Long-term solutions to protect joints
Periodic aches and pains can affect anyone. Individuals who are physically active and even those who live largely sedentary lifestyles may experience pain from time to time. In fact, many professional and amateur athletes experience relatively minor, short-term injuries at one point or another, and rest is often the best remedy to overcome such obstacles.
Though minor tweaks may be somewhat normal, long-term issues like persistent joint pain should not be written off as par for the course. It can be tempting to write joint pain off as a concern only serious athletes need to worry about. Terms like “tennis elbow” and “runner’s knee” can give less physically active individuals a false impression of joint pain and what causes it. But the Mayo Clinic notes that lack of exercise can contribute to pain and stiffness in the joints. That’s because exercise strengthens the muscles and tissues that surround the joints. That added strength puts less stress on the joints.
In recognition of the threat posed by chronic joint pain, the Arthritis Foundation® recommends individuals take various steps to protect their joints over the long haul.
• Focus less on fashion in regard to footwear. High heels may be the epitome of glamorous footwear, but women who routinely wear high heels will pay a steep price. The AF notes that heels put added stress on the knees and increase risk for osteoporosis, and experts indicate that three-inch heels are seven times more stressful on feet than one-inch heels. But women aren’t the only ones whose footwear fashion sense could be hurting their joints. Men also must pay attention to what they’re putting on their feet. For example, sandals without a back strap force toes to overgrip the edge of the sandal, putting needless strain on each foot and potentially causing issues with the toes.
• Alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. Joint stiffness and strain can develop when individuals spend lengthy periods of time sitting or standing. The AF recommends taking a break to stand up or sit down every 30 minutes. Professionals who sit at a desk all day may want to switch to height-adjustable desks that make it easy for them to transition from sitting to standing and still get their work done.
• Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight causes a ripple effect that impacts the entire body, including the joints. The AF notes that researchers have determined that losing 11 pounds can reduce risk for osteoarthritis of the knee by 50 percent. On the flip side, each extra pound an individual carries puts four times the stress on his or her knees. Exercising to lose weight can provide the added benefit of preventing joint stiffness.
• Opt for low-impact activities. Low-impact activities like cycling and swimming are easier on the joints than fitness classes that involve high-intensity dancing and kickboxing. In addition, when choosing between a treadmill and elliptical machine, the Mayo Clinic notes that ellipticals are generally considered low-impact machines that are less stressful on the knees, hips and back than running on a treadmill or even outdoors.
Various strategies can help individuals maintain healthy, pain-free joints over the long haul.
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