6 Tips for Healthy Joints in Young and Senior Adults

Joint problems are one of the major musculoskeletal conditions that affect the elderly. But often it starts from earlier in life, around middle age and sometimes as early as adolescence. There are several joint problems that afflict adults. Some may be unavoidable and related to genetic factors, like rheumatoid arthritis. But others could be avoided or at the very least minimized with simple lifestyle changes and sometimes with the use of certain supplements. By keeping in mind a few simple tips for joint health, and practicing it where possible, you may be able to reduce the onset or severity of joint problems.

Common Joint Problems

Osteoarthritis is by far the most common joint problem that affects adults. Almost every adult will have osteoarthritis by the age of 75 years. Although most of us see the symptoms more prominently in the 60+ age group, osteoarthritis starts much earlier in life. In fact it is a consequence of life-long wear and tear. While osteoarthritis may be unavoidable to a large extent, it can be minimized. The problem lies in the erosion of the articular cartilage that caps each end of the bone. Eventually the bones of the joint are also affected.

Joint Anatomy

Another common joint problem is rheumatoid arthritis. It is a result of the immune system attacking the joint lining and is therefore known as an autoimmune disease. Rheumatoid arthritis cannot usually be avoided by lifestyle changes. It is largely a genetic condition. Post-traumatic arthritis is the next most common joint problem. It arises after injury to the joint like with a fall or any other type of trauma. Post-traumatic arthritis can play a role in the progression and severity of osteoarthritis.

Move the Joints

The joints are designed for movement. One way of keeping it conditioned is to move it. However, in modern life we spend long hours in the same position – sitting at the desk on the computer, lying on the couch watching TV and sleeping. While sleep is unavoidable, being too inactive during the course of the day is not helpful for the joints.

Even if you cannot be walking around all day, you should try to take short breaks to move around. Moving your joints can also be done at your desk – extend your leg fully and the back again. Do the same by stretching the arms and neck. It will prevent stiffness and help keep your joints healthy. Morning and evening stretching exercises are also helpful.

Joint Protection

There are several ways to protect your joint from the outside. You do not need to do it all day and every day. But if you know that you will be partaking in activities where your joints may be injured then protective gear is definitely important. Use knee and elbow pads when cycling, skating or for any other activities where a fall is likely.

Knee and elbow/wrist braces may also be helpful when partaking in sports that require excessive use of the legs and hands, respectively. Just as important for protecting your joints in the long term is to get the appropriate treatment should you sustain an injury. Early and proper treatment can minimize the ongoing strain on the joint and subsequent damage that may arise after an injury.

Avoid Joint Strain

Avoiding joint strain does not mean that you have to avoid all activity. Low-impact exercises are obviously a better choice as it limits strain on the joints. For example, rather swim than run. Equally important is stretching before exercise. It loosens the muscles thereby preventing stiffness which can strain the joint.

Try doing a light workout first before stretching and then continue with more strenuous exercises. Another important measure is keeping your body weight within a healthy limit for your height. Your joints can bear only so much of force. A heavier body weight means more strain on the joints, even when you are exercising.

Control Joint Limits

Your joint has a maximum limit to which it can move in different directions. This is known as the range of motion. We do not always use our joints to its full range of motion and it is important to do so every now and then. Moving your joint to the maximum limit for its range of motion should be done in a controlled environment, with stretching exercises or activities like yoga.

Just as important is knowing when to limit the range of motion. Exceeding the limit will strain the joint. Sometimes it happens suddenly and unintentionally. But often people do not realize the limits of the joints. Rather reconsider the activity that you are doing and find ways to make amends to avoid exceeding the limits of your range of motion.

Strengthen the Joints

Keeping your joints moving and flexible is one thing. But it is also necessary to strengthen the joint, especially these days when people are not usually as physically active in life. Strengthening the joints does not mean straining it. Firstly use the joints by moving it, doing some weight bearing exercises that are low impact and activities that will allow you to work the joint to its maximum range of motion.

Secondly it is important to strength the supporting structures of the joint, particularly the muscles around it. Often weakness in these muscles makes joint injuries more likely and can contribute to osteoarthritis.  Speak to a physical therapist about exercises to strengthen the muscles around the joints. Rapid and repetitive movements should be avoided for arthritic joints and high impact exercises are also not advised.

Supplements for Joint Health

The research regarding popular joints supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin is mixed. Some have indicated that it may be beneficial but other studies have not noted any significant change or improvement. However, these supplements may be worth trying as long as you are not allergic to any of the ingredients.

Another supplement that seems to help with joint inflammation is omega-3 fatty acids. There is no need to take a supplement. Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It seems that these supplements may help with easing inflammation of the joints to some degree. However, it is mainly of some use in chronic inflammatory joint conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition.

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