Joint Health Guide: Improve Mobility and Ease Inflammation
23 minute read
Regardless of your age, joint health matters. After all, your joints play a crucial role in your mobility and independence.
The truth is that joint pain and arthritis aren’t just conditions that affect the older generation. In fact, almost 2/3 of the people in the United States suffering from arthritis are between the age of 18 and 64. So, what does this mean for you? The answer is simple.
It’s time to learn everything you need to know about your joints and what you can do to keep them healthy. To make this easy, we’ve put together Joint Health 101. Let’s get started.
Explore the Joint Health Guide:
Book mark this page to digest it in small doses and get started on your path to better mobility and healthier joints.
Why Is Joint Health Important?
As mentioned above, your joints are a huge factor in your body’s ability to not only move around, but to do so without experiencing pain. Made of fibrous connective tissue, ligaments, and cartilage, joints are the parts in your body where two bones come together, such as your elbow or ankle joint.
Joints also contain synovial fluid, which lines the inner capsule, working together with your cartilage to act as a shock absorber, facilitate easy movement, and to keep your bones from rubbing against each other.
Your body has six types of joints, including:
Hinge joint: Found in your knees and elbows, the hinge joint allows for flexion and extension.
Gliding joint: Situated where bones meet at a flat surface, gliding joints allow bones to glide past one another. They can be found at the junctions of some bones in your wrists and ankles.
Pivot joint: The pivot joint allows one bone to rotate around another, such as at the top of your neck.
Ball and socket joint: A ball and socket joint allows the ball-shaped surface of one bone to fit into another bone’s cup-like depression. This allows you the greatest freedom of motion and includes your shoulders and hips.
Saddle joint: Shaped similar to a horse’s saddle, the saddle joint allows one bone to rest on another bone, much like a rider on a horse. The joints of your thumb are an example.
Condyloid joint: The condyloid joint, which can be found around some of the bones in your wrists, allows one bone’s oval-shaped head to move into the elliptical cavity of another bone.
When your joints are healthy, you are able to move around freely and without assistance. You are flexible and strong, making it easy to do anything from bending your knees and elbows to stretching without experiencing excruciating pain.
On the flip side, when your joints aren’t quite as healthy as they should be, you will find that it is much more difficult to move around and complete everyday activities, reducing your quality of life. Over time, you may even have to require the assistance of others to do even the most mundane tasks or run the risk of injuring yourself.
Common Joint Ailments
Unfortunately, joint ailments are becoming increasingly common, thanks largely to poor diets and a more sedentary lifestyle.
The most common joint ailments include:
Osteoarthritis (OA): More commonly referred to simply as arthritis, this is the most common joint problem experienced by older people, frequently affecting the hands, hips, knees, spine, and even shoulders. However, arthritis isn’t limited to the older population. In fact, by 2040, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predict 78 million adults over the age of 18 in the United States (26% of the population) will have been diagnosed with arthritis by a doctor.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): An autoimmune disorder that may be triggered by genetics, environmental or lifestyle risk favors, or hormones, RA occurs when your own immune system attacks joint tissue and synovial fluid, causing your joints to become swollen, painful, stiff, and red. More common in females, RA often begins to show symptoms when people are between the ages of 30 and 60. Currently, more than 1.3 million people in the United States suffer from this chronic condition.
Gout: Considered to be a form of arthritis, gout occurs when uric acid crystals (a waste product of metabolism) are able to build up and crystallize in your joints, causing intense pain and swelling in that particular joint. Currently, around 8.3 million people in the United States (4% of the population) suffer from gout, though it has become more and more common over the past two decades.
Osteoporosis: Often caused by hormonal changes or a diet lacking vitamin D and calcium, osteoporosis results from the loss of tissue and allows your bones to become brittle, fragile, and at a much higher risk of being fractured. Around 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, which is responsible for around two million broken bones every year.
Less common joint ailments include fibromyalgia, which is characterized by fatigue and musculoskeletal pain/ tenderness in localized areas or all over the body, rotator cuff injuries, tendonitis, and frozen shoulder.
How Aging Affects Joint Health
It’s a fact of life. The older we get, the more our joints are affected, regardless of how healthy you are. Cartilage naturally starts to deteriorate, taking with it the cushion it provides for your joints.
This leaves joints inflamed and more susceptible to stress. At the same time, ligaments lose their elasticity, decreasing your flexibility and restricting your movements.
It is also worth mentioning that your bone density decreases with age, leaving your bones more fragile and at a higher risk of breaking.
Foods that Enhance Joint Mobility
There are quite a few foods that have been shown to help enhance and even improve your joint health. Some of your best (and tastiest) choices include:
Turmeric: This herb has been used since ancient times to help relieve inflammation and pain, as well as a variety of other health conditions. Medical studies show that turmeric is particularly beneficial at relieving soft tissue inflammation caused by arthritis.
| Related: The Story of Turmeric and Curcumin |
In addition, turmeric modifies immune system responses and has been shown to be even more effective at preventing inflammation in the joints than it is as fighting inflammation that has already appeared.
