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PREVENT

Tips to keep your joints healthy

Our joints are complex structures that allow us to do all types of movements, from knitting a sweater to walking your dog, and from playing piano to running a marathon. However injuries, strain from repetitive motion, obesity, some health conditions and the effects of aging can interfere with our joints, leading to pain and disability.

The good news is, you can take steps to prevent injuries and maintain your bone and joint health throughout your life.

Keep moving

When it comes to joint health, if you don't use it, you lose it. Think of your joints as the moving parts of a machine. A little bit of lubricant, or oil, keeps your parts in working order. If a machine sits idle for any length of time, the lubricant tends to dry out or thicken and the part no longer functions effectively. Your body's joints also need lubricant to move. This natural lubricant is created by your body, and the more you move, the more lubricant is made by a healthy joint to keep things working.

That's why it's important to exercise; aim for three times a week. Try low-impact activities, such as walking, bicycling and swimming to help keep you in shape. Add in strength training as strong muscles also help protect your joints. Stretch before and after your workout to keep your joints flexible and improve your range of motion.

Maintain a healthy weight

Sometimes the best solution to easing painful joints is to lose weight. Extra weight puts stress on your joints, especially those in your lower body. Every pound of excess weight exerts about four extra pounds of pressure on your joints. That means someone who is 20 pounds overweight has about 80 pounds of extra pressure on their joints.

Eat right

Hand in hand with weight loss goes proper nutrition. Vitamins C, D and K, and the mineral calcium, are important to bone and joint health. Good foods high in these nutrients are kale, broccoli, spinach, squash, red peppers, olive oil, berries, grapes, citrus fruit, low-fat yogurt and milk, and fatty fish such as salmon or sardines.

Stay hydrated

Cartilage, the smooth lining that allows your joints to glide, is 80 percent water. Drinking the recommended 64 ounces of fluid each day, will help keep your joints lubricated.

Get plenty of rest

While it's important to move your joints you also need to rest. Some injuries, such as carpal tunnel or trigger thumb, can be caused by long-term repetitive movement. Resting your joints helps reduce strain from overuse. In addition, adequate sleep helps your body repair and regenerate, so try to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Quit smoking

If you use tobacco products here is another good reason to quit: tobacco smoking can increase your risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

RICE

Most minor joint pain responds well to: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. But if your joint pain doesn't improve or if it worsens, seek an appointment with an orthopedic provider.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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