Image Credit: @wolfcubwolfcub
Because prevention is the best medicine, here is how to protect your joints today so you are strong, active and pain-free in the future.
They say you don’t know what you’ve got until you’ve lost it. Poor joint health, be it in the form of pain, inflammation or discomfort can be debilitating at any age.
Here are five things you can do right now for happy healthy bones now and in the future.
Diet is crucial in overall holistic health and what we eat can directly impact how our joints feel and perform. Some foods can protect our joints, other foods can make joint pain worse by triggering the onset of inflammation.
Inflammation is our body’s method of healing itself, as well as fending off viruses and bacteria – so inflammation itself isn’t inherently problematic when needed – but when we consume highly processed and artificial foods, our body recognises them as foreign (in the same way that it would recognise a virus entering our system as foreign) and spurs inflammation to try and heal. Sugar, dairy, saturated fats and meats are considered by dietary experts to be ‘inflammation aggravators’, whereas whole foods such as fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, are considered to help prevent joint pain.
Boosting your intake of calcium, a mineral that helps solidify and build bones can also help look after your bones and joints – especially when paired with Vitamin D3, which helps the body to absorb calcium and increases calcium’s efficacy.
WelleCo Bone Strength + Joint Health Super Booster is a plant-based formula that supports skeletal and joint health. With Icelandic Seaweed, Calcium, Vitamin D3 and Vegan Glucosamine Sulfate, one vial taken each morning for 7 days can assist with maintaining bone health, supporting joint health, supporting muscle function as well as relieving the symptoms of mild arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Cartilage is kept lubricated by synovial fluid. As well as constantly moving to bathe the joints in synovial fluid, it is important to drink plenty of water. Cartilage is made from approximately 60% water. If we don’t drink enough water, the production of our synovial fluid can be reduced and increases our risk of friction, pain and cartilage deterioration.
Glycosaminoglycans, carbohydrate and protein compounds, along with sulphur compounds, keep the joints lubricated by forming a thick, gel-like liquid that cushions the area, lubricates and provides shock absorption to the cartilage of our joints… however, glycosaminoglycans can’t do their job without adequate water to make up the middle of their spongy structure.
Staying seated in one position for hours can put us at a higher risk for experiencing joint pain. The human body is designed to be up and moving and since many of us work at desk jobs that have us sitting down for 6-8 hours each day, it’s important to make a dedicated effort to get up on our feet as often as possible. When we move, we help bathe our joints in synovial fluid which keeps them lubricated and alleviates stiffness. Movement also strengthens the muscles and bones which, in turn, strengthens the joints.
If your work or lifestyle has you doing a lot of sitting, try setting an alarm on your phone to stand up and stretch or walk around at least once every 40-60 minutes. Just a few minutes of light walking or stretching can make a world of difference.
Walking, swimming and cycling are considered by sports physicians to be some of the most effective forms of exercise for supporting joint health, as they are low-impact and have cardiovascular benefits, allowing you to get a great calorie-torching workout without putting excess strain on your joints. Light weight-bearing cardio activity will also help to strengthen the muscles around the joints, which will take some of the load off the joints.
If you’re new to an exercise and are experiencing any joint discomfort, make sure to also have a chat with a physiotherapist or your doctor to assess any modifications that may make the exercise more ideal for your individual needs.
Watch your posture
Just as hunching over a computer for hours each day can wreak havoc on your posture, so too can walking around in high heels, or consistently carrying a heavy bag on the same side of your body… all of these activities see you throwing your body out of alignment and placing extra pressure on your joints. Luckily, a small effort can overcome these posture woes – switching to flat, supportive shoes, opting for bags that can be carried easily or backpacks to spread the load across your back, and investing in an ergonomic standing computer desk are all simple tweaks that can help you be more mindful of your posture during the day.
Your muscles must be strong, but also supple to keep your joints in proper alignment! If you do a lot of sitting, you might suffer from tight hip flexors, which can pull the joints of the pelvis and spine forwards, forcing your joints to bear extra weight. Similarly, tight calves can also impact your knee, hip and spinal joints.
LUNGE IT OUT: Try these simple stretches to help ease tight muscles and reduce the load on your joints.
For tight hip flexors, Australian Personal Trainer and fitness expert Amanda Bisk recommends the High Kneeling Lunge.
“This one is great for directly targeting your hip flexors,” she says, “Descent into a regular lunge, but make sure your lunge is LONG, with your legs split wide and front toe in front of your knee. Inhale as you pull your belly button in and lengthen through your lower back and exhale as you squeeze your bottom to push your hips forward.”
Amanda’s bonus tip to make the lunge more effective? “Keep your abs engaged for the entire stretch and push against your knee to keep your chest up.”