The hot, humid days of summer can be hard on damaged joints. Older adults with conditions like osteoarthritis often find painful, swollen joints worsening as the mercury rises. Because prescription arthritis medicine can cause tough side effects, ranging from upset stomach to atypical fractures of the femur, some people are reluctant to take them.
Fortunately, there are natural remedies and lifestyle modifications that can help protect both damaged and healthy joints.
Tips for Easing Pain and Protecting Joint Health
- Take a daily walk: The Arthritis Foundation is a good source of information. Among their many resources is one they developed to help older adults learn how to safely use walking as a means of promoting joint health and decreasing the pain and symptoms of osteoarthritis. Walk with Ease is a free program for individuals or groups to utilize. It has helpful tools to make it easier to stay motivated and on track.
- Try aquatic exercise: One type of exercise that is gentle on the joints is also a great way to get an aerobic workout. That is swim therapy. Many YMCA organizations host water fitness classes on a regular basis, as do some rehabilitation centers.
- Light resistance training: You can also improve muscle mass and bone health through exercises that lightly stress muscles. Some exercises also improve core strength. Speak with your doctor about resistance band, light hand weights, Pilates, and chair yoga. Tai Chi is another one to try.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Keeping your weight under control is another way to protect joints and keep them in good condition. While it sounds a little startling, research shows that every extra pound you carry around puts 4 times more stress on your joints, especially your knees.
- Eat a balanced diet: Creating healthy menus and sticking with a well-balanced diet not only will prevent the weight gain that is so tough on joints, it also helps keep your bones healthy. Because a poor diet results in not getting enough of the right nutrients, your body is forced to pull them from your bones. That, in turn, leads to osteoporosis and joint problems.
- Check your vitamin D: Make sure your diet includes enough calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods, so you may need a supplement. Talk with your primary care physician to see if you need to have a blood test to check your vitamin D.
- Wear quality footwear: Try to balance fashion with function when it comes to footwear. Wear high heels for short periods of time only. Choose lower heels with good arch support the majority of the time, especially when you will be doing a lot of walking. This can take pressure off of your back, neck, and knees.
- Don’t smoke: This tip may surprise people! If you are a smoker, it’s time to finally kick the habit. Doing so can help improve joint health. That’s because smoking is linked with lower bone mass which contributes to osteoporosis.
- Lift with care: Avoid lifting heavy loads alone. When you must, be sure to lift or carry heavy objects using your strongest muscles and joints. For example, lift from your knees instead of bending over and picking something up off the ground. When you are carrying anything heavier than a few pounds, hold it close to your body. That causes less stress on the joints.
- Master range of motion exercises: While it seems counterintuitive when your joints are swollen and painful, working on range of motion can actually help. There are a variety of videos online that can help to make that easier. As is true with all new fitness programs, talk with your physician to get their approval first.
Should you have questions about the wellness programs offered at Sunrise Senior Living communities, and how they keep residents healthy, please call (888) 434-4648. One of our team members will be happy to help!