Ways to promote joint health

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arthritic hands
Arthritic hands with painful deformed joints
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You might be lucky, but for most of us joint pain lurks as we age

Joint problems are not inevitable, but as you get older it is very probable that you will experience aches, pains and stiffness in your joints. Osteoarthritis (OA) is degenerative arthritis, or the wear-and-tear form of arthritis. It is the bane of those who have lived past middle age and put a lot of mileage on their bodies. Rheumatoid arthritis is another form of arthritis. It is an autoimmune disorder and can be acquired at any age.

When you have joint pain it is usually because the lining of your joint -- or the synovium -- is inflamed. The lining can become inflamed as a result of a medical condition or an injury. OA ultimately leads to the destruction of your cartilage. When you no longer have cartilage, bone begins wearing against bone and it hurts. Often, you can even hear the grinding of bone on bone.

Arthritic flare ups can be the result of being overly active, as well as being under stress. Flare ups can also be caused by a change in weather. If your joints are telling you that a big storm is brewing, you probably have arthritis. Your joints are very sensitive to a change in barometric pressure. People with inflamed joints are often referred to as "human weather vanes," feeling an oncoming store that non-arthritic people are oblivious to.

To promote joint health, think about biomechanics and how you are using your body. Biomechanics is the science that studies the external and internal forces that act on the body and the outcome these forces produce.

When you do the same movements over and over again, it takes a toll on your joints. If you are walking or standing on hard surfaces for long periods of time this, too, is going to catch up with you in the long run and cause you pain and suffering. If you lift heavy items, do it correctly and not with your back. Learn proper form and this will help reduce the pressure on your joints.

Learning proper body mechanics will stop you from using your body in such a way that it is injuring you. If your finger and hand joints are stiff and painful, consider using your hands and fingers in a different manner when you work so that you are eliminating the stress that you are repeatedly putting on them. Same goes for your feet, legs and back.

Use tools that will minimize the stress on your joints. Get an ergonomic mat to stand on at work. This will give you support. Buy equipment, electronics and furniture that are ergonomically correct or modify the ones that you already have to prevent worsening, or causing, arthritis. Ergonomically correct equipment is designed to prevent injuries that can lead to disability.

Consider what you are eating. There are foods that are called nightshade plants that prompt arthritic flares. These foods include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. Nightshade plants aggravate joint pain because they contain solanine, a chemical that is responsible for the color change in these foods, and which is a poisonous alkaloid and bitter. Solanine inhibits nerve impulses.

Start pampering yourself. Dump some Epsom salts in a bathtub full of warm water and relax. Epsom salts reportedly draws the toxins out of your body. Investigate non-traditional therapies, natural health products, and supplements, like emu oil. Get a massage. Take a nap if you need one. Many people take Ibuprofen or Tylenol for joint pain and that seems to help relieve some of the pain and stiffness. Take up yoga. This form of exercise is gentle enough for older people. It will help you regain strength and flexibility.

Although exercising might seem like the last thing you want to do if your joints are stiff and painful, it will help. The Mayo Clinic explains exercise is excellent treatment for joint pain. Exercise strengthens your muscles, which support your joints. In addition, working out increases your bone mass, which prevents bone fractures from occurring. Exercise gives you more energy and puts you at less risk from becoming depressed. Exercise prompts endorphine production. 

Endorphins are the feel good chemicals in your body. Endorphines actually lower your pain perception by reducing the transmission of signals between nerve cells. In severe cases of arthritis and other joint pain, occupational therapy is often prescribed by a physician.

Of course, one of the primary benefits of exercising is losing weight, and this will very much benefit your bones, and your joints, because you will be putting less pressure on them if you shed some pounds.

The Mayo Clinic: Arthritis
Arthritis Foundation

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