How to look after your joints

Our body has around 360 joints that help us function every day, and we’ll need them for a long time – so looking after them is vital.

Like most parts of our body, our joints can become damaged, wear out and work less effectively.

But there are plenty of things we can do to try and prevent that happening.

What happens to our joints as we age

Joints are protected and cushioned by a combination of cartilage, synovial membranes and synovial fluid that acts as a lubricant to ensure joints move smoothly.

As we get older, cartilage becomes thinner and there is also less lubrication.

Ligaments that support our joints also lose flexibility, which can make joints feel stiffer.

But joint issues can occur when we are younger too, explains Geetha Soosay, of Osteopathy Australia.

Common joint health problems

Bursitis and tendonitis are often caused by poor posture and prolonged periods of sitting down without a break.

Repetitive movements like typing, clicking on a mouse or lifting boxes for example are also common causes or tendonitis or bursitis.

Bursitis is the inflammation of a small fluid-filled sac that is a cushion between bone and soft tissue.

Symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness and it most often affects shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and heels.

Tendonitis involves inflammation of tendons – the strong bands of tissue that attach muscles to bones.

It also causes pain, swelling and joint stiffness.

“You can get sharp pain at the front or side of the shoulder and limited movement,” says Geetha.

“So that can make it harder to do day-to-day activities like doing up your bra, brushing your hair or hanging out washing.”

joint health

What to do if you have joint problems

Geetha says it’s important to get professional advice as soon as you feel any joint pain.

“Get any pain properly diagnosed so you can get the appropriate management and find out what to do to prevent it in future,” she says.

“A few simple changes can often make a difference.”

Top tips for taking care of your joints

  • When you sit, sit up straight and don’t let your shoulders roll forward.
  • If you’re at a desk, imagine a string stretching from the top of your head to the ceiling.
  • Get up and move every 30 minutes.
  • Stretch your shoulders by gripping a doorframe and leaning forwards through the frame.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – it places less pressure on your hips and knees.
  • Exercise at least five times a week for 30 minutes, but warm up properly first. “Movement moves around the synovial fluid, which nourishes the joint,” says Geetha.
  • Walking, swimming, tai chi yoga and light weights can help delay the onset of arthritis and help the condition worsening.
  • “Sugar is inflammatory so reduce your sugar intake. Fish oil and curcumin have anti-inflammatory properties so may help and you should also have plenty of green leafy vegetables and fruits, too,” says Geetha.

Written by Sarah Marinos.