Your Guide to Better Joints
Have you thought about your joints today? Your joints are incredible. They cushion and keep your movement smooth where the bones meet, and the lucky ones among us hardly think about them at all!
Unfortunately, many more individuals struggle with joint pain daily. These aches and pains can develop from a variety of internal and external factors.
Joint Pain Issues and Symptoms
There are many types of joint conditions and they all have different origins and results.
Arthritis is a disease involving the inflammation of the joints— and many kinds of inflammation fall under this category. Some common symptoms involved with arthritis are fever, swelling, stiffness, redness of the skin, and limited movement of the joint. These are also symptoms of general joint issues. Here are a few subcategories of arthritis: (1,2)
- Infectious arthritis is a development where a joint is inflamed and exposed to serious damage because of a microbial infection. This can be caused by direct contamination (like an external cut or a surgical cut), or it can be introduced through the bloodstream, and can also be caused by a nearby bone infection (like osteomyelitis). (1, 3)
- Osteoarthritis is congenital, which means that this disease is found in aging patients. This type of arthritis wears down the joint and bone and is known to worsen with age. Small fractures and splinters of the bone (osteophytes) create a wide range of pain and stiffness. This disease can affect all joints of the body but is commonly seen in the spine, hips, knees, wrists, fingers, and toes. (1,3)
- Rheumatoid arthritis is so far unknown in origin. This autoimmune disease can appear at any time in a person’s lifespan, but it is most commonly found in patients in their 40’s and 50’s. Children can get what’s called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis as well. Rheumatoid arthritis affects both sides of the body and can affect any joint, though it’s mostly found to be in the hands, wrists, and knees. (1,3)
Hereditary Joint Health
Now that we have a few joint diseases listed to think about, naturally, it is common to ask, “Could I be affected by one of these things?”
Genetics do play a big role in health throughout the course of a lifetime. Some common genetic joint and musculoskeletal disorders are:
- Gout: A condition where sodium acid urate crystals bunch up around the joints. This happens due to an error in the metabolism of the body and can be incredibly painful. This disease is commonly found around the big toe and can appear suddenly without any indication as to the cause. (1,3)
- Chondrocalcinosis: Known as “pseudogout” or (false gout) chondrocalcinosis deposits calcium pyrophosphate instead of the sodium acid urate into the joints. This condition can be painful or completely undetected. (1,3)
- Ochronotic Arthropathy: This disorder also points to an imbalance of metabolism. Mistakenly, the hyaline cartilage (found in the spine, ribs, and facial cartilage) breaks down and deposits both amino acid tyrosine and phenylalanine into the urine. When exposed to air, the urine turns black. Over time ochronotic arthropathyaffects the spine and peripheral joints to break down faster than normal aging joints. (1,3)
Biological sex is relevant to specific joint diseases.
- Women are often more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
- Men tend to be more susceptible to gout. (1,3)
Age is the most likely factor to impact joint health. For example:
- Repeated injury can mean that aging joints appear sooner and more severely than a person without.
- Osteoarthritis increases with age due to grinding and wearing out of cartilage between joints. The simple act of moving our bodies from point A to point B every day can create wear and tear.
- Rheumatoid arthritis risks increase in middle age and tend to worsen.
- Gout is often the result of metabolic changes due to aging. (1,3)
Joints and Environment
Joints may be put through more stress by the environment,from the climate to barometric pressure and other factors. The stress effect can be genetic or injury-specific. This anomaly has been investigated with mixed results.
- Anecdotal accounts were made through an incremental 10-degree temperature drop, as well as humidity, and barometric changes. These changes were claimed to increase and decrease pain levels in the hip, specifically for the patients tested. (4, 5)
- Osteoarthritis, as well as old repeated injuries to the bone and cartilage, seem to be the most connected afflictions in these studies.
