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Staying Spry: 8 Tips for Joint Health

Roughly one-third of all American adults suffer from joint pain in any given year, one of the most common forms of chronic pain experienced in this country. However, just because joint pain is common, doesn't mean you need to accept joint pain as a part of your life. The following eight simple tips can help you stay spry and improve your joint health.

1. Keep Moving

Arthritis sufferers often notice that their symptoms are worse in the morning. When joints are still, as they are while you’re sleeping, they can become stiff. Motion helps move synovial fluid, a fluid found in joint cavities, around to all parts of your joints. Synovial fluid reduces friction between the joint cartilages. Without this fluid adequately lubricating joints, stiffness can set in. Leading a sedentary lifestyle can also bring on this stiffness, so make sure that you keep moving throughout the day. Movement also helps strengthen the body’s muscles and bones, which makes joints stronger.

Find time for regular low-impact exercise. If your joints aren’t feeling their best, try water-based exercises such as swimming or aqua aerobics. The water will support your joints, leading to less pain. Walking, cycling, yoga, tai chi, and strength training are also great choices for improving your joint health. Choose these activities over more jarring exercises like running, skipping, and cardio dancing, which could damage your joints.

However, you’re not off the hook once you finish your workout. Take breaks from your desk during your workday. A walk to the water cooler or a few squats by your desk can do wonders. While you’re relaxing with a book or in front of the TV, change positions regularly so your joints don’t get stiff in one spot.

2. Keep Your Joints Warm

Your joints work best when they’re kept warm, but you shouldn't skip winter workouts. Instead, take extra steps to prevent injury. Your joints might become cold when you’re working out during chilly weather, at night or if you’re swimming in cold water. Wear warm clothes to help protect your joints from the elements.

Long pants and tops are perfect for most cold-weather training sessions. If you swim in cold water, consider investing in a full-body suit instead of regular bathing suits. 

3. Improve Your Range of Motion

Joint problems can severely reduce the range of motion of your joints, the distance your joints can move in certain directions. If you simply accept joint problems, you could lose muscle, mobility, and gain weight. Undertaking exercises specifically designed to improve your range of motion can help reverse the problem.

A physical therapist can help guide you through an exercise plan, but there are many exercises you can work on at home, without a professional. You could clasp your hands and extend your arms out in front of you, then raise them above your head to stretch your shoulders. A good wrist exercise involves interlocking your fingers, then slowly bending your wrist forward and backward.

Range-of-motion exercises like these will progressively stretch your joints farther as you gradually approach the normal range. Listen to your body while performing these exercises. While you should try to stretch your muscles beyond the comfortable range, you should not push yourself so far that you injure your joints.

4. Improve Your Posture

According to WebMD, standing and sitting with a good posture can improve the health of your joints throughout your body. When you slouch, you put pressure on your neck, shoulders, hips, ankles, and other key joints. However, breaking this bad habit is not easy.

Spend some time in front of the mirror and take a critical look at your posture. What are you doing wrong? Are your shoulders slumped? Are you taking the same amount of weight on both of your feet? Close your eyes and imagine that a thread is attached to the top of your head, pulling you up toward the ceiling. Open your eyes and assess your body again. You should notice your posture is greatly improved.

Now that you know what posture you’re aiming for, start paying attention to your posture as you go about your day. Think about how you’re sitting and standing. When you catch yourself slouching, take steps to correct your posture. Soon, you should notice that maintaining good posture comes more naturally.

Resist the temptation to act in ways that compromise your posture. When carrying shopping bags, try to distribute the weight of your bags as evenly as possible. Make sure you put your backpack onto both shoulders instead of slinging it over one. Keep both feet flat on the floor when you sit down. Hold your phone in your hand or put it on the speaker setting instead of holding it between your head and shoulder.

Having good posture is easy when you have a strong core and rhomboids, (the muscles between your shoulders). Resistance training, pilates, and swimming can strengthen these muscles and put you on the path to good posture.

Don’t let bad sleeping habits undo all your hard work. Sleep in a position that keeps your spine straight. Try sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees or with a lumbar roll beneath your lower back. If you’re a side sleeper, putting a small pillow between your knees can help keep your spine straight. If your mattress is starting to sag, consider investing in a new one that’s more supportive.

5. Take Supplements for Better Joint Health

A range of dietary supplements have been proven to improve joint health.

Supplements containing omega 3, such as fish oil and krill oil, decrease inflammation in the body and joints. Omega 3 also acts as a lubricant, helping joints move freely and without pain.

A 2007 study found rheumatoid arthritis sufferers who took fish oil for three to four months decreased their joint pain intensity and morning stiffness and had less joint tenderness. Consequently, these individuals took fewer nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). The Arthritis Foundation suggests sufferers take up to 2.6 grams of fish oil twice daily. People without arthritis may find taking a fish oil supplement keeps this condition at bay.

Astaxanthin is the carotenoid that gives the flesh of animals such as shrimp, crabs, and salmon a pink color. Scientists suggest this powerful carotenoid may be the element that gives salmon the endurance to swim upstream.

Humans can also enjoy benefits from this carotenoid, including better joint health. Astaxanthin is an anti-inflammatory agent (found in Krill Oil) and a powerful pain reliever. Since astaxanthin is an all-natural product, it doesn’t come with the risks of NSAIDS and prescription analgesics. While small amounts of astaxanthin are found in krill oil, not nearly enough of the agent is available to enjoy its health benefits. Instead, pharmacist Suzy Cohen suggests taking an astaxanthin supplement every day.

Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM are three of the more common supplements linked to joint health, that can be found in our Joint Support supplement. 

6. Drop Unwanted Pounds

Carrying extra pounds puts you at risk of a host of health complaints, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure and cholesterol. But did you know your extra weight also impacts your joints? The extra weight you’re carrying puts strain on your hips, knees, and ankles.

The good news is that even a little weight loss can make a big difference. According to WebMD, every pound you lose takes four pounds of pressure from your knees. That reduction in pressure is a great reason to start eating right and finding time for regular exercise. If you’re unsure how to proceed, speak to your doctor for advice.

7. Change Bad Habits

Dropping those extra pounds is a great step towards good body and joint health, but if you’re smoking and drinking to excess, you may still have poor joints. Cigarettes and alcohol both affect bone strength. Weak bones create weak joints, but giving up your vices can reverse the effects.

Studies show that smokers have twice the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to their nonsmoking peers. Drinking too much alcohol also increases your risk of developing the form of arthritis known as gout. Giving up smoking and drinking only in moderation, or eliminating alcohol from your diet entirely, will help your joints stay much healthier.

8. Treat Joint Injuries

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your joints can take a hit. When this impact occurs, it’s important to seek medical treatment right away. Receiving prompt medical attention for any joint injury will give your joints the best chances of a full recovery. Untreated joint injuries can also lead to osteoarthritis and cartilage breakdown.

Your doctor can devise a treatment plan to help return your joints to health and ensure you don’t do more damage. While you’re in recovery, make sure you take special care of your damaged joints. Use a brace or bandages to stabilize your joints and avoid activities that might put those joints under stress.

By taking these eight steps to improve your joint health, you can stay spry and enjoy living life the pain-free life.