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Have you noticed an increase in discomfort of your joints lately? With a change in our work set-up and decreased mobility due to lockdown measures, you may be experiencing deteriorating joint health.
A joint is a connection between two bones that allows you to bend your elbows and knees, turn your head and wave your fingers. Around the joints, smooth tissue called cartilage and synovium, and a lubricant called synovial fluid cushion them so joints and bones do not rub together. Many factors including our lifestyle can wear and tear cartilage, which can damage joints. The problem is that frayed cartilage does not grow back, so you need to adopt preventative habits to maintain their health.
There are ways to protect your cartilage and preserve joint health. The best way to care for your joints is to maintain muscles, ligaments and bones strong and stable. Below are some tips to care for your joints.
Joint discomfort might make you reluctant to exercise, but research shows that it gets worse when you do not exercise. There is a balance to find though, between too little exercise, which will increase joint stiffness, and too much exercise that can damage your joints.
a. Choose low-impact exercise such as swimming, walking or cycling, at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. This will boost your blood flow and keep your cartilage well nourished. It also helps you keep a healthy weight, which is important to avoid pressure on the joints, preventing them from wear and tear.
b. Build muscle strength around the joints. The muscles that support our joints must be kept as strong as possible to preserve the stability of the joints. It will also help absorb the shock that normally goes through your joints during the day. You can add strengthening exercises to your routine, including weightlifting. For example, if you have knee pain you should strengthen the quadricep muscles, which are in the front of your thighs. Favour strengthening your core as well, which includes chest, back and abdomen. Seek the advice of a professional physiotherapist or personal trainer.
c. Do not forget to warm up before exercising. Make sure you devote at least 5 minutes of warm up to activate muscles and joints before hitting your work out session.
- Eat right to nourish your joints
Nutrition is paramount to maintaining healthy joints. A healthy diet will help you build strong bones and muscles, which in turn will protect joints from wear and tear.
a. Favour anti-inflammatory food. This includes healthy fatty acids you can find in fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines; in fruits like avocado or figs, vegetable oils like olive, flaxseed and hemp seed oil, as well as in green leafy vegetables. Add curcumin, ginger, black pepper, hemp seeds and rosemary herbs to your meals to promote joint health.
b. To improve bone health, make sure you get enough nutrients. Research suggests that eating veggies such as broccoli, kale, parsley, lettuces and spinach can slow down cartilage destruction that occurs over time. Milk and yogurt are a good source of calcium, which is recommended to avoid bone loss.
c. Maintain your intake in vitamin D and C. For vitamin D, try to get sun exposure, and eat food fortified in vitamin D like cereals, soy and almond milk. For vitamin C, reach for an orange when looking for a tasty treat.
- Increase your range-of-motion
Range-of-motion exercises are a good way of keeping your muscles and ligaments strong and flexible, it keeps the cartilage nourished by the joint fluid.
a. Stretching every day is ideal when you experience joint stiffness, which may result from long hours sitting for example. There are many stretching exercises you can perform depending on which joints you need to keep flexible and toned up: arms, shoulders, hips, knees, hands and neck or back.
b. Yoga and Pilates can help improve joint comfort, boost muscle strength and keep the body toned up, while at the same time stretching ligaments and muscles. If you experience joint stiffness, let your instructor know so they can tailor the postures to your capability.
- Perfect your posture
A good posture will have a big impact on your joint health. Slouching is not good for your joints; if you have a desk job, you should alternate sitting down and standing every 30 minutes. When sitting down or standing, keeping a straight back will protect joints from the neck to the knees. This good posture will also protect hip joints and back muscles.
Posture is also important when lifting and carrying things. For example, when carrying a heavy item, keep a wide stance base for support, squat down maintaining a straight and good posture, lift your load slowly while keeping it close to your body. Do not twist or turn, use your feet to change direction.
- Treat yourself to a regular massage
As we have explained, maintaining muscle health is crucial for joints. Without care, fatigued and over-worked-out muscles, can lead to muscle damage and by way of consequence, joint damage too. Treat yourself to a regular massage with the WholyMe Relief Balm to reduce daily aches and pains, keep muscles healthy and protect your joints.
Caring for your joints implies adopting healthy habits and introducing time in your routine to intentionally preserve joint health. Remember to pay attention to pain signals, balance activity and rest, and eat well.