, remember, even losing just a few pounds could make a big difference for your joints. 4. Swap high-impact cardio for weight lifting.Balance is important in all things, and exercise is no different. While high-impact cardio (like running/jogging and plyometrics) can be a great way to get your heartrate up and activate fast-twitch muscles, it can be hard on your joints. “It’s important to balance these exercises with low-impact, muscle-building activities,” says Dr. Albert. “By building muscle strength, you’ll help to stabilize the joint and protect it.” 5. Find the right (shoe) fit. Sandals, pumps, wedges—oh my! As fun as it may be to focus more on how shoes look, instead of how they feel, this could spell trouble for your feet, as well as your joints. “If shoes don’t fit correctly, they may change the way you move, putting more pressure and strain on your knees in particular,” explains Dr. Albert. 6. Reduce your stress. No one wants to feel stressed, of course, but with a variety of effects ranging from headaches and insomnia to heartburn and joint pain, it may be time to get serious about stress relief. Thanks to the stress hormone, cortisol, collagen production may be impacted leading to joint pain, among other things. 7. Listen to your body. If stiffness, discomfort or pains are a common occurrence for you, your joints are likely trying to tell you something. But it can be challenging to decipher just what that may be. “That’s why it’s important to work with an expert to ensure that any joint problems are addressed early on before they evolve into something more serious,” says Dr. Albert. Joint health is essential for overall health—after all, your joints help support your body from head to toe. To ensure optimal health, it’s important to identify and prevent any joint health issues. To learn more or to speak to a joint specialist, call 678-312-1791.