Whether you are jumping into action as a weekend sports warrior, getting regular exercise or just going through your daily activities, movement is an important part of your regular routine.
If you are like most people, you probably give credit to your bones and muscles for the strength and power to move. But how often do you think about the connections that make all that flexibility possible?
Our joints are the intersections where two or more bones come together such as the knee, hip, shoulder and fingers. The ends of our bones are covered with cartilage that provides a cushion so our bones glide over each other instead of rubbing together.
Joints can become painful if they are inflamed or damaged. But there are things you can do to help keep your joints healthy.
Test your joint health awareness with this quiz from New York City family physician Dr. Cathleen London.
1) True or False: Processed foods are bad for knees and other joints.
If you said True, you are correct. Dr. London says processed foods often contain trans-fat, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and preservatives that can increase inflammation throughout the body including your joints.
So when possible, avoid processed foods like lunch meats, high-sodium canned foods or soups, sugary breakfast cereals and packaged snacks like chips or candy. But don’t think all processed foods are bad. Some processed foods like milk, frozen vegetables and 100 percent whole grain bread can be good choices for a healthy diet.
2) True or False: Stretching is one of the best ways to maintain joint health.
If you said True, you are right again. Dr. London says stretching when your muscles are warm is a good way to keep your muscles and ligaments strong and flexible.
3) True or False: Glucosamine/chondroitin is the only supplement that works to maintain joint comfort and flexibility.
Don’t believe this one. Dr. London says glucosamine/chondroitin is just one of several safe and effective supplements that can help to support joint flexibility and comfort.
She believes one of the most exciting new options is Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM) which is a safe and convenient source of ingredients essential for healthy joints. Studies show that a single, 500 mg daily dose of NEM is enough to improve joint discomfort and stiffness in as little as 7-10 days. (4)
4) True or False: Building up muscle mass can help protect the joints.
This statement is true. Muscles act as both cushions and shock absorbers for your joints. Without muscle tissue, your joints take a pounding.
Dr. London also recommends exercise as one of the best ways to address arthritis pain — the most common cause of joint pain. She says exercise can help reduce joint pain and stiffness and increase muscle strength and flexibility.
Specific muscle groups can be strengthened to help protect their associated joints. One example is strengthening the hamstrings which run up the back of the leg from the knee to the buttocks to help protect the knee joint.
5) True or False: Never exercise if your joints hurt.
If you said false, you are correct. Dr. London explains that sitting or standing all day can cause joint stiffness. If your career keeps you at your desk or on your feet for hours at a time, try to change positions frequently and take a walk during your breaks. Keep moving!
If you have chronic joint pain, talk to your doctor to learn more about which types of exercise can be safe and effective for you.
Dr. London also emphasizes the important role water plays in joint health. Nearly 70 percent of our body weight is water. Dehydration can lead to achy joints and make you feel exhausted. So make sure you drink plenty of water every day to keep your body and your joints functioning smoothly.
Always seek medical attention for severe or persistent joint pain and for joint pain that is accompanied by swelling, fever or other serious symptoms. If you have questions about your joints, talk to your healthcare professional.
1. Medline Plus. Cartilage Disorders. Web. December 16, 2013.
2. Medline Plus. Joint Disorders. Web. December 16, 2013.
3. About.com: Nutrition. What are Processed Foods? Shereen Jegtvig, MS. Web. December 16, 2013.
4. Ruff KJ, Winkler A, Jackson RW, DeVore DP, Ritz BW. Eggshell membrane in the treatment of pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study. Clin Rheumatol. 2009 Aug;28(8):907-14. doi: 10.1007/s10067-009-1173-4. Epub 2009 Apr 2.
About Dr. London
Cathleen London, M.D., is a board certified family medicine physician. As such, her practice encompasses the entire family, including all ages, both sexes, and any health problems that may arise.
Family Medicine is the first specialty that requires board re-certification by written exam every seven years. As a result, many believe that family physicians are best qualified to serve as each patient’s advocate in all health-related matters, including use of consultants, health services, and community resources.
Dr. London believes in an integrative, holistic approach to health care which utilizes a combination of Western, allopathic medicine, diet and lifestyle modification, nutritional supplements and herbal medicines when appropriate.
She earned her medical degree from Yale University and completed her residency in family medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University. Her pre-medical requirements were completed at Stanford University.
Reviewed December 19, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith