Joint Health

Person's hands folded over each other, emphasising the joints in the hands
Healthy joints are vital for staying mobile throughout your life and doing the sports and other activities you enjoy. Over time your joints go through wear and tear, but there’s plenty you can do now to protect and strengthen them.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Healthy joints are vital for staying mobile throughout your life and doing the sports and other activities you enjoy. Over time your joints go through wear and tear, but there’s plenty you can do now to protect and strengthen them.

CONTENTS
Back to top

Person with a painful knee joint

OVERVIEW
Back to top

A joint is where two or more bones “join”, or meet, connected by ligaments and muscles for stability.
Cartilage, the smooth, connective tissue covering the ends of the joint bones, allows them to glide over each other when they move and helps distribute compression forces.1
Most of us don’t give our joints much thought until they start hurting. But looking after them from early on can help alleviate problems that might occur as you get older, with benefits for your mobility and overall health.2

JOINT PROBLEMS
Back to top
Certain diseases, as well as overuse and injury, can cause joint swelling, pain and inflammation.
“Arthritis” means joint inflammation, but the term often refers to joint disorders broadly. There are many types of arthritis; the most common, especially among older people, is osteoarthritis. In this condition, the cartilage wears away, causing the bones to rub together and leading to pain, swelling and loss of motion.
There are treatments for arthritis, but proactive prevention is the best way to help avoid and alleviate these problems.1

 

Grandmother and grandfather planting herbs with their grandchild

KEEPING YOUR JOINTS HEALTHY
Back to top
Tackle problems early
Joint pain may have a simple cause, such as incorrect form when exercising. Or it may indicate a more complex problem, such as early-onset osteoarthritis.
See your doctor if you have a joint injury, or experience any arthritis warning signs:

 

Infographic related to problems with joints

 

STAY ACTIVE
Back to top
Regular exercise keeps the muscles around your joints strong and working well. People who already have arthritis also benefit from exercise, which helps increase mobility and reduce disability.1
Exercise tips for healthy joints:

  • If you haven’t exercised for a while, first consult your doctor or physical therapist.
  • Aim for a balance of aerobic (cardiovascular) activity, flexibility exercises and muscle strengthening. Cross-training is one way to add variety to your routine, because you do different activities each time you work out.
  • Warm up and stretch for about five minutes before and after aerobic or strength training. This raises blood flow to the muscles, increasing flexibility and range of motion, and reducing risk for strain and overloading.
  • Active stretching exercises such as yoga, tai chi and Pilates help joints handle more intense exercise.
  • Begin aerobic exercises at relatively low intensity. As you age, avoid high impact training such as step aerobics or running on hard surfaces.
  • Choose exercises that don’t overload the joints, and strengthen your core muscles – this improves posture which also reduces joint stress. Low-impact activities e.g. cycling, walking and swimming burn calories without pounding your joints.
  • Low-impact gym equipment includes the elliptical trainer, stair climber and stationary cycle.
  • Weight training keeps your muscles strong and allows for good joint stability, but proper form is critical, as is starting with low loads and higher repetitions.1,2,4

Keep joint health in mind during all daily activities, not only when you’re exercising:

 

Helpful Hints:
  • Take breaks and stretch every 30 minutes or so from sitting or standing for long periods.
  • Handle heavy loads with care. Use your strongest joints and muscles to take stress off more vulnerable areas and spread the load over large surface areas. When lifting or carrying items, hold them close to your body. Slide objects whenever possible rather than lifting them.
  • Choose comfortable, supportive shoes. Wear high heels only occasionally, if you must: 3-inch (7.6cm) heels stress the feet seven times more than 1-inch (2.5cm) heels. Heels also stress your knees and may raise risk for developing osteoarthritis.5

 

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Back to top

Together with exercise, a balanced diet will help you maintain a healthy body weight. Reducing excess weight reduces stress on your joints: every extra kilogram gained puts four times the stress on your knees, but losing as little as 5kg can reduce risk of osteoarthritis of the knee by 50%.1,5
Being underweight, too, may mean you may lack sufficient muscle to keep your joints strong and stable.
Get a doctor’s or dietitian’s help to find a suitable eating plan. Research suggests dietary approaches for reducing inflammation and keeping joints strong are whole-food and plant-based, and its important to avoid refined and processed foods. The Mediterranean diet is a well-studied option: high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and unsaturated fats; moderate amounts of fish; and modest levels of dairy, eggs and poultry. 2,6

Certain foods and supplements may be particularly helpful in relieving any problems:
  • Omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish (e.g. salmon, trout, sardines) and fish oil supplements have anti-inflammatory benefits. Plant sources include flax seeds, chia seeds and soybeans.
  • Many cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and similar green leafy vegetables) contain sulphur, essential to bones, muscles, cartilage and connective tissue. The sulphur compound sulphoraphane has been found to block an enzyme that causes joint pain and inflammation.2.6
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about dietary supplements to get the nutrients needed for optimal joint health. For example, supplements containing Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) are thought to be effective against osteoarthritis and joint pain because of its high sulphur content7 and its ability to combat inflammation and oxidative stress at the transcriptional and subcellular level.8
  • Turmeric and ginger are noted for their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Drink water instead of sodas and energy drinks to deliver better hydration to your joints and heart. Water makes up about 80% of cartilage. 2.6

 




Joint health brochure - Medical references

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

For more health information

Click on the body area you want to know more about. Select a related health topic from the menu

Select a body area
Head
Chest
Abdomen
Pelvis
Legs
Feet
Mental Health
Skin
General
Infant Health
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Causes of restlessness in ....
Flu
Flu
There has been a steady increase in the number of flu cases reported recently. This is unusual because the flu season usually runs from March to ....
Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea
When is a runny tummy actually diarrhoea, and when to use an ....
Sinus
Sinus
Sinuses are spaces in the bones of your cheeks, your forehead and your ....