Healthy joints are protected by cartilage and a fluid cushioning so that bones do not rub together. Many things such as age or injury can affect this protection leading to aching or discomfort in the joints.
Women tend to have more joint/ ligament mobility than men which allows for child bearing. This means that joints often move around a little more which can cause wear and tear. Studies also show that there may be a link between oestrogen levels and joint health as levels of osteoarthritis increases after the menopause.
Many joint problems can be symptoms of arthritis. Arthritis can come in many forms which may cause swelling, aching, stiffness or redness around the joints. If you experience any of these symptoms seeking medical advice is always the best place to start.
You probably don’t think about your joints too much until something goes wrong, however simple steps can also help to protect against future problems.
How to maintain optimum joint health
Joints have a lifetime of wear and tear and there are many factors, such as good nutrition and genetics, which determine how well our joints resist this prolonged stress and strain.
Stay active – A broad range of exercises can be good for the joints. Stretching exercises such as yoga and the like can help to keep joints supple. Whilst weight training and core stability exercises can help to ensure the muscles are stronger therefore taking the strain off your joints. Aerobic exercise that helps to get your heart rate up is also shown to be beneficial by helping to reduce joint swelling.
In general aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily and try different techniques to see what you feel helps the best. If you are already suffering from joint issues exercise is still important, however this must entail a carefully selected range of activities which do not put too much strain on the joints.
Keep an eye on weight – Extra weight can put pressure on weight bearing joints such as knees and hips which causes cartilage to wear away more quickly. Studies show that every pound adds the stress of about 1.5 times the weight on your joints; one pound extra feels like three pounds to your knees. Losing even a little can make a big difference.
Joint food – Like many ailments, good nutrition is key. Try to incorporate a well-balanced and varied diet to put a spring back in your step.
- Fruit, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats from nuts and oily fish can all help.
- Calcium and vitamin D are also particularly well-known for joint health. Dairy, spinach and kale are great sources of calcium, whilst you can get vitamin D from tuna, salmon and egg yolks.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally found in cartilage however the body produces less as we age. Supplements can be a good source of these as dietary sources can be hard to find.
Stress-free - Mood and stress levels can affect how you deal with pain. In fact, studies show that these feelings can actually make pain and disability worse. Taking steps towards minimising stress, anxiety, feelings of helplessness, as well as low mood, can help to melt away joint aches. Good sleep should be one of your other goals as well as trying not to stress about the small things. Mindfulness and meditation may help to can change the way you think about pain. Try to be positive!