5 tips for healthy joints

by Hector Tan (htan@sph.com.sg)
published on 03 August 2016

Manage your joint health with these handy checklist.

 

Feeling sti­ffness and aches in your joints?

Dr Paul Thng, 51, a senior consultant orthopaedic surgeon and medical director at a clinic that specialises in providing orthopaedic treatment service, said: “Healthy joints are integral to our health as they contribute to our overall physical and mental wellness.

Having aching or painful joints will a­ffect our emotional and mental state of mind.”

 

WARNING SIGNS

Dr Thng highlighted some of the common signs that may hint that your joints require immediate care:

• Pain

This may suggest there is an internal derangement of the joint, often due to wear and tear of the cartilage, ligament injury, or inflammation of surrounding tissues like tendons or fractured bones.

• Swelling

This occurs when there is an accumulation of blood or fluids, either due to repeated injuries or conditions that cause tissues to degenerate.

• Stiffness

This results when a part of the knee jams into the joint, limiting one's ability to bend or straighten the knee. Otherwise known as “locking”, this commonly occurs when there is a torn meniscus.

• Instability

When there is damage to a major stabilising element of the joint, like the ligament or bone, instability may result. One common example is shoulder dislocation, which can occur when the ligaments are overstretched or damaged.

 

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

Dr Thng said: “The best way to care for your joints is to eat right, exercise, know your limits and keep your muscles, ligaments, and bones strong and stable.”

Here are some areas to pay attention to for good joint health.

 

1. Watch your posture

Be aware of your posture when sitting, standing, or walking.

Dr Thng said: “This is important for people who sit at their desks for prolonged periods of time. Bad posture adds stress to joints, causing pain, and increases the chances of injury, as well as wear and tear.

“For example, when you are seated, keep your back straight. Ensure that you have good back support to reduce the stress on your joints and back muscles.”

2. Have an exercise regime that suits you

Dr Thng advised exercising according to your level of fitness and health objectives.

He said: “The level of intensity of the exercise depends on what you want to achieve. For example, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both moderate and vigorous activity weekly, to improve overall cardiovascular health.”

Take your health limitations into consideration before exercising too.

Dr Thng said: “People with certain conditions should avoid specific exercises. For example, it is best for a person with a bad back to avoid doing sit-ups. I would recommend he or she does crunches or leg raises instead to reduce the stress on his or her lower back.”

 

3. Have a balanced diet

A healthy diet provides the necessary nutrients for strong bones and joints.

“Take foods rich in calcium and vitamin D to help strengthen your bones. This in turn helps your joints healthy,” said Dr Thng.

Note that there are foods that should be avoided if a person is suff­ering from joint conditions, such as gout.

He said: “It is advisable for gout patients to consume less red meat, alcohol and soya products. Such foods may cause gout to recur, which may cause damage to the a­ected joints.”

 

4. Keep to a regular exercise schedule

Bone and muscles provide the support and means for the joints to move.

Dr Thng said: “Exercise regularly to maintain the health of your bone and muscles as they provide support to your joints.

“Having a consistent exercise schedule will decrease the chances of joint injury. It is better than engaging in intensive exercises every once in awhile.”

 

5. Know your limits

Understand the physical requirements of any sporting activity before you take it on.

Dr Thng said: “Begin any activity in baby steps. It is important to progress gradually in terms of strength and fitness to minimise the risk of injury.”

For example, a person should build up his or her strength levels first if a sport requires a certain level of skill.

Or try simpler activities to get used to the nature of the sport before taking it on at a more intensive pace.

Running marathons, for example, would typically require four to six months of training. If you want to participate in a triathlon, be sure to factor in periods of rest for your muscles to recover.

Dr Thng said: “For beginners in higher-level sports like long distance running or cycling, I would recommend having one full day of rest per week.

“It is also prudent to seek a professional trainer’s advice to develop a training regime that is appropriate. It should match your basic ability to run or cycle, so that steady levels of progress can be achieved.”

This article provides general information only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult medical or healthcare professionals for advice on health-related matters.