Most of us probably do not think much about our knees, back, shoulders and other joints until they become painful or keep us from doing our daily activities.
“Each season brings its own influx of injuries related to a different set of sports as well as outdoor activities. When people use muscles that they have not used since last year, it can result in painful strains,” says Cathleen London, MD, a family physician and competitive triathlete. “Many of these injuries and inflammations are caused by underlying chronic joint conditions which resurface with renewed activity and resulting inflammation.”
Here is a short quiz to help you determine how much you know about joint health, and the best ways for supporting your joints.
Answer true or false to these 5 questions:
1. Processed foods are bad for knees and other joints.
True. “Processed foods often contain trans fat, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and preservatives that can increase inflammation throughout the body including your joints,” says Dr. London.
2. Stretching is one of the best ways to maintain joint health.
True. “Stretching when warm is a good way to keep your muscles and ligaments strong and flexible.”
3. For maintaining joint comfort and flexibility, the only supplement option shown to work is glucosamine/chondroitin.
False. “There are certainly other safe and effective supplements that help to support joint flexibility and comfort. One of the most exciting new options to improve joint comfort and flexibility is Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM) eggshell membrane, 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 quickly as seven to 10 days.”
4. Building up my muscle mass can help protect my joints.
True. “Muscles act as both cushions and shock absorbers for your joints. Without muscle tissue, your joints take a pounding. One of the best ways to address arthritis pain — the most common cause of joint pain — is exercise. It can help reduce joint pain and stiffness, and increase muscle strength and flexibility. Specific muscle groups can be strengthened to help protect joints (i.e. hamstrings for knees).”
5. Never exercise if your joints hurt.
False. “Sitting or standing all day can cause joint stiffness. If your career keeps you at your desk or at your feet for hours at a time, try to change positions frequently and take a walk during your breaks. Keep moving!”
How did you do? Unless you answered all five questions correctly, you might want to study up on joint health. You will need your joints every day of your life so taking care of them should be a priority.
Dr. London adds that people are often unaware of the role that 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.”
Always seek medical attention for severe or persistent joint pain, and for joint pain that is accompanied by swelling, fever or other serious symptoms.
Biography – Dr. Cathleen London
Cathleen London, M.D., is a board certified family medicine physician in New York City. 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 recertification by written exam every 7 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 healthcare 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.
Dr. London began her career as an actress and model after receiving her undergraduate degree in theater arts and computer science from Brown University.
“The one constant,” she says, “was interest in the human body.”
In 2007, at age 45, Dr. London decided to become more serious about her own fitness. Having achieved the goal of returning to her pre-childbearing body, she decided to train for and start competing in triathlons. Dr. London chose triathlon as a sport due to its being well-rounded: swim, bike and run. Though a competitive college athlete, her prior sports were skiing and fencing – none of the three involved in triathlon. Her decision to ramp up to a new fitness level was both for herself and as an example to others. Given that her training regimen is 10-15 hours per week (on top of a full time practice and motherhood) it is hard for others to tell her they do not have 3 hours to go to the gym etc.
Dr. London completed her first triathlon season in 2008, competing in sprint and Olympic distance races. She has also volunteered for several races, during which she learns about the effects that these events have on the human body. She continues to compete, and has since completed several Olympic distance and half iron distance races.