When we have an ache or a pain, we tend to experience it as something localized: a sore knee, a stiff hip. But our bodies aren’t a bunch of disconnected parts.
Instead, each of our parts is integrated into, and connected with, the whole. Everything we do affects all of us. That means if you want healthier joints, you have to improve your health overall.
At The Spine Center at the Bone and Joint Clinic of Baton Rouge in Baton Rouge, Walker, and Prairieville, Louisiana, we’re experts on joints and the ways in which they maintain or lose their integrity. If you want healthy, strong joints, or want to decrease the amount of pain and stiffness you suffer because of arthritis, take note of these five helpful tips.
1. Load up on sleep
While sometimes it seems that everyone in the US is in a competition to sleep the fewest hours possible, sleep deprivation is a major health hazard. Your body and brain need between 7-9 hours of restorative sleep a night if you’re between 18 and 64 years, and 7-8 hours a night if you’re 65 or over (unless you’re one of the rare outliers who functions optimally on less).
Are you getting enough sleep? If you feel groggy or grumpy during the day, start getting drowsy after lunch, or feel sleepy while driving, the answer is “No.”
If you think that sleeping a full night is a “waste” of time, you don’t understand how hard your body works while you sleep. Instead of wasting time, it’s busy eliminating wastes and toxins from your blood, organs, and other tissues, including the soft tissues in your joints.
During your deepest stages of sleep, your body also works hard to repair your soft tissues, organs, and other cells. And it produces and releases hormones, which regulate everything from your mood to your sex drive.
Sleep also helps to down-regulate inflammation. Inflammation is one of the processes that degrades the quality of the soft tissues that line your joints. If you want healthy joints, you have to get enough sleep.
2. Lighten your load
You may be thinking about losing weight from a purely aesthetic point of view, but excess fat compromises your health, too, including your joint health. Adipose tissue (aka fat) produces and releases pro-inflammatory chemicals. Inflammation’s behind or involved in most diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Excess weight increases the amount of stress on your joints. When you lose a pound of fat, you actually take four pounds of pressure off your joints. When you’re physically lighter, it’s also easier to get the regular activity and exercise you need to keep your joints limber and strong.
3. Get stronger
If you want to keep your joints healthy, start training with weights and building strength and flexibility in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A joint is only as healthy as the tissues that surround and protect it.
Building strength in the muscles and tissues around the joints themselves seems like a pretty intuitive way to improve your joints’ health. But even building core strength translates to healthier joints. When you have a healthy core and a well-aligned spine, you walk, run, and do other joint-using activities in a way that keeps your weight well-distributed and balanced.
4. Make meals colorful
Yet another reason to adopt a healthy, whole-foods diet is that fresh vegetables and fruits are filled with the vitamins and micronutrients you need to keep your muscles, ligaments, joints, and cartilage strong. Create colorful salads and side-dishes that utilize the full spectrum of colors that vegetables and fruits provide.
You should also eat plenty of healthy proteins so that you can continue to build muscle and keep the muscle mass you already have. Most adults lose muscle as they age — a condition known as sarcopenia — which makes their joints more vulnerable to damage.
5. Move more
Sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time compromises your overall health and your joint health, too. Joints are made to move. In fact, when you move them, they release a special lubricant called synovial fluid that keeps them functioning smoothly and painlessly.
Take a 5-minute break from sitting or working every half hour. Walk every day. Cycle, swim, or dance several times a week. Lift weights or use resistance bands to keep your muscles strong.
If you do find that your joints are painful or stiff, you don’t have to stress about that, either. We’re here to help with arthritis pain, back pain, or any other concerns you have. Call us at 833-774-6327 or book an appointment online at the location nearest you.