As we age, our joints age too and may start to become painful and stiff. However, while ageing is inevitable, joint pain is not and there are things you can do to protect your joints and prevent damage. The sooner you begin thinking about protecting your joints, the better particularly if you are involved in regular sport.
Lose weight to protect your joints
Weight-bearing joints have to support your body weight so they are especially prone to damage. With every step we take, for example, our knee joint absorbs around one and a half times our own body weight and carrying excess weight only increases the pressure. Experts estimate that every additional 10 pounds of weight adds 20 to 39 pounds of force to each knee.
Losing weight is a good way to protect your joints. A BMI somewhere between 18.5 and 24.9 is optimum for protecting your joints. If you need help to lose weight, talk to your doctor or a dietician who will be able to support you with healthy eating plans. Certain types of food, such as a Mediterranean diet which is rich is fruit, vegetables, lean meat, fish, olive oil and wholegrains, can also help to reduce inflammation in your body which further protects joints.
We all know that exercise is good for our health and wellbeing but did you know that staying fit and active can help to prevent joint stiffness and muscle atrophy too? Doing regular exercise that strengthens and stretches your muscles helps to stabilise joints and supports the muscles around them. Sitting at your computer or desk all day increases your risk of joint pain so if you’re office-based make sure you move around, go for walks and take frequent breaks.
If you’re unsure what sort of exercises will work best for you, talk to a physiotherapist. You can support your knee joints, for example, by concentrating on exercises that target the hamstrings, hip flexors, psoas, quadriceps and gluteus muscles. Having a strong core (abdomen, chest and back) helps you to maintain good balance and prevent falls which can damage your joints.
Low impact exercises like swimming, cycling, walking, yoga and Pilates are great for building fitness and flexibility without over-stressing the joints and you should try and mix up your exercise regime to prevent repetitive strain injuries. It’s important to have a proper warm up and cool down routine and dynamic stretches such as lunges and leg pendulums can be particularly effective.
Your joints are lined with a smooth slippery tissue called cartilage which allows the joint to move smoothly and prevents the bones from rubbing together. Water makes up around 80% of the cartilage. It’s important to stay well-hydrated or your body will seek to pull water from anywhere it can, including the cartilage which may result in joint damage.
If you are a smoker, you are at risk of many different health conditions including joint damage. This is because smoking increases inflammation throughout your body which can hamper healing from injuries. Giving up smoking increases oxygen levels in your blood which promotes more effective healing.
Listen to your body
It is easy to ignore what the body is telling us, particularly during exercise. It’s important to pay attention to any joint pain as continuing to exercise a painful joint may cause damage. Build up slowly when you are exercising and know when to stop. If you are unfortunate enough to injure yourself or if you are suffering from painful joints, see medical help.
Osteoarthritis is a painful condition caused by degeneration of the joint cartilage linked to ageing or injury. In severe cases you may require joint replacement surgery. Carrothers Orthopaedics routinely carries out hip and knee replacements using state of the art Mako robotic arm technology. One patient recently commented: “The Mako total knee replacement has proved to be better than my expectations and I can now play with my grandchildren, do Pilates, Zumba and aerobics and keep up with my husband on long walks – all without pain or difficulty.”
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Please be reassured that despite the ongoing UK Covid-19 pandemic, types of orthopaedic treatments are now again being routinely offered to patients. Having the vaccine does not mean that your treatment won’t go ahead. However, in some circumstances, such as for planned surgery, it is advisable to delay it by a couple of weeks to ensure your body responds in the optimum way to the vaccine. If in doubt, please talk to your orthopaedic consultant or contact us for more guidance to help get your orthopaedic treatment back on track.
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