Bone density (i.e. the bones’ integrity) begins to decline in your 30’s, and progressively worsens throughout the remainder of your life. Similarly, the hard articular cartilage in your joints also will wear out at some point. Those of you who suffer from arthritis pain or have had joint replacements understand this all too well.
In case you’re a little demented, here’s a video of what a joint replacement surgery looks like. As you can see (or imagine), it is very traumatic, and something to be delayed as long as possible. We’ve managed a number of these surgeries, however, and it does tend to be a life-changingly positive event for our clients who have had them.
So here’s what can you do to protect your joints and avoid the operating table. These also apply if you’ve already had a joint replaced:
Don’t Get Hurt!
Articular cartilage damage tends to be hastened by injuries and instability. While avoiding these is easier said than done, identify an acceptable level of risk with the things you do and follow the rest of the recommendations below.
Don’t Ramp up too Quickly
Whether it’s basketball, running, or yard work try to avoid sudden bouts of activities that you are not used to.
Use Correct Technique
“Correct” being the operative word. What is “correct?” We don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that there is a correct way to do anything, or that there are bad exercises, necessarily. But there are exercises and techniques that are bad choices depending on the circumstances, and that’s where we can help come up with the technique that is the best fit for the given situation.
When you don’t move much, you lose both the range and control of that motion. That’s a recipe for joint stress when you do finally get up and active. Today’s wearable activity trackers can usually be set to remind you to get up periodically, which we are big fans of.
Maintain Good Mobility Throughout Your Body
Movement tends to take the path of least resistance. If you have joints that don’t move well, other joints involved in the same movement pattern do more than they should. Excessive movement with poor control is destructive to joints.
Watch out for Excessive Anything
Strive for balance in the way you apply stress to your skeleton. This is particularly important for endurance athletes who repeat a motion millions of times, but it’s also relevant for those who sit or stand constantly. A stand up desk is fine, but 8 hours of standing staring at a computer can be just as destructive as 8 hours of sitting.
“If it hurts….” Don’t do it. Better yet, figure out why it hurts.
Pain is a gift that tells us something isn’t right. We’ve spent tens of thousands of hours working with people like you who have pain when they do certain exercises. Sometimes those exercises can be tweaked slightly and made pain free. Or, maybe it just takes a little work on a mobility restriction. But sometimes, you just have to stop doing that activity. Regardless, don’t keep hammering that thing that hurts.
Focus on What You Can Do
Sometimes shifting your mindset can make a huge difference. Pain is an extraordinarily complicated thing, and your attitude towards it has a big impact on the outcome. Often by changing your outlook toward a new project or activity, you can reduce the tendency to wallow in the misery of a pain cycle and put off a seemingly imminent joint replacement.
Keep Your Weight Down
Forces transmitted across the knee are multiplied when we walk, run, squat and lunge. For instance, each extra pound of body weight is multiplied 2-3x when walking. Those forces are even greater when running, or if your knee alignment is less than ideal. Don’t believe us? Check out this study to learn more.
Eat a Diet that Supports a Healthy Internal Environment
“Inflammation has a huge negative impact on joint health and longevity, and diet has the single biggest impact on inflammation throughout your body. Choose a wholesome diet high in antioxidants and fiber (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains) and low in inflammatory foods (i.e. processed, sugary, low-nutrient foods)” – Sally Twellman RDN, Registered Dietitian at Driven Performance Training.
Strength Train Regularly
Arthritis pain generally means we move less, and when we move less, we get weaker. The weaker we get, the more our arthritis and pain increases. Fortunately you’re never too old or too far gone to get significant improvements in functional capacity and reductions in pain from strength training. Here’s another great study highlighting the benefits of strength training even at an older age.
Still looking for more insight on how to maintain longevity? Feel free to reach out to us – we’d be more than happy to help!