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Stay in Motion

It’s the golden rule of joint health: The more you move, the less stiffness you’ll have. Whether you’re reading, working, or watching TV, change positions often. Take breaks from your desk or your chair and move around.

Safety First

Padding is your pal. So suit up when you do things like in-line skating or play contact sports. If your joints already ache, it might help to wear braces when you do activities like tennis or golf.

Lean In to Your Weight

Your size affects some of the strain on your hips, knees, and back. Even a little weight loss can help. For instance, every pound you lose takes 4 pounds of pressure off the knees. Ask your doctor what the best way is for you to get started.

Don't Stretch Before Exercise

Flexibility helps you move better. Try to stretch daily or at least three times a week. It's important that you don't stretch cold muscles, though. Do a light warm-up (like walking for 10 minutes) first to loosen up the joints, ligaments, and tendons around them. 

Go Low-Impact

What exercise is good? To protect your joints, the best choices are low-impact options like walking, bicycling, swimming, and strength training. High-impact, pounding, and jarring exercise may be too much. When in doubt, ask your doctor.

Flex Some Muscle

Stronger muscles give your joints better support. Building even a little more strength makes a difference. A physical therapist or certified trainer can show you what moves to do and how to do them. If you have joint problems, avoid quick, repetitive movements.

Work on Your Range

Are your joints too stiff and inflexible? You’ll want to get back as much “range of motion” as possible. (Range of motion is the normal extent joints can move in certain directions.) If you have arthritis, your doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises to improve this.

Power Up Your Core

Stronger abs and back muscles help you balance, so you’re less likely to fall or get injured. So include core (abdominal, back, and hips) strengthening exercises in your routine. Pilates and yoga are great workouts to try.

Know Your Limits

It’s normal to have some aching muscles after you exercise. But if your pain lasts longer than 48 hours, you may have overstressed your joints. Don’t exercise so hard next time. Working through the pain may lead to injury or damage.

Eat Fish to Reduce Inflammation

If you have joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), eat more fish. Fatty cold-water types like salmon and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s may help keep joints healthy, as well as lower inflammation, a cause of joint pain and tenderness in people with RA. Don't like fish? Try fish oil capsules instead.

Keep Your Bones Strong

Calcium and vitamin D can help you do that. Dairy products are the best sources of calcium, but other options are green, leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale. If you don't get enough calcium through diet, ask your doctor about supplements.

Target Your Posture

Stand and sit up straight to protect joints all the way from the neck down to your knees. One easy way to improve your posture is by walking. The faster you walk, the harder your muscles work to keep you upright. Swimming can also help.

Ease Your Load

Consider your joints when lifting and carrying. Carry bags on your arms instead of with your hands to let your bigger muscles and joints support the weight.

Chill Out Pain

Ice is a natural -- and free -- pain reliever. It numbs pain and eases swelling. If you have a sore joint, apply a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel. Leave it on for up to 20 minutes at a time. Don't have ice or a cold pack? Try a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel. Never apply ice directly to the skin.

Supplements? Ask First

Stores are filled with supplements promising to relieve joint pain. Glucosamine and SAMe have the best research behind them. Talk to your doctor if you want to give supplements a try, so you know about what’s safe and what might affect your medicines or health conditions.

Treat Joint Injuries

Physical trauma can contribute to cartilage breakdown and osteoarthritis. If you injure a joint, see your doctor right away for treatment. Then take steps to avoid more damage. You may need to avoid activities that overstress the joint or use a brace to stabilize it.

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Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on 9/, 015