Joint pain may be a common complaint but many people don’t realise how much improvement they could see from small lifestyle changes. We share our top 10 tips to keep your joints healthy and pain-free.
More than 10 million people in the UK are living with joint pain and stiffness. This can range from mild to very severe, and for many people can have a serious impact on their quality of life.
Often joint pain is seen as inevitable, yet in many cases simple lifestyle changes – such as improving your diet or exercising a little more – can actually make a huge improvement.
Whether you’re currently suffering from arthritis or simply looking to protect yourself from future issues, these 10 tips will help you to keep your joints healthy for longer.
1. Keep active
It might seem counter-intuitive, but exercise is one of the best things you can do to look after your joints, even if you suffer from a condition such as arthritis.
Keeping active and maintaining a good level of fitness will help keep your joints supple and healthy. Exercises that put less pressure on the joints include cycling and swimming.
2. Strengthen the muscles around your joints
Building the muscles around your joints can help to support them, meaning you’ll have less chance of pain and stiffness.
A session with a physiotherapist is a good way to learn exercises and stretches that will protect and strengthen your joints as well as improving your fitness.
3. But take it slowly
If you aren’t currently exercising and you try to do too much too soon, you might actually hurt yourself. It’s best to gradually build up to a regular fitness regime.
Remember, even small changes can make a difference. For example, if you don’t exercise at all, try a 10-minute walk each day. If you do a lot of cardio but no strength training, sign up to a beginner’s class.
It’s always a good idea to speak to your GP before making any changes to your fitness regime.
4. Eat well
There is no specific anti-joint pain diet, though certain foods have anti-inflammatory properties that might help to reduce swelling and improve mobility. These include fruit and vegetables, fatty fish and olive oil.
The best way to eat for joint health is to eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients. A Mediterranean-style diet is thought to be one of the healthiest in the world.
5. Drink less alcohol and more water
If you have joint problems, reducing your alcohol intake to the recommended amount of just
14 units per week could make a real difference.
For some people this is because alcohol can exacerbate inflammation in the joints. For others, it’s because alcohol interferes with their medication.
The universal reason is that excessive consumption of alcohol has serious detrimental affects on your health. Most people drink too much, so cutting back is a good place to start.
Replace alcohol with water and your whole body will thank you, not just your joints.
6. Quit smoking
Smoking is bad for your whole body, damaging everything from your circulation to your ability to breathe properly. It can also cause your bones to become weaker.
It is also associated with certain joint issues. For example, studies show a 40% higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis in smokers compared to those who have never smoked.
7. Maintain a healthy weight
If you are overweight and noticing problems with your joints, getting down to a healthy weight could really improve your symptoms.
Losing weight (if you need to) can reduce pressure on your joints as well as reducing pain and swelling.
This is especially true if you’re having issues with your knees. It’s thought that for every pound of weight you lose, four pounds of pressure are taken off your knees.
8. Look after your mental health, too
Stress, anxiety and other mental health issues can affect us physically as well as psychologically. Studies suggest stress can even encourage the symptoms of arthritis.
Take the time to look after yourself mentally, in whatever way works for you.
9. Get enough sleep
There’s a strong link between chronic pain and insomnia, and as many as 80% of people with arthritis have trouble sleeping.
But not only can better sleep reduce joint pain and swelling, lack of sleep can actually make the symptoms worse.
Good sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Establishing a night time routine and making sure you avoid caffeine and electronic lights before bed are a good place to start if you want to improve your sleep hygiene.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Many people ignore problems in their joints until the pain and stiffness becomes a serious problem. The sooner you speak to a specialist the better.
You could speak to your GP or to a consultant, or you could book in for a session with a physiotherapist.
A physiotherapist will work with you to put together a personalised programme of exercises that will build the strength and flexibility in your joints.
At BMI Healthcare our private physio sessions start from just £54. You can call and book yourself in and we aim to see you within 48 hours.