“…like the knees on McGrady, hurtin’ em!”: A Look at Joints and Osteoarthritis

One way you know you’re getting old is when you start complaining about pain in your knees and back :-)  So in honor of my venerable family and friends, I decided to do a post on joint pain.  We pay very little attention to our joints when we are younger and that’s why they tend to repay us as we age. As mid-mid lifers, it’s not too late to develop a routine to help alleviate some of our future joint damage.  First let’s start with what a joint even is?!

According to WedMD.com, “A joint is the connection between two bones. Joints and their surrounding structures allow you to bend your elbows and knees, wiggle your hips, bend your back, turn your head, and wave your fingers to say bye-bye.” Depending on the type of joint you are talking about determines how much mobility and flexibility you will have between your bones.  There are three main types of joints.  They are:

  • fibrous joint- allows for little to no mobility; as seen in the skull
  • cartilaginous joint- allows for some mobility; as seen in the back
  • synovial joint- allows for a lot of mobility; as seen in fingers and toes

Since we have more mobility with our cartilaginous and synovial joints, they are more likely to experience “wear and tear” damage.  This damage is why we offer our seat to old and injured people on the train.  More specifically, “Smooth tissue called cartilage and synovium and a lubricant called synovial fluid cushion the joints so bones do not rub together. But increasing age, injury — even sitting the wrong way or carrying too much weight — can wear and tear your cartilage.” So outside of natural aging or accidental injuries, obesity and bad posture can also lead to joint damage and pain.  The “most common joint disorder” is Osteoarthritis. According to Google Health, “In osteoarthritis, the cushioning (cartilage) between the bones wears away in the joints. As osteoarthritis gets worse, the cartilage disappears and bone rubs on bone.”

Osteoarthritis is more common in women over the age 55, but care of our joints now can decrease our chances developing the disorder later.  Below are “Healthy Joint Tips” from WebMD.com to show our joints some TLC:

  1. Watch Your Weight- Keeping your weight within a healthy range is the best thing you can do for your joints. Weight-bearing joints, such as your knees, hips, and back have to support some, if not all, of your body weight. That’s why so many overweight people have problems with these areas of the body.
  2. ExerciseExercise can help you lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Some research suggests that aerobic exercise — activities that get your heart rate up — can reduce joint swelling. Opt for exercises that won’t give your joints a pounding. Instead of step aerobics, try low-impact exercises such as swimming or bicycling.
  3. Build Muscle- Strong muscles support your joints. If you don’t have enough muscle, your joints take a pounding, especially those in your knees, which must support your entire body weight. Weight training exercises help build muscle and keep existing muscle and surrounding ligaments strong. That way, your joints don’t have to do all the work. Make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any type of exercise routine, including weight lifting. You don’t want to strain the joint that you’re trying to strengthen.
  4. Strong Core- Make sure your exercise routine includes activities that strengthen your abdominal (core) muscles. Stronger abs and back muscles help you keep your balance and prevent falls that can damage your joints.
  5. Know Your Limits- Certain exercises and activities might just be too tough for your joints to handle. Avoid exercises that cause joint pain. You will likely feel some muscle pain after working out. But any soreness that lasts longer than 48 hours means you need to take it easier next time. Such pain could mean you’ve overstressed your joints, and working through it may lead to injury or damage.
  6. Perfect Your Posture- Slouching is not good for your joints. Standing and sitting up straight protects your joints from your neck to your knees. Good posture also helps guard your hip joints and back muscles. Posture is also important when lifting and carrying. For example, if you use a backpack, be sure to put it over both shoulders instead of slinging it over one. Being lopsided puts more stress on your joints. When lifting, use the biggest muscles in your body by bending at your knees instead of bending your back.
  7. Protect Your Body- Make sure you always wear a helmet, knee pads, and elbow and wrist pads when taking part in high-risk activities, including work-related ones such as repetitive kneeling or squatting. Even if you think you’re a pro on a bicycle or on a pair of Rollerblades, you should never go without safety gear. Hit the wrong bump in the road and you could be headed for a lifetime of joint pain. Serious injuries or several minor injuries can damage cartilage.
  8. Add Ice- Ice is a great drug-free pain reliever. It helps relieve joint swelling and numbs pain. If you have a sore joint, apply ice wrapped in a towel or a cold pack to the painful area for no more than 20 minutes.
  9. Eating Right- A healthy, balanced diet helps build strong bones. Strong bones can keep you on your feet, and prevent falls that may lead to joint damage. Make sure you get plenty of calcium every day. You can do this by drinking plenty of milk and eating foods such as yogurt, broccoli, kale, and figs. If those foods don’t tempt your taste buds, ask your doctor if calcium supplements are right for you. Recent research indicates that a diet that contains the proper amount of vitamin D is important for good bone and joint health. You should ask your doctor about the proper amount of vitamin D and ways you can get it.

Happy “Taking Care of Your Joints” Ladies!! :-) xx

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