Keeping your joints healthy will allow you to run, walk, jump, play sports – and do all the other things you like to do. How do you keep them in good health for many years to come?
What is a joint?
A joint is where two or more bones connect. Joints can be rigid, like the ones in the middle of the bones in your skull, or movable, like hips, knees and shoulders.
Multiple joints have cartilage on the ends of the bones where they fuse. Healthy cartilage helps in movement by letting bones glide over one another. It also defends bones by preventing them from rubbing against each other.
Some best practices to keep joints in tip-top shape are physical activity, a balanced diet, steering clear of injuries and getting plenty of sleep . However, other external factors could affect your joint health, especially as you age.
What can go wrong?
Some people get arthritis. This term refers to any condition affecting the joints. In spite of the fact that people might think arthritis only affects only older people, it can affect young people, too and there are various forms of arthritis:
- Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, especially among older people. In osteoarthritis, the joint surface cartilage breaks down and wears away, allowing the bones to rub together. This causes swelling, swelling, motion loss in the joint. On occasion, it can be triggered by an injury to a joint, such as a knee injury that damages the cartilage.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: known as an autoimmune disease, wherein the immune system attacks the tissues of the joints as if they were the enemy. This results in sweling, pain, stiffness and function loss in the joints. Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis may also feel tired and sick, and they sometimes get fevers. It can permanently damage the joints and sometimes affects the heart, lungs or other organs.
- Gout: a form of arthritis brought about by a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints, most commonly in the big toe. It can be excruciating. There are other effective treatments for gout that can reduce disability and pain.
- Juvenile arthritis: a term often used to describe arthritis in children. Children can get almost all types of arthritis that affect adults, but the most common type that affects children is juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
- Other forms of arthritis: may be linked to conditions like lupus, fibromyalgia, psoriasis or certain infections. In addition, other conditions might affect the bones or muscles around a joint, causing problems in that joint.
Joint pain can also be caused by:
- An infection of the bone or joint
- An injury
- Bursitis (swelling of the cushioning pads around joints)
- Certain infectious diseases (influenza, hepatitis and mumps)
- Chondromalacia of the patella (or a breakdown of the cartilage in the kneecap)
- Tendinitis, or inflammation of the tendon
- Overuse of a joint
What are some symptoms of joint pain?
Sometimes, your joint pain will warrant a visit to your doctor. You should book an appointment if you don’t know the cause of your joint pain and are experiencing other unexplained symptoms .
Schedule an appointment with your medical practitioner if:
- The area around the joint is red, swollen, tender or warm to the touch
- The pain lasts for three days or more
- You have a fever but no additional flu symptoms
Go straight to the emergency room if any of the following occurs:
- Swelling of the joint occurs suddenly
- The joint appears deformed
- The joint is completely immobile
- You have severe joint pain
- You’ve experienced a severe injury
How is joint pain identified?
Your doctor will presumably conduct a physical examination. They’ll also ask you about some details of your joint pain, which may help narrow down the potential causes.
A joint x-ray may be required to specify arthritis-related joint damage.
If your doctor suspects further cause, they may request a blood test to identify possible autoimmune disorders. They may also order a sedimentation rate test to gauge the level of inflammation in the body or a complete blood count.
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How to keep your joints healthy?
Physical activity: being physically active is one of the critical things you can do to maintain healthy joints. Regular exercise supports keeping the muscles around your joints strong and working as they should.
Even people with arthritis can profit from regular physical activity, which will help decrease disability and keep the joints working well. Younger people (like children and teenagers) should get an hour or more of physical activity daily.
Also, remember to wear the proper protective equipment when exercising or playing sports to avoid joint injury. Note that knee injuries early in life can later lead to osteoarthritis, so those protective pads and shoes that fit well make a big difference.
It’s also essential to strech and do some warm up before exercising. If you have other health-related concerns, talk to your doctor or a physical therapist to find out what activities suit you.
Follow a healthy diet: Physical activity and a balanced diet will aid in weight management. Avoiding extra weight puts less stress on your joints, especially on your feet, hips and knees. This can help lower the wear and tear that may lead to osteoarthritis later in life.
There is no distinct diet that will prevent or cure arthritis. Regardless, consuming a balanced diet will help handle your weight and provide a combination of nutrients for overall health.
A balanced diet:
- Balances calories from food with calories burned in physical activity to help sustain a healthy weight.
- Highlights fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products (cheese, milk and yoghurt)
- Includes protein from beans, eggs, lean meats, nuts, poultry and seafood
- Is as low as possible in trans fats.
- Is low in added sugars, cholesterol, refined grains, salt (sodium), saturated fats and solid fats
Medical treatment or supplements: your treatment alternatives will rely on the source of pain. In some cases, your doctor will need to draw out accumulated fluid in the joint area to evaluate for infection, gout, or other causes of joint pain. They might also suggest surgery to replace the joint.
Other nonsurgical treatment methods could include supplementation, medication or lifestyle changes that can potentially cause conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) into remission.
In the case of RA, the first thing to manage is inflammation. Once it goes into remission, treatment will focus on maintaining a tight rein on your condition to avoid flare-ups.
Aging and the process of mitophagy
The more you age, the more common it is to experience mild soreness or aching when you :
- Climb stairs
Unfortunately, your body doesn’t recover as quickly as it did, and, in addition, cartilage naturally declines with age, and stiffness, specifically after sitting or lying down for a long time, is one of the most common symptoms in people with osteoarthritis.
As your body’s natural shock absorbers wear out, your joints can less absorb the demands our lives place on them. Muscle tone and bone strength also reduce with age, making physically demanding tasks more complex and taxing on your body.
The same goes for our cells, involving our mitochondria or tiny organelles behind the production of energy. These minute powerhouses transport oxygen and glucose to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy our bodies use for movement, growth and repair.
As with all things, mitochondria also get old and worn out. This so-called reduction in function is one of the marks of aging and connects to other processes, including:
- Cellular senescence
- Genomic instability
- Telomere dysfunction
Clearing and recycling dysfunctional mitochondria is also known as a selective autophagy process called mitophagy.
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The worms’ mobility also improved with age and extended activity. Urolithin A also improved exercise capacity in mice with age-related muscle decline.
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A recent study points out that urolithin A can play an essential part in enhancing muscles and extending activity, which is particularly significant as muscles decline with age, exposing us to the risks of frailty.
Muscle function and muscle balance aid in absorbing forces that impact the joints. Muscles that work well may guard joints against extreme wear and tear .
You can follow various practices to ensure your joints remain healthy. It can be through tweaking your diet, taking supplements or ensuring you get enough physical activity. Additionally, listen to your body and consult your doctor before trying anything.
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.