The joints are important for allowing movement in the body. Certain types of joints allow for certain types of movement. For example, the elbow is a hinge joint and its structure doesn’t allow for rotation, whereas the ball-and-socket joints located at the shoulders and hips allow for the greatest range of motion. Our joints are incredibly important but they can degrade over time. This is because cartilage—the smooth, rubbery cushion at the end of the bones that surrounds our joints—can begin to break down. This damage can cause painful chronic inflammation. Fortunately there are a number of steps you can take to prevent such damage.
1. Enjoy an anti-inflammatory diet.
Inflammation can show up in the body in a number of ways, including joint damage. An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce inflammation in the body. Eat a diet loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, fish and seafood, tofu, eggs, and moderate amounts of red wine. Avoid too many inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, animal fats, and processed foods. Managing your weight through a healthy diet also reduces impact on the joints. Just 10 extra pounds on your body can increase impact on the joints by 30 to 60 pounds.
2. Add in yoga.
Movement in general is important for joint health, but yoga is especially helpful. One study found that yoga was helpful for people with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Practitioners saw positive results for their joints both immediately and in the long term. Choose a slower form of yoga that eases movement into the joints, such as integral, Iyengar, or Kripalu yoga. Here are some yoga poses to get you started:
- Warrior pose can help build muscle around the knee and strengthen the joint.
- Bow pose relieves pain at the shoulder joints and the sacroiliac joint in the lower back.
- Bridge pose strengthens the knee joint.
- Triangle pose strengthens the ankle joints.
- Camel pose increases flexibility in the sacroiliac joint.
- Plank pose strengthens the wrists, elbows, and lower back.
3. Enjoy alliums.
Alliums, a food group that includes onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives, have been shown in scientific studies to protect the joints against osteoarthritis. In a study looking at female twins, researchers found that diallyl disulphide, a complex contained in alliums, can protect the joints against degradation. Are you a fan of sautéing onions and garlic? Here’s another reason to love it.
4. Supplement, supplement, supplement.
This is not a doctor’s advice and you should talk to your doctor before starting any supplementation regimen. But a variety of supplements have been shown to protect the joints. A number of well-designed studies have concluded that SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine) can reduce inflammation in the joints. Some research has even shown that it may aid in the repair of cartilage. Indian frankincense has also been shown to have impressive anti-inflammatory properties that may slow the degradation of the joints. Cat’s claw hasn’t been widely investigated, but a few studies have shown its ability to reduce and treat osteoarthritis, and one found that it reduced knee joint pain.
5. Keep joints supple with Chinese medicine.
Chinese medicine practitioners look for the underlying reason for pain because an imbalance in the body may actually be to blame for tender joints. Once your practitioner uncovers your medical history, he or she may come up with an herbal regimen to go along with your acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture needles are single use and sterile. What’s more, they’re usually too small to cause any pain. A number of acupuncture points on the body can help improve joint health. If you have knee pain, for example, four points that are located above and below the knee can help alleviate the pain. Inserting the needles into various points stimulates energy and unlocks blockages wherever they may be in the joints.
Protecting your joints as you age means not having to deal with arthritis pain when you’re older. Love your body and love your joints as you age by taking care of them early on. From diet to exercise to supplements and alternative medicine, a few simple steps can reduce joint impact.