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.
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.
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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Arthritis Today: "What is Osteoarthritis?"
University of Virginia Health System: "Knee Pain and Problems."
The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: "Osteoarthritis Weight Management."
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Weight-Control Information Network: "Do You Know the Risks of Being Overweight?"
The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: "Role of Exercise in the Management of Arthritis."
The Associated Press: "Experts: Forget Pre-Work Out Stretching."
University of Washington School of Medicine: "Exercise and Arthritis."
Arthritis Today: "Fatty Acid Benefits: How Omega-3s Reduce Inflammation."
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center: "Osteoarthritis."
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT)."
University of Maryland Medical Center: "Sulfur."
American Council on Exercise: "Injury May Increase Risk of Osteoarthritis."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.