To incorporate turmeric into your daily diet, try sprinkling it on curry, soups, stir-fry vegetables, beans, roasted potatoes, and rice, or take a clinically-proven turmeric supplement.
Apples: Apples are a good source of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that plays many roles in joint health. In multiple studies, researchers have found that quercetin helps alleviate inflammation, particularly when it is caused by an accumulation of uric acid, while also reducing the accumulation of stiff, fibrous tissue within your joints.
This helps improve the ability of your joints to function properly and without causing pain. The quercetin in apples has also been shown to stimulate the production of new bone, which allows your bones to maintain their normal response to physical stress.
In fact, in preclinical research, researchers found that quercetin works better than Alendronate, a prescription drug that is used to treat and/ or prevent osteoporosis. Other foods that contain a high content of quercetin include all types of onions, canned capers, cherries, cranberries, and raw black plums.
Almonds: According to an article published by the Arthritis Foundation, almonds have been shown to decrease the levels of certain inflammation-causing molecules and proteins, such as adiponectin, in your bloodstream.
In addition, almonds contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect your body from damage. They are also a good source of manganese, which is necessary for the formation and repair of the connective tissue that acts as a cushion between bones.
Bananas: Thanks to their high vitamin C content, bananas have been shown to play a role in boosting the body’s collagen production, while also fighting off free radicals determined to destroy your joints.
Other good sources of vitamin C that will enhance collagen production include oranges, chili peppers, red and green peppers, broccoli, and kale. Bananas also contain a good amount of vitamin B6 (folate), which is depleted more quickly by arthritis-causing inflammation.
According to Dr. Virginia Byers Krauss, coauthor of “The Everyday Arthritis Solution” and an associate professor at the Duke University School of Medicine, bananas are one of the primary foods served to arthritis-ridden people.
| Related: Bone Broth May Ease Painful Arthritis Symptoms |
Bone broth: Bone broth contains high levels of proline and glycine, two amino acids that play a huge role in rebuilding the cartilage that serves as a cushion between your bones.
Remember, your cartilage deteriorates with age, meaning it is very important to promote its growth. The increased cartilage helps relieve pressure from aging joints, which is almost certain to help improve your mobility. If you are not a fan of drinking bone broth by itself, opt for eating soups that contain it, such as vegetable beef.
How to Choose the Best Joint Supplement
In addition to eating foods that promote bone health, you have the option of taking a joint supplement. However, with so many options available, it can be a challenge to determine which one is best for you. To help you decide, be sure to take the following into consideration before making a purchase.
Look for specific ingredients. There are certain ingredients that you should look for when comparing supplements. They include turmeric, which was introduced above, as well as boswellia serrata. Numerous studies have been conducted that show just how beneficial boswellia serrata is for joint health.
Significant findings include that boswellia serrata can effectively manage and reduce joint deterioration, while simultaneously improving the pain, stiffness, and swelling that often accompany joint disorders.
Finally, look for undenatured type II collagen. According to multiple studies, including one that relied on research from the Harvard University School of Medicine, undenatured type II collagen has been shown to promote healthy joints and enhance joint flexibility and mobility, thanks to its ability to effectively reprogram the immune system].
The best joint health supplement will have a combination of collagen, boswellia, and other joint health-boosting ingredients, like hyaluronic acid.
Stay away from other ingredients to avoid additives and GMOs. This involves looking at what is not included on the ingredient list. For example, you’ll want to avoid supplements with synthetic fillers, such as rice starch, apple pectin, and magnesium stearate.
Other ingredients to avoid include additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients, dairy, sugar, gluten, and salt. On the front of the label, look for “100% non-GMO” so that you can rest assured you are not consuming any genetically modified organisms.
Avoid supplements that contain NSAIDs and steroids. Although both are often used by people struggling with joint pain, the truth is that they can interfere with the process of new tissue formation. This can slow down healing and even increase your risk of being injured by masking your pain.
Don’t forget to consider price and quality. Even if you know nothing about the various supplement manufacturers that currently have products on the market, you can still assess the quality of their products.
This can be done by reading reviews online, while shying away from the cheapest supplement on the shelf. Cheap supplements of any kind tend to be a huge waste of money.
It is also a good idea to stay away from conventional drug stores and grocery stores because they usually don’t carry the highest quality products. Opt to make your purchase from a reputable health food and/or supplement stores.
Top Three Joint Supplements
Now, let’s switch gears for a minute and briefly examine three of the top joint health supplements. These three were chosen after examining the latest clinical research available. They are:
Longvida® Optimized Curcumin: Countless studies have proven that curcumin, which is contained in this supplement, can reduce the inflammatory response. Longvida® Optimized Curcumin was developed by collaborators at a renown research institution in partnership with Verdure Sciences to offer powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that benefit your joints.
AprèsFlex®: Derived from boswellia serrata extract, several clinical studies have confirmed that AprèsFlex®â€‹ supports healthy joints. It does this by preventing cartilage degradation and injury, while also significantly reducing the production of pro-inflammatory biomarkers that cause pain and inflammation.
