Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis aren’t just something that happens from old age. People as young as 30 are beginning to experience arthritis symptoms. Once the onset of degeneration begins, it is difficult to reverse. As a result, the best practice is to focus on the prevention of arthritis earlier in life. There are many things you can be doing daily that will significantly reduce your risk of developing arthritis later in life. It’s never too early to start taking precautions, and there are a variety of tips that can help you protect your joint health.
- Keep a healthy weight. People who are overweight or obese are at heightened risk for developing arthritis. Carrying around excess weight causes more wear and tear to occur in the joints, due to the increased physical impact and stress. Maintaining a healthy weight is a good first step in preventing arthritis.
- Do aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises. Exercising aerobically can help you maintain good cardiac health and a healthy weight. Regular cardio can reduce bad cholesterol levels and facilitate healthy metabolism. However, it is important to not neglect your muscles when focused on a cardio-heavy workout regime. In order to keep your joints supported in the long-term, it is integral that you maintain muscle tone and strength. Incorporate weighted exercises into your routine, and try slowly increasing your range of motion. This will help you reach certain muscle groups that traditional exercises won’t target. Knee strengthening exercises are especially important, as this is the most common joint in the body in which people experience pain and injury.
- Have a consistent post-workout routine. After a good workout session, make sure to engage in a nice, long stretching session. Stretch out your muscles to prevent lactic acid buildup; this will help with soreness and muscle strains. Use alternating hot and cold therapy following a strenuous session or whenever you experience muscle pain. Use an ice pack, along with a heating pad or a warm bath, but make sure to not apply ice directly to your skin; cover the ice pack with a rag or paper towel. Most importantly, don’t use either heat or cold for over 20 minutes at a time, as this risks skin damage and cramping.
- Discover new forms of movement. In addition to your workout routine, try new movements to work out different muscles. Try gentle forms of yoga or tai chi to help you improve balance, prevent falls, improve posture and coordination, and promote relaxation.
- Follow a diet that supports joint health. An ideal diet for joint health is rich in fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish (salmon, trout, sardines). Experts recommend following the Mediterranean diet, which is low-glycemic, high in unsaturated fats, and high in wild fish. It recommends eating low amounts of dairy and red meat and moderate levels of alcohol (preferably in the form of wine). In addition, this diet recommends using certain spices and herbs while cooking, including turmeric and ginger; they are anti-inflammatory and have been shown to prevent arthritis and osteoporosis. Ditch the coffee and try green tea instead; it has been shown to change arthritis-related immune responses.
- Consider using supplements. There are several supplements, vitamins, and minerals you can take daily to improve and maintain joint health and prevent arthritis. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, those found in fish and some nuts, help to reduce inflammation in the body, which is the leading cause of arthritis. Glucosamine is a natural chemical that is found in the body, and it keeps the cartilage cells healthy and strong. As people age, their natural glucosamine levels drop, leading to the wear down of cartilage. It can be very beneficial to use a glucosamine supplement as you age to prevent cartilage degeneration. In addition, vitamin D is a very important supplement for people with joint pain.
- Keep good posture and wear supportive footwear. Foot health is extremely important for back, neck, and joint health. All of these are connected and can have an effect on one another. Since the feet are the one point of contact between the ground and the rest of your body, what you walk in can make a huge difference. Stay away from high heels (anything over an inch), platforms, flats, or pointed-toe shoes. Be sure to buy shoes that have good arch support, flexibility in the front of the shoe (for some toe-wiggle room), and wider heels as opposed to stiletto-like heels.
- Get a professional massage. Your back has so many hard-working muscles and ligaments that it is common to experience strain and pain in different areas. Therapeutic massages have been shown to decrease back pain and promote muscle relaxation. In addition, massages improve circulation, increasing blood flow to the muscles and improving the transport of metabolic waste. Massages can be performed on the back, neck, or anywhere on the body that is experiencing muscle stress.
- Find time to rest. The biggest exercise misconception out there is that the more you workout the better. It is incredibly important to give your body a break at least once a week. If you exercise too much, you are likely to have decreased performance due to low energy stores. Aside from energy, your muscles need time to destress and repair themselves. During a workout, your muscles experience micro-tears, which stimulate them to grow and expand; this is what allows you to build muscle. However, new muscle fibers don’t just grow overnight. This process takes several days to weeks and requires rest and relaxation for proper muscle development. Most importantly, excessive exercising can lead to overtraining, which increases your chances of exercise injuries, joint/muscle stress, and exhaustion. In addition, over-exercising increases the risk of burning out and entirely ditching the workout routine. Remind yourself that slow and steady wins the race.
- Be honest and proactive with your health support team. It is incredibly important to be completely honest with your doctors and health support team. If you are taking any drugs or supplements, they should be aware (especially if you have a medical condition). Let your doctor know if you experience any pops or clicks in any joints, along with any pain during exercise or movement. By telling your doctor, they will be aware and can begin to narrow down any possible causes. Many people that fail to bring up these symptoms end up having bone and joint problems as they age. No matter how little or seemingly harmless it is, it is always a bad idea to ‘deal with it yourself’ or ‘get around to it eventually’. Even if it is not posing problems currently, certain symptoms can contribute to future problems if left untreated. Therefore, be honest and open with your medical team to ensure that they have all the pertinent information to treat you properly and keep you healthy.
In addition to these tips and habits, it may be beneficial to visit a sports medicine doctor or someone who specializes in joint therapy. At Rejuvinix, we offer non-surgical treatments to help eliminate joint pain. We specialize in exercise injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis of all joints in the body. To learn if you would benefit from our treatments, schedule a consultation online or call us at (757) 263-4945 today!