Bones, joints and muscles work together in the complex framework of the musculoskeletal system. Its function is to allow the movement of the human body, thanks mainly to the joints, which is where the bones meet (knee, hip, wrist and shoulder). They roll, slide, twist, or bend like a hinge so we can run, jump, spin, etc.
The ends of the bones are covered by a thin layer of cartilage (semi-soft tissue made up of proteins, sugars, and water) that cushions the joint and helps distribute the load evenly when we put pressure on it. The smooth and slippery surface allows our bones to move freely, without friction.
Joints – Flexibility of Movement
Stooping, climbing, walking, running, jumping, lifting weights, etc. Many of our daily activities require healthy, functional joints. While some, like the knees, provide stability, others, like the wrists and ankles, allow us to move.
But joints, which can come in many different sizes and shapes, are susceptible to wear and damage for a variety of reasons, including injury or diseases such as arthritis. Joint cartilage wears down with age, which is why some people have joint discomfort caused by the inability to produce collagen, the protein that helps maintain normal joints.
The knees are one of the most damaged parts because they are the ones that work the hardest throughout life. As we age, the cartilage in the knee wears away, the bones begin to rub together, and the lining of the joint cannot produce enough synovial fluid (lubrication).
Protecting them is a preventive measure that should start from childhood, they deserve to be paid attention to long before they cause discomfort, with healthy lifestyle habits that help to avoid future illness, according to the Association with Osteoporosis and Arthritis.
7 Ways to Take Care of Joints
It’s never too late to start thinking about joint health. Pains don’t have to be part of the aging process if we start pampering them soon. Good care goes through:
1. Perform Physical Exercise
Movement relieves joint stiffness, reduces pain, and strengthens the muscles around the joints. One of the most valued is swimming, since aquatic exercises can help maintain flexibility and range of motion while taking load off the joints.
A walk will also help, but let’s not forget the importance of warming up and picking up speed only when your muscles and joints are ready. Climbing stairs is also healthy if it is done consistently and without forcing too much.
2. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Joints are designed to withstand a certain amount of force. If we are overweight, it is likely that we are putting more pressure on them than we think. Every extra pound we gain puts more stress on our knees.
Weight loss significantly reduces knee pain, function, and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. It is estimated that losing about five kilos of weight can improve joint health and reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis by 50%.
3. Follow A Healthy Diet
The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a lower frequency of problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is important to include products such as fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon and mackerel, fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidant vitamins, as well as whole grains.
Vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties, and healthy levels have been linked to a lower risk of joint and bone cell damage. We can find it in avocado, sunflower seeds or nuts.
4. Maintain Correct Postural Habits
Poor posture is one of the main causes of joint pain. We often inadvertently slouch at a desk or walk with our shoulders and head forward, leading to a misaligned spine.
This puts stress on all the joints, putting additional stress on the knees and hips. The British National Health Service (NHS) publishes a guide in which it addresses the most common posture errors. Keeping your head up, shoulders back, and spine straight is very important.
5. Maintain Good Hydration
Water makes up 80% of the body’s cartilage. If we do not stay well hydrated, the body will extract water from cartilage and other areas, which will undoubtedly harm the joints. This also means avoiding dehydrating liquids, especially in summer, such as coffee, alcohol, etc.
Rest is essential because it favors inflammation reduction and helps joint health. It is one of the best ways to protect joints that does not require any effort. A bad rest can end in stiff and sore joints.
7. Dietary Supplements
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are substances that help keep joints lubricated and regenerate and repair damaged cartilage. A review by the Cochrane Initiative found that glucosamine given for six weeks reduces pain and improves function in people with osteoarthritis.
The use of supplements such as collagen, however, generates debate about its real effectiveness in the joints, therefore, they should always be taken under medical supervision.