- Orthopedic surgeons consistently report higher pain levels in their patients when rainy weather is present. (6)
Foods for Joints
It’s amazing to see how connected our bodies are with our diet choices. Here are a few foods that can help improve joint health:
Foods That Can Support Healthy Joints:
- Cherries: Cherries’ dark color is made up of anthocyanins (a pigment) that naturally cut back on inflammation. Dark-colored fruits like blueberries can also have the same effect. (7, 8)
- Turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger: Turmeric contains curcumin. This has similar effects as ibuprofen and can assist joint aches and sensitivity. Cinnamon and ginger have similar properties as turmeric. (7)
- Red peppers, tomatoes, and citrus: These foods have high levels of vitamin C, which helps protect collagen. Collagen makes up a great portion of the body’s cartilage and can help repair it gradually. (9)
- Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is one of the few cooking oils available to us that doesn’t create inflammation. It is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids. (7)
- Kale: Dark leafy greens within the cabbage family, like kale, are full of vitamin C as well as antioxidants and calcium. These are great for assisting bone health. (7)
- Bone broth: This liquid is incredibly healthy for bones and joints because it’s rich in amino acids and gelatin containing glucosamine. This food reduces joint pain and arthritic symptoms.(7)
- Salmon: High in omega-3s, this protein-packed food assists the health of bones and could prevent splintering.(7)
Foods That Can Make Joint Pain Worse:
- Salt, sugar, and refined grains: These types of processed ingredients in food are common and can add up quickly. Eating whole, unprocessed food and cooking at home can help cut out these pesky ingredients and can greatly improve joint health. (2)
- Trans-fat foods: These unhealthy fats fuel inflammation, raise bad cholesterol levels and are common in junk food like chips, cookies, and fast food. Convenience food has preservatives that are made up of trans-fats. (10)
- Overeating: Arthritis is closely linked with how much strain is put on the joints, and that is linked with obesity. Extra weight stacked upon the cartilage supporting bones is a big factor in the degradation of joints. This is especially true in the hips, spine, and knees. (2)
Exercise for Joint Pain
Eating cleaner is only part of the equation for bettering joint health. Exercise can also help bring down pain and injury complications with arthritis and general joint discomfort. Here are a few things to keep in mind that can minimize injury and support physical activity
- Wear right-size shoes: When ankles and feet are paired with ill-fitting shoes, strain and improperly distributed weight can hurt joints and ligaments. Make sure to get the right kind of shoe to avoid unnecessary injuries especially while exercising. (11)
- Stretch before starting: Injuries are more likely to happen if we don’t stretch before working out. Take the time to stretch the arms, legs, and back gradually. Stretching can improve flexibility with time. (12)
- Range of motion exercises: Squats, bends, and yoga are all great for flexibility and can be modified to be gentle for beginners. (12)
- Low impact exercises: Bicycling, swimming, walking, and stand up paddle boarding are all low impact forms of exercise that can benefit joints too. (Low impact means that the exercise doesn’t put additional strain or weight on the body.) Exercise helps build muscle to support joints. (12)
- Keep it interesting: We are less likely to exercise if we get bored! Mix it up with a few different varieties and rotate the exercises to keep it interesting. Variety in exercise can also support joint strength.
It is normal to feel discomfort when working out, and feeling a little sore the next day is normal too. Remember to consult with a physician or medical professional prior to beginning any new workout routine, always listen to your body, and stop if any of these symptoms below are experienced:
- An unusual amount of fatigue after exercise
- Sharp pain
- Sudden and increased joint swelling
- Gradual weakness
- Reduced range of motion
- Continuous pain after exercise
When we keep in contact with trained medical professionals, we can keep adjusting our workout routine in ways that support joints best. (12)
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Cartilage. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/cartilage. Published March 13, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2020.
- Team the HE. Foods to Avoid with Arthritis. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/foods-to-avoid-with-arthritis. Published August 6, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- Sokoloff L. Joint disease. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/joint-disease. Published August 24, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- Dorleijn DM, Bierma-Zeinstra SM, Bos PK, et al. Associations between weather conditions and clinical symptoms in patients with hip osteoarthritis: a 2-year cohort study. Pain. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24462921/. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- J MAT, Fletcher, Schmid CH, Formica M. Changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature influence osteoarthritis pain. The American journal of medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17466654/. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- Minorkle D, Robin, Kevin, Finn M. How Cherries Help Fight Arthritis. Living With Arthritis. http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet-cherries/. Published February 16, 2016. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- 10 Foods That Help Reduce Joint Pain. Cary Orthopaedics. https://www.caryortho.com/10-foods-that-help-reduce-joint-pain/. Published January 18, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- Pietrangelo A. Arthritis and Weather: Is There a Connection? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/arthritis-weather. Published August 20, 2018. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- Eustice C. Does Vitamin C Have a Positive or Negative Effect on Arthritis? Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-effects-of-vitamin-c-on-arthritis-190257. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- Trans Fats. www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- Healthy Joints Matter. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/kids/healthy-joints. Published July 22, 2019. Accessed September 25, 2020.
- Vandever L. Easy Exercises for Knee Arthritis. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/osteoarthritis/easy-excercises-knee?c=247742407196. Published March 8, 2019. Accessed September 25, 2020.