3 Considerations for Maintaining Happy, Healthy Joints

03/10/2016 Mind-Body Health Health and Wellness Health Issue Pain Management

Want to keep your joints healthy for as long as possible? From lifestyle choices to dietary strategies, there are many natural ways that you can prevent joint degeneration or better manage your current joint conditions.

Located throughout your body, joints play a key role in your mobility and overall well-being. While a variety of factors can affect your joints, such as injuries, inflammation, muscle atrophy, and overuse, there are things that you can do to protect your joints and prevent degeneration. The following lifestyle, diet, and supplement recommendations could help keep your joints healthy for as long as possible.

1. Lifestyle

Do daily physical activity. Movement increases the circulation of synovial fluid (a liquid that protects and lubricates joints) and nutrients through joints and strengthens bones and muscles—which, in turn, protects your joints. It is best to include stretching and strengthening in your exercise routine. 

Maintain good posture. Sitting with a straight spine while in front of a computer screen or driving, using an ergonomic chair, wearing flat shoes rather than high heels, and carrying your book bag or purse with the weight balanced equally on each shoulder can go a long way in protecting your joints. Poor posture can misalign your bones and put unnecessary strain on your joints.

Manage your weight. Just 10 pounds of extra body weight can increase the force on your knee by 30 to 60 pounds with every step you take. Shedding extra pounds through exercise and a healthy diet can not only prevent future knee problems—it can also help reduce pain if osteoarthritis has already developed in your knees.  

Exercise safely. While staying active is important, it is possible to push your body too much. Moderate your activity levels. Whether you are stretching in a yoga class or training for a marathon, be sure to always warm up before exerting yourself, practice safe alignment, and listen to your body. If your joints are painful, they’re telling you something.  

Sleep deeply. Falling into a deep, relaxed sleep for at least seven to eight hours each night can allow your body to more fully repair itself, including your joints. Before going to bed, practice stress management techniques, such as deep breathing or warm baths, to help your body slip into a more relaxed state. 

2. Diet

Inflammation is a huge contributor to joint problems, and fortunately there are several dietary strategies that can help reduce inflammation systemically.

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on fresh, whole foods, including a lot of green leafy vegetables. Load up on your alliums—garlic, onions, and leeks—because they contain bioactive compounds that can help protect against osteoarthritis. Cherries  are also highly anti-inflammatory. Learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet at the Chopra Center online course, Beyond Your Biology.

Avoid inflammatory foods. These include foods that are processed and contain and artificial additives, sugar, and alcohol. Work with your doctor to determine food allergens, such as gluten, which may be contributing to inflammation.

Drink enough water. Water helps to lubricate your joints. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water—preferably filtered or purified—each day.

3. Supplements

There are a few supplements on the market that can help lower inflammation and protect your joints. Always check with your doctor before beginning a new supplement. Helpful supplements include:

  • Vitamin C. This vitamin can help prevent arthritis when taken within the recommended daily allowance; however, consuming too much can harm your joints.
  • Vitamin D. According to researchers, vitamin D may help lower your risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Curcumin. An extract from turmeric, curcumin has high anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. These agents can be taken in supplement form individually or in combination, and can have a positive effect on arthritis and overall joint health

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

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About the Author

Valerie Sjoberg, L.Ac.

Acupuncturist, Holistic Health Coach, Writer, and Editor
Valerie’s interest in healing began in her early twenties when doctors told her she would need to give up running and other physical activities forever due to debilitating back injuries. This spurred an exploration into mind-body and alternative medicine, which ultimately healed her back and allowed her to resume the activities she loved. Today, she works as an acupuncturist and health coach to help activate others’ self-healing abilities, and is inching toward a master's degree in nutrition and functional medicine. She is also a professional writer and aims to accumulate enough words and inspiration to write a novel someday.Read more