6 Tips for Healthy Joints

An Owner’s Guide to Natural Joint Health
By Cathleen London, MD

Most of us probably do not think much about our knees, back, shoulders, and other joints until they become painful or stop working properly. Each season brings its own influx of injuries related to a different set of sports and outdoor activities. When people use muscles they have not used since last year, it can result in painful strains. Many of these injuries and inflammations are caused by underlying chronic joint conditions that resurface with renewed activity and result in inflammation. And when your joints are bothering you, even sitting can become painful.

There is much you can do to keep your knees and joints in top condition, and to alleviate pain once it starts. Here are some of my favorite recommendations.

1. Dietary changes

Strive to eat most foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Avoid or eliminate processed foods, which often contain trans fat, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and preservatives that can increase inflammation throughout the body—including your joints.

2. Reach for the sky

Stretching when warm is a good way to keep your muscles and ligaments strong and flexible, making it one of the best ways to maintain joint health.

3. Choose smart supplements

Be smart about which supplements you choose. There are a number of safe and effective supplements that help to soothe joint pain including turmeric, glucosamine/chondroitin, fish oil, vitamin C, and pycnogenol. One of the most exciting new options to support joint comfort and flexibility is natural eggshell membrane (NEM), a safe and convenient source of ingredients essential for healthy joints. Published clinical trials show that it provides an effective support of joint comfort and flexibility in just seven to 10 days.

4. Build muscle mass

Focus on building up muscle mass. It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to address arthritis pain—the most common cause of joint pain—is exercise. It can help reduce joint pain and stiffness, as well as increasing muscle strength and flexibility. Muscles act as both cushions and shock absorbers for your joints, so without muscle tissue, your joints take a pounding. Specific muscle groups can be strengthened to help protect joints (i.e. hamstrings for knees).

5. Get up and move!

If your joints hurt, get up and move around. Sitting or standing all day can cause joint stiffness. If your career keeps you at your desk or on your feet for hours at a time, try to change positions frequently and take a walk during your breaks. Keep moving!

6. Stay hydrated

Stay hydrated. People are often unaware of the role that water plays in joint health. Nearly 70 percent of our body weight is water—dehydration can lead to achy joints and make you feel exhausted.

You will need your joints every day of your life, so taking care of them should be a priority. Always seek medical attention for severe or persistent joint pain, and for joint pain that is accompanied by swelling, fever, or other serious symptoms.

Here is a short quiz to help you determine how much you know about joint health, and the best ways for addressing joint pain.

Answer true or false to these five questions:

  1. 1. Processed foods are bad for knees and other joints.
  2. 2. Stretching is one of the best ways to maintain joint health.
  3. 3. For chronic joint pain relief, the only over-the-counter options shown to work are ibuprofen or glucosamine/chondroitin.
  4. 4. Building up my muscle mass can help protect my joints.
  5. 5. Never exercise if your joints hurt.

Answers:

1. True. “Processed foods often contain trans fat, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and preservatives that can increase inflammation throughout the body, including your joints.”

2. True. “Stretching when warm is a good way to keep your muscles and ligaments strong and flexible.”

3. False. “There are a number of safe and effective supplements that help to soothe joint pain including turmeric, glucosamine/chondroitin, fish oil, vitamin C, and pycnogenol. One of the most exciting new options to improve joint comfort and flexibility is natural eggshell membrane (NEM), which is a safe and convenient source of ingredients essential for healthy joints. Clinical trials show that a small, 500 mg daily dose of NEM is enough to alleviate joint pain and stiffness in as quickly as seven to 10 days.”

4. True. “Muscles act as both cushions and shock absorbers for your joints. Without muscle tissue, your joints take a pounding. One of the best ways to address arthritis pain—the most common cause of joint pain—is exercise. It can help reduce joint pain and stiffness, as well as increasing muscle strength and flexibility. Specific muscle groups can be strengthened to help protect joints (i.e. strengthen hamstrings to help protect knees).”

5. False. “Sitting or standing all day can cause joint stiffness. If your career keeps you at your desk or at your feet for hours at a time, try to change positions frequently and take a walk during your breaks. Keep moving!”

 

Cathleen London, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician who practices a holistic approach to healthcare, utilizing a combination of western medicine, diet and lifestyle modification, nutritional supplements, and herbal medicines when appropriate. In her free time, London competes in triathlons.