Your joints undergo heavy use throughout your life. Genetics, occupation, and personal anatomy all play a role in how your joints hold up over the years – factors that are largely not in your control. Fortunately, there are certain habits you can adopt to help stave off joint discomfort as you age.
Not taking care of your joints can result in pain and reduced mobility. This, in turn, can have a detrimental effect on things we take for granted in life, such as going to the bathroom or taking a stroll around the block.
If this is something that you worry about, then read on to learn about what makes our joints tick and then explore the types of habits that may improve how joints function today and later in life.
Types of Joints in Your Body
When people talk about their joints pain, they are most often referring to hip and knee joints. There are actually three main categories of joints in your body: Fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial. Fibrous joints are held together by only a ligament. These include sutures in the back of your skull, the membrane between bones in your forearm, and even the specialized joint that anchors a tooth to its socket in the jaw.
As the name implies, cartilaginous joints are connected entirely by cartilage. These joints allow for more movement than Fibrous joints. A common example of a cartilaginous joint is the one that connects your sternum (breastbone) to your manubrium above your sternum. Intervertebral joints, which are between the vertebrae of your back, are also cartilaginous joints.
The third category is Synovial joints. This is the most common joint category, and the type most likely to flare up from overuse because there are fewer ligaments present to absorb friction. Synovial joints are generally also the most visible joints. Prime examples are hinge joints, such as the knee and elbow, and ball and socket joints such as the shoulders and hips. Saddle, condyloid and gliding joints can all be found in the hand, while a pivot joint is found at the top of the neck.
How to Prevent Joint Discomfort Due to Aging
There are many causes of joint discomfort that are related to disease and disorders, but that’s not our focus today. If you think you have a chronic joint issue, you should consult with a primary care physician. But if you only experience joint pain occasionally, what follows are pieces of everyday advice you may wish to put into practice to support your joint health.
Healthy joint habits begin with mindfulness. This includes limiting strain on your joints by lifting using your large muscle groups – not your back. Try not to leave your neck at an odd angle for long periods of time. This includes time spent looking at a computer – monitors should be at eye level. Especially if you spend a lot of time at a computer, you may want to invest in wrist guards for your keyboard to protect your wrists.
Next, it’s time for a fashion check. Are the shoes you wear on a daily basis giving you enough support? Some people make the mistake of not protecting their arches which leads to foot and ankle pain. Shoes with good support are a must if you are in a line of work that requires being on your feet for several hours. Support with formal wear, even if worn on rare occasion, isn’t something to be ignored either; keep high heels in the closet and go with flats to avoid putting undue pressure on your ankles and knees.
Exercise is a non-negotiable for a healthy lifestyle, but there are ways of exercising without causing harm to joints. Warming up before exercising is always wise, as is stretching before and after a workout. The flexibility that comes from yoga is perfect for supporting joint health. It may also be an option to get a personal trainer who can lead you through low-impact exercises. A warm bath after exercising or a hard day of work can also be a good way to relax and soothe your joints – add Epsom salts or magnesium flakes or additional support.
Perhaps it should go without saying, but like any area of fitness your diet is key to the health of your joints. Extra weight carried on your frame does your joints no favors. Eating healthier will make it easier to manage your weight, which will be especially important later in life when losing weight becomes more difficult.
As you can see there is actually quite a bit you can do to limit joint discomfort during aging. Some medical professionals also suggest calcium supplements to strengthen your bones. Be mindful of your joints by staying active and having smart daily behaviors. Don’t skimp out on a quality pair of shoes. Some aspects of joint health are out of your control, but many of them are not.