How often do you really think about your joints? If you aren’t having problems with them, the chances are you don’t think about them often and take for granted all the things they allow your body to do. But if you suffer with joint stiffness, achy joints, or the pain of arthritis, you may think about your joints a lot.
Importance of Joint Health
A joint is the place where two bones meet. They get support to keep the bones from rubbing against each other from cartilage and synovium which are smooth tissues and synovial fluid. Movable joints also use cartilage to help you move by allowing the bones to glide over each other. Taking care of your cartilage, ligaments, muscles and bones is important to keep your joints healthy and avoiding joint stiffness and achy joints. Aging, injury and being overweight can cause damage and wear on the cartilage and joints and can lead to arthritis. Arthritis isn’t just for the elderly. Younger people can also be at risk for it. Osteoarthritis is the most common form and affects around 21 million adults. Rheumatoid arthritis, gout and Juvenile arthritis are some of the other forms that make up the conditions affecting over 50 million Americans. According to Sharon Kolasinski, M.D., an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, one-third to one-half of doctor visits are attributed to musculosketal problems.
Osteoarthritis begins when the support around the joints is no longer providing the cushioning needed for protection. This occurs because of cartilage wearing down from things like aging, any type of injury whether big or little that has occurred to a joint, inflammation that damages cartilage, loss of muscle mass that happens as we age and the strain joints and cartilage endure from carrying around too much excess body weight.
You don’t have to settle for joint pain and stiffness no matter what age you are. There are natural solutions you can use to help support joint health. Here are a few to consider.
Keep Those Joints Moving
To maintain good joint health and prevent achy joints and joint stiffness, the key is to continue moving them. Exercise is a big part of that, but also just not staying in one position for too long can help. If you work a lot at a desk, get up and move periodically. If you are sitting for a long period of time at least shift your position from time to time. Since extra weight puts a strain on joints and cartilage, weight loss exercise can also be important. Did you realize that studies show you put four times more stress on your knees for every extra pound you are carrying around? That’s a lot of potential damage to your knee joints, not to mention the strain on hips and your back!
Stretching exercises are recommended by experts for keeping joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles fit. They do however warn that stretching should be done after some warmup exercise instead of on cold muscles. Low-impact exercises are preferable to high-impact to lower the risk of joint damage. Walking, bike riding and swimming are examples of low-impact exercise. Other helpful exercise includes strength training exercise since having strong muscles can relieve some of the stress to joints. Doing range of motion exercises can help keep joints flexible and lessen the chance for joint stiffness. Be sure to check with your health care provider before taking on any type of exercise program to make sure it is safe for you.
Nutrition to Support Joint Health
Eating a well-balanced healthy diet is important for building strong muscle and bone which in turn supports joint health. In particular, make sure you are getting omega-3 fatty acids into your diet as it adds a lot of benefits for your health. For joints studies have found that omega-3’s can help reduce inflammation that can lead to joint pain. Omega-3 is found in foods such as coldwater fish like cod, mackerel and salmon, fresh fruit, dark-green leafy greens, AFA blue-green algae, seeds and nuts, and flax and olive oil. Your diet also needs to include those foods that will give you strong bones. That means making sure you are getting the right amount of calcium. Good food sources for calcium include milk products, broccoli, kale, figs, and fortified cereals. The calcium won’t help you though if you don’t get the right amount of Vitamin D to help your body absorb it. Some research has also shown that Vitamin D supports joint health by helping to reduce inflammation in joints. Our bodies create Vitamin D mainly from our exposure to sunshine so getting outdoors a little bit every day is important. If you are unable to do this, a Vitamin D supplement may be required. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider to see if this type of supplement is right for you. You can get Vitamin D from some foods such as dairy products, and fortified cereals or soy and almond milk. Muscles need protein to stay strong which means making sure you have lean protein foods such as white meat chicken, beans, legumes, soy, seafood and nuts in your diet. Your healthcare provider may need to be consulted if you are not sure what the right amount of protein is for your age and sex. Antioxidants are another important part of a healthy diet that can help with joint health as they help repair the damage done to the body by free radicals. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are the best way to get antioxidants into your diet.
Supplements to Support Joint Health
If you know you are not getting the right type of nutrition to support healthy bones, muscles, cartilage and joints, there are supplements that can help. Glucosamine is probably one of the best known. While more research is needed, there have been studies reporting glucosamine and chondroitin being used successfully to relieve joint pain. One study at the University of Utah School of Medicine reported glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate being able to give pain relief to those suffering with pain from moderate to severe osteoarthritis. Both glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally occurring in our cartilage. Check with your healthcare provider however before using supplements of this type as they may interfere or be harmful to take in conjunction with other medications you may be on such as blood thinners.
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine), is another well-known supplement that has been found useful in coping with joint pain. SAMe is produced naturally by the body, but production decreases as we get older. There have been studies showing that supplementing with SAMe can work on joint pain much like anti-inflammatory drugs do. Turmeric, ginger and boswellia have also been reported to work as well as some anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce joint pain from osteoarthritis. Ginger in particular may thin blood so be sure to check with your healthcare provider to see if this is safe for you especially if you are on any blood thinner medications.
One way to add glucosamine and chondroitin along with undenatured collagen, and organic AFA bluegreen algae is with this supplement. The same type of nutrition needed for the body to recover from heavy activity or exercise is also the same type that supports joint health. This supplement combines a proprietary blend of plant-based proteolytic enzymes–bromelain, papain, protease, lipase, and serratiopeptidase, and organic AFA bluegreen algae to provide the nutrition necessary for the body to reduce the risks of inflammation and recover from physical exertion.
Laugh Your Way to Better Joint Health
According to Sebastien Gendry, director of the American School of Laughter Yoga in Pasadena, laughter can be used for managing pain. Research has shown that laughter has many health benefits and one of those benefits is giving a boost to the immune system. Laughing can also increase the blood circulation and reduce stress. Hasya, or laughter yoga, incorporates activities and breathing that promote laughing which causes a release of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that give us a lift and make us feel better that Gendry believes can work like a natural painkiller.
Try out the natural solution tips that will work and be safe for your situation to relieve your achy joints and joint stiffness. Joint pain can be very restrictive for everyday life so taking care of your joints now will pay off as you get older. If you already suffer from joint pain or arthritis use some of these tips to get relief and if you don’t have joint pain now, get a jump on it and don’t wait until it sets in. Life can be more enjoyable and productive when pain-free.