The bones and joints of the body are constantly under strain, particularly when a person is moving or use the limbs. Fortunately the different types of joints in the body have the ability to bear the constant strain within certain limits. The joints are the meeting points between two bones that allow for movement of the human skeleton. Some joints allow for a larger degree of motion and flexibility than other joints in the body. It ensures that movement between the two bones is smooth and largely unrestricted without damaging the ends of the articulating bones.
When a joint is under strain or injured, it may become inflamed (arthritis), eroded over time (degenerate) or the articulating surfaces may slip out of place (dislocation). While dislocation is usually an acute problem that can be corrected, repeated joint strain may lead to chronic arthritis and joint degeneration.
Understand Joint Symptoms
There are a host of symptoms that may signal joint strain and the onset of joint diseases. Prompt diagnosis and early treatment can be helpful in minimizing the extent of joint damage and complications that may subsequently arise. Most people become concerned with joint pain (arthralgia) but tend to ignore other symptoms. However, joint pain may not be the first symptoms to arise in some conditions. It is important to take note of joint swelling, stiffness, redness of the skin over the affected joint and even heat of the skin at the problem joint. All of these symptoms may be very mild at the outset but seeking medical attention early means that treatment can be started as soon as possible.
Rest the Joints
Like any part of the body, the joints should also be rested. This does not mean that there should be no movement but when resting the joints, both the amount of force and degree of bending should be at a minimum. Inactivity though can exacerbate some joint symptoms like stiffness as is seen with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Therefore it is important to find a balance between resting the joint but not being inactive where the joints are not be utilized to at least some degree.
Reduce Body Weight
The major joints like the hip, knee and ankle have to bear most of the body weight. Naturally a higher body weight means that the joints have to bear a greater force. This leads to more strain on the joint which is further exacerbated when standing, walking or running. Although joints have a remarkable propensity to bear weight and absorb impact, its strength is limited. This is more so the case when an adult starts to gain weight drastically where both the bones and joints are not geared for the excess force. Therefore a fundamental component of joint relief and minimizing joint strain in these cases is to lose excess body weight.
Avoid High Impact Activities
The joints are designed to absorb impact but the force with certain activities can also inflame and damage the joint. It is more likely to pose a problem in patients with existing joint disorders. When it comes to the large joints of the lower body, running and jumping are two high impact activities that should be avoided if you are trying to relieve joint problems. With the joints of the upper arms and shoulders, activities such as boxing and using high-impact power tools for long periods can pose a problem.
Joint Straps and Braces
Strapping is one of the modalities used by physical therapists and fitness trainers to prevent joint injuries. It involves the placing of adhesive tape on the surface of skin to stabilize and support the joint and surrounding ligaments. Commercial joint straps are mainly available for the wrist, elbow and knee. These straps can be adjusted to fit a person snugly and provides support for the joint. Braces are more rigid structures. It not only supports a joint but depending on the joint in question, braces can also bear some of the force applied on the joint. It helps stabilize a joint and limit any extremes in the range of motion.
Supplements for Joint Health
Two widely used supplements for joint health are glucosamine and chondroitin. It is believed to delay the joint cartilage degeneration that occurs in osteoarthritis and possibly even assist the regenerative process of the cartilage. Although there is conflicting evidence about the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, these supplements are fairly safe to use except in people with shellfish allergies. However, it is important to first seek advice from a medical professional before commencing with these supplements.
Ice and Heat for Joint Problems
Thermotherapy involves the use of cold or hot applications for various musculoskeletal conditions. However, there is sometimes confusion as to when to use ice and when to use heat for joint problems. Ice should be used immediately after a joint injury. It helps reduce inflammation and minimize the extent of the swelling. Heat therapy has benefits for both for acute and chronic joint conditions. Heat therapy should be used in inflammatory joint conditions that do not arise from trauma.
Muscle and Joint Exercises
Exercising the joints can be helpful in providing joint relief. It is essential that you speak to a physical therapist about the correct exercises for the joints. The proper exercises can maintain joint mobility and flexibility in chronic conditions. Equally important is exercising the muscles. This prevents shortening of the muscles which may increase resistance in joint movement and exercises can also improve muscle strength which is important for joint support and stability. However, excessive exercising and the incorrect workouts can do more damage than good in a person with a joint problem.
Move the Joint the Right Way
Moving the “right way” can significantly ease joint relief. But understanding what you may be doing wrong that can be causing joint strain requires the advice and assistance of trained professionals. An orthopedist, physical therapist, occupational therapist and kinesiologist are health professionals who can help you with the correct advice about your posture, gait and precautionary measures you can take in daily activities to reduce joint strain.