2022 Goal: Nurture Joint Health to Keep Moving
With a new year often comes a commitment to improving your wellness. Looking for a place to start? Because the health of your joints can impact your overall health, a focus on nurturing your joints can be beneficial in many ways.
Whether you are a pro at wellness or are just getting back into exercising, the goal is to keep your joints in motion, explained David Shau, M.D., an orthopedic specialist with Texas Hip and Knee Center, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice in Fort Worth. “Motion is medicine,” he says. “Joints don’t like to be still. If they’re still, they can get stiff and that can hurt.”
To keep moving, activities can be as simple as walking in place or stretching at home. Find places to walk or hike outdoors (use a walking stick or hiking poles, Shau says), and get your family or a friend involved. Moving at a pace that is appropriate for your ability level is key, as is finding a variety of low-impact activities — from water aerobics to low-impact exercise equipment like stationary bikes and elliptical machines — to get your heart rate up and keep you engaged in your health.
“Get your heart rate up and break a sweat,” Shau says. “I recommend doing some sort of physical activity every day, if possible — but set simple goals to start.
“Healthy movement can be had at any age, activity or ability level,” he emphasizes.
Lose Weight to Ease Strain
After a holiday season spent indulging, many people find the new year a good time to refocus on healthy nutrition. The weight loss that can accompany a nutritious diet, Shau explains, can also benefit your joints.
“One pound of weight loss can mean 7 pounds of stress off your joints!” he says. Carrying extra weight can increase inflammation and joint pain, and lead to damage over time. Being overweight raises your risk for developing osteoarthritis, a common joint disorder that results from wear and tear on a joint. “That should add extra motivation to shed weight to help your joint health and overall wellness,” Shau adds.
Staying conscious of what you are using to fuel your body is a better approach than trying fad diets. Limiting sugar, staying hydrated, avoiding “empty” calories and focusing on getting good nutrition are all key to long-term wellness, Shau explains. “I think most Texans can relate to this, so find common goals and activities to share with friends and loved ones. A support group of encouragement can make the difference.”
Break Cycle of Joint Pain
Some people stop moving because they experience aches and pains — but stopping all activity can lead to even more pain.
“Even if your joints hurt, you want to make sure you break the cycle,” Shau recommends. “See a joint specialist to understand the underlying causes for the pain.”
Joint pain can be the result of strains or sprains, old injuries, or conditions like arthritis, for example. A specialist can recommend activities and tailor treatments to a patient’s specific condition, abilities and goals. Texas Health has a network of joint care specialists who can diagnose the source of joint pain and provide you with a range of options to treat your condition.
Doctors who specialize in joint wellness have many different ways to help patients with joint pain. Minimally invasive treatment options may be recommended, from steroid or gel injections to procedures such as a cryo-anesthesia treatment to numb the nerves around a knee, for example. Physical therapy, the use of bracing and at-home exercises and stretches can also be prescribed for people experiencing achy, stiff or painful joints. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be considered.
Surgical options for treating joint pain, including minimally invasive joint replacements, are also ways that joint specialists can help people with joint pain. Patients are evaluated to find out if they are candidates for surgery, and appropriate surgical treatments are recommended for their unique pain and body. “Your care should be personalized for you,” Shau says.
Get Started Today
Learning more about your joint health is easy — just answer a few simple questions to get started. Take the hip and knee health assessment, a free tool to help you understand your joint health.
Speak with your primary care doctor about your bone health. Ask about scans to measure your bone density and discuss the type of vitamins, such as vitamin D and calcium, to help support your bone health. Talk about low-impact activities that you can do to keep your body moving, and ask questions about any pain you experience on a daily basis or while exercising.
For specialty joint care, Texas Health has a network of joint care specialists who can diagnose the source of joint pain and provide you with a range of options to treat your condition. To help patients recover and return to a healthy and active life, Texas Health also provides rehabilitation services with dedicated equipment and therapists who specialize in joint health and wellness.
“The key is having a good attitude, being mindful of the things you care about, and being able to pursue the lifestyle you want in good health,” Shau says. “That starts with having good joint health, which can lead you to good overall health. This allows you to experience the things you find enjoyable in the coming year.”