Movement | Stretching & Flexibility

Got Joints? Here’s How to Keep Them Healthy

I would have to venture that just about everyone who is an adult human is aware that joints can be a real pain at times, and can even get us into life-changing situations. Whether you are just aware that you need to be taking care of your joints, or are facing some compromises in how you can move because of them, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

  • Your joints are vulnerable to unique stresses because they are designed to help us move. Although some joints are less protected than others (knees, shoulders), all of them need regular maintenance in order for them to keep working for us. After all, where would we be without the ability to bend our knees, reach overhead, bend over, put on a coat, or stir a pot of stew?
  • Not to be a bearer of bad news, but lots of things can go wrong with joints that can stop us in our tracks. There’s osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, tendonitis, degeneration of cartilage that helps joints glide, inflammation of fluid at the joint, slippage, herniation of spine discs, dislocations, sprains and strains. Little wonder that orthopedists, physical therapists, and massage therapists to name a few, are never short of work!
  • Is there a common thread here that can lead us down any of these paths? And, if so, what can we do to stop the journey? Certainly genetics can be a big factor in some joint problems. But, genetics aside, fortunately there are just as many ways to keep our joints healthy as there are things that can go wrong.

Here is a list of some solutions that may help you in your quest to keep your joints healthy for yourself.

  1. If you are going to exercise, make sure you warm up adequately before getting into anything major.
  2. Along the same lines, even if you have been relatively immobile for a period of time during the day, get up and MOVE. Do a warm-up of your joints to keep them from getting stuck in a chronically bad position.
  3. Even further along those lines, be aware of your posture during the day and do your best to stay in good alignment. Why? Because chronically shortened, lengthened, or imbalanced muscles can pull on your joints in ways that leave them unprotected by the strength that muscles can provide for them.
  4. Keep your weight in check. Studies have actually measured the extra strain placed on joints from carrying extra weight, particularly on knees, hips, and back. It is significant.
  5. Stay flexible. A regular stretching program works, but so does making sure you move all the way through what your joint can do, without going beyond what is safe do. If you have stuck areas, often working with someone to help release that can be very beneficial. Some people can also get help from using a foam roller.
  6. Don’t try to work though pain. This is not the same as feeling a bit achy or stiff, which will probably be helped with a warm-up. Pain is sharp, immediate, and compelling. Pay attention to it and stop the motion that gets you to that point. You can cause even more inflammation or damage by working through pain.
  7. Get yourself some shoes that are supportive and appropriate for your feet. When you pick them out, go to a place that evaluates your feet for the type of arch your have and how you tend to walk. Once you have them, try to stay away from spending a lot of time standing, walking, or running on hard surfaces. This makes it harder for your joints to keep gliding.
  8. Strength training that works your muscles in a balanced way. It’s also important to not isolate muscles as you strength train, but to include other muscles in the process. When it comes to joints, there is never just one muscle that works and protects joint activity.
  9. Another really important reason to strength train is because weak muscles cause your joints to slide around, potentially causing little tears. Little tears get repaired by adding more connective tissue. Adding more connective tissue makes a joint stiff and less flexible. That can start that journey we were talking about earlier.
  10. Do low impact aerobics like the elliptical, bike, swimming, walking. These are non-jarring ways to keep you and your joints moving and your muscles getting stronger.

See my blogs, “What Using a Little Bit of Weight Can Do For You”, “Arthritis and Strength Training: A Good Match”, and “Fitness/Body Assessment: Why Start with Posture?” for some specific ways to train for joint health.

Any joint issues you are facing? Leave a comment below.

All the best,
Kristen

© 2016-2020 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.


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