Joints form the connections between your bones. Your joints help support your body weight and allow you to move comfortably. You use them for everything from bending your leg to nodding your head. Some joints, like the ones in your skull, don’t even move. Others, like your elbows and knees, carry a heavy work load. That wear and tear can add up over a lifetime.
Preventing Joint Pain
- Watch your weight. Experts say that every pound of body weight puts four pounds of stress on your knees. A lean figure slows down the deterioration of cartilage and other tissue.
- Eat a balanced diet. While you’re counting calories, ensure you get all the nutrients your bones need. That includes calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D, phosphorous, magnesium, and protein.
- Participate in aerobic activities. Weight bearing exercises, like aerobics classes or daily walks, promote bone density. Schedule in some aerobic exercise each day. If you already have injuries, opt for lower impact alternatives like swimming or bicycling.
- Train for strength. Resistance exercises build up your muscles and ligaments, which takes some of the pressure off your joints.
- Modify exercises as needed. In general, you want to avoid any movements that cause joint pain. Browse online or ask a trainer how to design a workout that’s safe for you. Double up your exercise mat to pad your knees during floor exercises, or skip certain positions altogether.
- Move around. Moving around frequently can reduce stiffness. Take regular breaks from desk work or watching TV to stretch and walk around.
- Try devices. Some people wear shoe inserts that absorb part of the shock that usually hits the knees and hips. Joints can also be stabilized with specially designed braces. Your doctor or pharmacist can recommend devices for your individual needs.
- Quit smoking. Tobacco weakens your bones and joints. If you’ve tried giving up cigarettes before, it’s worth another effort. Most people require multiple attempts before they succeed.
- Prevent falls and other accidents. Injuries, such as strains and sprains, can lead to arthritis and other chronic issues. Wear proper safety gear for sports and work tasks. Enhance your ability to balance through yoga or Pilates.
Caring for Sore Joints
- Talk with your doctor. There are many causes for joint pain including arthritis, bursitis, gout, and specific injuries. Your physician can assess you to find out what may be causing your pain.
- Seek emergency care. Know when to get immediate attention. Go to an emergency room if you’re unable to move a joint or begin to experience severe pain and swelling.
- Rely on PRICE. Most injuries can be treated at home with the traditional PRICE method of protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You may also want to add in a heating pad if you find it soothing.
- Take medication as directed. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs are used to treat joint pain, swelling, and related muscle spasms. Your doctor might prescribe antidepressants or antiepileptic drugs to control pain.
- Use topical agents. Similarly, there are a variety of products you can rub on sore joints to provide relief. They usually contain capsaicin or methyl salicylate.
- Consider injections or surgery. If you’ve tried all of these options and still need additional measures, there are more steps you can take. Steroid injections help many patients, and joint replacement surgery has a high success rate.
Aim to keep your joints in top condition as you age. Simple lifestyle changes will strengthen your skeleton so you can stay fit, active, and pain-free.