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Keeping Your Joints and Bones Healthy and Happy

10-12-2020

No matter your age, it’s important to take good care of your bones and joints. Healthy joints allow you to walk, run, jump, play sports, and participate in other activities you love.

Joints are the connections between bones that allow you to bend your elbows and knees, shake your hips, turn your head, wave your fingers, and keep your body moving. Smooth tissue called cartilage and synovium and a lubricant called synovial fluid cushion your joints so your bones don’t rub together. Getting older, suffering certain injuries, or carrying too much weight can tear your cartilage. This wear and tear can lead to a reaction that damages your joints and causes arthritis.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a term used to describe any disorder affecting the joints. While you may think only older people get arthritis, it can affect young people too. Arthritis takes many different forms:

  • Osteoarthritis is caused when the surface cartilage in the joints breaks down and wears away, allowing your bones to rub together. This causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion in the joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It can sometimes be triggered by an injury to a joint.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the joints' tissues as if they’re disease-causing germs. This causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of joint function. Those with rheumatoid arthritis may also feel tired and sick and may experience fevers. This condition may cause permanent joint damage, and it may also affect the heart, lungs, and other organs.
  • Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints, most commonly in the big toe. This type of arthritis can cause excruciating pain, but several effective treatments reduce disability and pain.
  • Juvenile arthritis is a term to describe arthritis in children. While children can develop almost any type of arthritis that affects adults, the most common type in youth is juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Other types of arthritis can be associated with diseases like fibromyalgia, lupus, psoriasis, or certain infections.

Joint and Bone Health Tips

The best way to make sure you’re able to stay mobile and do the things you love is to take good care of your joints and bones. Joint health and bone health go hand in hand, and measures to protect these parts of your body often overlap. Here are some simple ways to protect your joints and bones, reduce strain, and improve how you function each day:

  • Choose comfort over fashion. Look for flexible, supportive shoes that allow your toes to move around. Make sure your shoe is flexible at the ball of your foot. Choosing shoes with a squared or rounded toe—not pointed—allows your toes to move. Ditch the heels, which put extra stress on your knees and may increase your risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Eat more veggies. Thanks to high calcium levels, greens like broccoli, spinach, parsley, kale, and romaine and Bibb lettuces can slow down cartilage destruction and lessen the amount of age-related bone loss.
  • Get moving. It’s no secret that exercise works wonders for your overall health. Joint and bone health is no exception. Opt for low-impact activities like biking and swimming, which offer calorie-burning benefits without added strain. Stay away from foot-pounding activities like kickboxing and step aerobics, which can be tough on your joints and bones. Keep your muscles and ligaments flexible and strong with range-of-motion exercises like stretching.
  • But first, warm up. Don’t jump right into exercise before warming up. To protect your joints, start your workout slowly by stretching. Begin the main part of your routine only after your muscles and joints have ‘warmed up’ for at least five minutes.
  • Don’t smoke (or quit today). Did you know that those who smoke have a higher risk of fracture than nonsmokers? Smoking can reduce bone mass, which can cause osteoporosis. Need help quitting? Check out our free, six week, six session Freedom from Smoking program.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts unnecessary strain on your bones and joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, every extra pound you gain puts four times the stress on your knees. Even a small amount of weight loss can give your knees relief; even losing 11 pounds can reduce your knees’ osteoarthritis risk by 50 percent.
  • Take a dip. Aquatic exercises help you maintain flexibility and range of motion. It also helps reduce strain on your joints as you exercise.
  • Take caution with heavy loads. When you lift or carry heavy items, use your strongest joints and muscles to lessen the strain on your smaller hand joints. Use the palms of both hands or your arms when you lift. And, if possible, slide objects instead of lifting them.
  • Take your vitamins. Having a healthy diet is one step toward joint health, but supplementing your diet with a multivitamin is a great way to get nutrients your diet might lack. Calcium and vitamin K build strong bones, vitamin C repairs tissue, and vitamin E can help relieve pain.

