Protecting Your Joints

One of the glories of youth is the ability to recover from the stresses and strains of athletics and rigorous workouts. However, years of physical activity can take its toll on your knees, shoulders, hips and elbows. It’s super important to protect the joints.

Joints are the physical point of connection between two bones. The knee, for example, is the connection point between the femur and the tibia. Tendons connect the muscle to the bone and cartilage provides cushioning. Most joints allow for a range of motion like the shoulder and hip.

High impact sports, recreation and exercise can put significant stress and strain on your joints. Over the years, wear and tear on the joints can cause anywhere from minor to serious problems.

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder. It occurs when the cartilage between two joints wear down so the bones rub together. Swelling, stiffness and pain are generally the result. It starts to appear in middle age and becomes very common above the age of 70. Heavy impact on the joints in the younger years can lead to a quickening of osteoarthritis.

Bursitis is another ailment brought on by overuse of the joint. Bursitis is the swelling and irritation of a bursa. It’s a fluid-filled sac that cushions muscles, tendons, and joints. It causes pain and tenderness around a joint and leads to swelling, stiffness and aching.

Tendons are bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Overload and overuse can inflame and irritate tendons leading to tendonitis. Tendonitis is most common in the shoulder, elbow, knee, wrist and heel. It can cause swelling and be very painful.

Here are some tips to help protect your joints:

  1. Avoid high impact activities. If you’re having joint pain, avoid high impact sports like running and basketball. Avoid exercises with jumping and squats. High impact activities put a lot of stress and load on the joints. Low impact activities like bike riding and swimming give you the physical benefit without the strain.
  2. Strengthen the muscles around the joints. Keeping the muscles around the joints strong will help protect them. Keeping your legs, shoulders and arms strong and flexible will help reduce the strain the joints themselves take.
  3. Manage your weight. Excess bodyweight puts more strain on your joints with every step. Losing one pound reduces the strain on the knee by a factor of 4.
  4. Keep moving. There’s a tendency to stop moving when you’re feeling pain. Movement is what the joints are for. Movement keeps the joints flexible and reduces stiffness and inflammation.
  5. Stay flexible. Maintaining your range of motion is vital to the well-being of your joints. If you have a joint injury and you stop moving it, you lose the range of motion. Do exercises to maintain your flexibility and mobility.