Joint pain and aging go hand-in-hand. Here’s what you can do now to promote healthier joints, so it will hurt less down the road.
Here’s a sad fact: If your joints don’t hurt yet, it’s probably just a matter of time. In fact, the CDC estimates that 25% of adults have full-blown arthritis, and a whole lot more of us are on our way, with cracking knees, aching shoulders, and stiff fingers.
Joint pain and osteoarthritis can actually occur in both young and older individuals. It happens when joints are injured or overused, or when the cartilage is damaged or gradually wears away. Without adequate cartilage, bones in your joints rub against each other, causing pain, swelling, and loss of motion in the joint. Luckily, there are several things everyone can (and should) do to to promote healthier joints.
That’s right – sitting back with your feet up is not the answer! Stiff joints feel better when they’re loosened up and used. Regular exercise also builds muscles around your joints, which helps to strengthen and stabilize the joint. Finally, regular exercise counteracts weight gain, which is a major contributor of joint pain and arthritis.
If you have sore knees or hips, stick to lower impact exercises like walking, biking or swimming for at least 30-40 minutes most days of the week. Weight-bearing exercises using free weights, resistance bands, or even your own body weight for resistance should also be done 2-3 days each week. For the best results, work with a trainer for at least a few sessions, and never push through joint pain – ask the trainer for an alternative exercise.
2. Fill up on Anti-inflammatory Foods
Joint pain is made worse by inflammation, which can come from a number of health factors including illness or pro-inflammatory diets. Medications can certainly help reduce inflammation, but the same can be said for what you eat. First, be mindful of pro-inflammatory foods such as:
- Most fast food
- Sweets and desserts
- Large amounts of Omega-6 fats (found in corn and soybean oils, and used in many brands of snack foods, mayonnaise and salad dressing)
- Refined starches, such as white rice, pasta or bread
On the other hand, anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce inflammation in your joints, as well as in places you can’t see or feel – like your blood vessels. They may not be as potent as pain killers, but they have much more far-reaching and long-term beneficial effects. Some choices include:
- Red, orange or leafy green vegetables (tomatoes, carrots, sweet peppers, spinach, kale)
- Berries and cherries
- Nuts, especially walnuts or seeds
- Olive oil
- Spices, especially turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic
- Green tea
3. Use the right supplements
Certain supplements may be able to promote healthier joints by reducing inflammation, or repairing damaged cartilage. Glucosamine and chondroitin are probably the two most familiar joint supplements, although research is inconclusive on whether they effectively protect against joint pain or damage.
Always be mindful of selecting supplements that are based on published studies in peer-reviewed journals, and brands that are tested for purity, quality and meeting label claim by industry respected, independent testing laboratories.
By taking care of your joints now, you’ll be able to keep moving for years to come.
Adapted from the original article.
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Anne Danahy, MS, RD is a Scottsdale-AZ-based registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant specializing in women’s health and healthy aging. Anne is passionate about teaching people how to make the science of nutrition more delicious on their plates. Visit her at Craving Something Healthy.