In one eight week study, participants who were given AprèsFlex®â€‹ reported an increased walking distance, increased knee flexion, and decreased knee pain over participants who received a placebo.
UC-ll® Undenatured type II Collagen: Four different clinical studies examined the effect UC-ll® Undenatured type II Collagen has in active, healthy adults. Each study determined that taking one supplement a day supported joint comfort, mobility, and flexibility.
A separate study evaluated the supplement’s ability to relieve pain in individuals diagnosed with knee OA. Participants tolerated the supplement well and saw a significant improvement in their joint symptoms.
How Overall Health Relates to Joint Health
In addition to incorporating foods and nutritional supplements that support joint health into your daily routine, there are several other things you can do to help your joints function to the best of their ability for as long as possible.
Pay attention to your gut health. Since there are no joints in your stomach, it is easy to assume that the state of your gut and digestive system would have no impact on joint health. Science has proven this to be false.
| Related: Probiotics 101: Guide To a Healthy Gut |
Multiple studies have found links between gut microbes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases in which your body’s immune system attacks itself. In particular, Dr. Jose Scher, a New York University rheumatologist found that people with RA are more likely to have a bacteria known as Prevotella copri in their intestines than those who do not.
Others researchers have confirmed that microbes in your stomach can affect your immune system and make you more susceptible to joint breakdown. The use of probiotic supplements are an excellent way to ensure your gut stays as healthy as possible.
Take care of your teeth. In a 2012 study, researchers found evidence suggesting that oral bacteria may contribute to RA and arthritis of the knee. When testing the participant’s synovial fluid, it was determined that 5 of the 36 participants had gum bacteria in their fluid.
A separate study suggested that tooth loss, a marker for gum disease, may be able to predict RA and its severity. The more teeth the participants were missing, the higher their risk of developing a severe case of RA.
Get plenty of sleep. Researchers at Arthritis Research UK have found that too little sleep results in an increased number of inflammatory markers in the body, such as interleukin-1 (IL-1). It’s well established that when these inflammatory markers find their way to your joints, they cause and aggravate joint pain.
In addition, at least one expert in the arthritis field, Dr. Peter Wehling who is the founder and director of the Center for Molecular Orthoapedics and Regenerative Medicine (CEMOR) in Düsseldorf, Germany, believes that IL-1 is OA’s primary trigger.
Watch your stress levels. Anxiety and stress have been linked to increased pain in various studies. There is also an established connection between stress and RA, though researchers are still trying to understand what exactly causes this link.
Why Exercise Is Crucial for Your Joints
Exercise, which is also a consideration for joint health, is so important that it gets its own section. In fact, to stay healthy, your joints must have motion. While any motion does help, the type of motion you get when exercising is even better. Here’s why.
Controls your weight. Though it hasn’t been mentioned until now, your weight is a huge factor in your joint health. Not only does excess weight put unnecessary stress on your joints, causing additional wear and tear, but the inflammatory factors linked with weight gain may also contribute to deteriorating joint health, according to information published by Harvard Medical School.
Research has proven that when an obese young person loses between 10 – 15 pounds and sustains their loss, their risk of developing OA is much lower. Exercise, of course, will help you keep your weight under control.
Encourages synovial fluid movement and gets rid of damaged joint cells. When you exercise, the synovial fluid in your joint circulates, making it a more effective shock absorber. At the same time, your blood circulation is enhanced, bringing your joints the nutrients and oxygen they need to stay healthy.
Exercise also triggers a process known as autophagy, where any damaged joint cells are broken down and removed. Together, these things have a substantial impact on your joint health.
Improves and maintains strength to support bones. Exercise ensures that your muscles and other surrounding tissue are strong enough to adequately support your bones. When your bones don’t have the support they need, they have to rely on your joints, meaning they are subjected to excess wear and tear. This weakens them, leaving you more susceptible to degradation.
Helps relieve pain and stiffness. In several studies, researchers have found that individuals suffering from arthritis noticed a decrease in their symptoms when they exercised. Thirteen different clinical trials examined walking, as well as various muscle strengthening exercises, and determined they were safe and effectively decreased pain and disability.
Which Exercises Are Best for Joint Health?
The best exercises for long-term joint health are those that focus on using your core muscles and reducing the stress on your joints. Low-impact cardio is a great option because it focuses on building muscle strength and burning off fat, while minimizing the stress on your ankles. Examples include treadmill walking, rowing machines, stationary bikes, rowing machines, and swimming.
If you prefer something a little bit different, tai chi and qigong are great options that have been shown to relief joint pain and stiffness, while improving balance and overall well-being, according to a study conducted by the Arthritis Foundation’s Tai Chi Program.
The Bottom Line
If you aren’t already concerned about your joint health, now is the time to start thinking about it. Whatever your age, you are sure to appreciate your continued painless mobility as you get older. Now, go ahead and use the information discussed above to help you come up with a plan for your long-term joint health.
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