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 get active.
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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 play tennis or golf.
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Shed Some Pounds
Your size affects some of the strain on your hips, knees, and back. Even a little weight loss can help. Every pound you lose takes 4 pounds of pressure off the knees. Ask your doctor what's the best way for you to get started.
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Don't Stretch Before Exercise
Flexibility helps you move better. Try to stretch daily or at least three times a week. But don't do it when your muscles are cold. Do a light warm-up first, like walking for 10 minutes, to loosen up the joints, ligaments, and tendons around them.
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Which exercise is good? The best choices are activities that don't pound your joints, like walking, bicycling, swimming, and strength training.
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Flex Some Muscle
Get stronger to give your joints better support. 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.
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Work on Your Range
Are your joints too stiff? You'll want to get back as much range of motion as you can. That's the normal amount a joint can move in certain directions. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises to get yours where it should be.
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Power Up Your Core
Stronger abs and back muscles help your balance. That means you're less likely to fall or get injured. Add core (abdominal, back, and hip) strengthening exercises to your routine. Pilates and yoga are great workouts to try.
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Know Your Limits
It's normal to have some muscle aches after you exercise. But if you hurt for more than 48 hours, you may have overdone it. Don't push so hard next time. Working through the pain can lead to an injury or damage.
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If you have RA joint pain, a fish dish could help. Fatty cold-water types like salmon and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep joints healthy. They also lower inflammation, which causes joint pain and tenderness in people with RA. Don't like fish? Try fish oil capsules instead.
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Keep Your Bones Strong
Calcium and vitamin D can help. 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 from food, ask your doctor about supplements.
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Target Your Posture
Stand and sit up straight to protect joints from your neck down to your knees. A walk can improve your posture, too. The faster you go, the harder your muscles work to keep you upright. Swimming can also help.
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Ease Your Load
Take care of your joints when you lift and carry. Hang bags on your arms instead of your hands. That lets your bigger muscles and joints support the weight.
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Chill Your Pain
Ice is a natural pain reliever. It numbs the ache 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. You can also try a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel. Never put ice right on your skin.
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Supplements? Ask First
Stores are filled with products that promise to relieve joint pain. Glucosamine and SAM-e have the best research behind them. Talk to your doctor if you want to give supplements a try. They can help you decide what's safe and what might affect your medicines or health conditions.
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Treat Joint Injuries
They can add to the breakdown of cartilage in your joints. If you get hurt, see your doctor right away for treatment. Then take steps to avoid more damage. You may need to skip things that put too much stress on your joint or use a brace to keep it stable.
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."