Physical Therapy at Home

Simple exercises can build your muscle strength to help support weak joints. In addition to physical therapy services at Frederick Health, there are exercises you can try at home to improve your joint and bone health:

  • Hamstring stretch (to help you stay flexible, improve range of motion, and lower your odds of pain and injuries). Lie down, loop a bed sheet around your right foot. With a straightened leg, use the sheet to pull your leg up. Hold it for 20 seconds, then lower your leg. Repeat twice, and switch legs.
  • Straight leg raise (to build muscle strength and support weak joints). Lie on the floor, supporting your upper body with your elbows. Bend your left knee with your foot on the floor. Keep your right leg straight with your toes pointed up. Tighten your thigh muscles and raise your right leg. Pause for three seconds, then slowly lower your leg to the ground. Do two sets of 10 repetitions, then switch your legs after set.
  • Quad sets. If the straight leg raise is too tough, try quad sets instead. With these, you don’t need to raise your leg. Simply lie on the floor on your back, with both legs on the ground. Flex and hold your left leg tense for five seconds, then relax. Do two sets of 10 repetitions, and switch legs after each set.
  • Seated hip march (for stronger hip and thigh muscles). Sit up straight in a chair and kick your left foot back slightly with your toes on the floor. Lift your right foot off the floor, knee bent. Hold your right leg in the air for three seconds, then slowly lower your foot to the ground. Do two sets of 10 repetitions, then switch legs after each set. You can also use your hands to help lift your leg.
  • Pillow squeeze (to strengthen the inside of your legs to help support your knees). Lie on your back with both knees bent. Place a pillow between your knees and squeeze your knees together. Hold for five seconds, relax, and repeat with two sets of 10 repetitions. Switch legs after each set. You can also do this exercise while seated.
  • One leg balance (to help you bend over and get in and out of cars). Stand behind your kitchen counter without holding it, and slowly lift one foot off the floor. Your goal is to stay balanced for 20 seconds without grabbing the counter. Do this twice, then switch sides. If this exercise is too easy, try balancing for a longer time or closing your eyes.
  • Sit to stand (to make standing easier). Put two pillows on a chair and sit on top, with your back straight and feet flat on the floor. Use your leg muscles to slowly stand up tall. Then lower again to sit. Be sure your bent knees don’t move ahead of your toes. If this exercise is too challenging, add more pillows, or use a chair with armrests.
  • Step-ups (to make stair climbing easier). Stand in front of your stairs and hold the railing for balance. Place your left foot on a step, then tighten your left thigh muscle and step up, touching your right foot to the step. Keep your muscles tight as you slowly lower your right foot. Touch the floor, lifting again. Do two sets of 10 repetitions and switch legs after each set.
  • Walking (for overall joint and bone health). Walking works wonders for easing joint pain, strengthening muscles, and improving your posture and flexibility.

In general, aim for 30 minutes or more of exercise each day. If you are not currently active, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program. While some mild muscle soreness is normal at first when starting a new routine, you should never ignore joint pain—let your doctor know if you experience any.

We’re Here to Help

You don’t have to work toward better joint health alone. Frederick Health’s dedicated Joint Works center features a talented team of expert physicians, nurses, and rehabilitation therapists who treat joint replacement patients daily.

Specifically designed for joint replacement, recovery, and rehabilitation, the Joint Works program includes:

  • Pre-surgery patient education
  • Participating surgeon
  • Dedicated nursing and rehabilitation staff
  • Pre-admission screening
  • Perioperative services
  • Discharge planning
  • Private rooms
  • Frederick Health Home Health Planning and Case Management services

Before joining the program and before surgery, you must attend a three-hour pre-surgical patient education class. Because family involvement is vital to us, your family and friends are encouraged to participate in this class and be involved in all stages of Joint Works rehabilitation therapies.

Surgery is performed on designated days of the week, which allows you to move through a carefully designed course of individual and group therapy. Depending on the type of surgery, you may be able to return home in less than 24 hours, or you may anticipate a one- or two-day inpatient recovery.

If joint or bone problems affect your ability to live life to its fullest, talk to your doctor. Our team can help you be more comfortable, mobile, and pain-free with the right care and treatment.