There are hundreds of joints in the human body—some of which we notice more than others like the hips, knees, and lower back. Any place in the body where two bones meet, you’ll find a joint holding them together. The reason they’re so important is they give us the freedom to
- move in different directions,
- dance, and
- control just about every single movement imaginable.
Unfortunately, most of us take our joint health for granted. We only tend to notice its importance when we get sick or injured. Thankfully, there are a few steps we can all take to maintain or increase the strength, function, and healthiness of our joints.
On the list of the top 3 most important joints in the body, the hip joint is definitely present. It’s the body’s largest ball-and-socket joint. It gives us our mobility, keeps us steady, and maintains our balance.
The hip joint can withstand a lot of wear and tear but despite its durability, it’s not indestructible. With age and use, the cartilage around the joint (which acts as a cushion) can wear down or become damaged. This is a source of many medical conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and polymyalgia.
Most people don’t think of the spine as a joint but it is. It’s made up of small joints called facet joints which stabilize the structures that make up the spine. The joints work to prevent excessive motion, over-twisting, or us toppling over. When facet joints become worn or torn, the cartilage may become thin or disappear. That’s when symptoms like lower back pain may occur. Wear and tear of the cartilage can also lead to arthritis.
For those suffering from constant back pain, it might be worth visiting a doctor or physiotherapist to see if there are any steps you can take to alleviate the pain. Some of the tips below may also help with this as well.
The knee is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. It allows us to
- walk, or
and it’s particularly special because unlike many other joints, the knee joint connects three different bones together instead of two. Despite its intricacy, the knee joint can be very delicate and susceptible to damage. A number of things can increase your chances of having knee problems including1:
Excess weight. Being overweight or obese increases the stress on your knee joints, even during ordinary activities such as walking or going up and down stairs. It also puts you at increased risk of osteoarthritis by accelerating the breakdown of joint cartilage.
Lack of muscle flexibility or strength. A lack of strength and flexibility are among the leading causes of knee injuries. Tight or weak muscles offer less support for your knee because they don’t absorb enough of the stress exerted on the joint.
Certain sports. Some sports put greater stress on your knees than do others. Alpine skiing with its rigid ski boots and potential for falls, basketball’s jumps and pivots, and the repeated pounding your knees take when you run or jog all increase your risk of knee injury.
Previous injury. Having a previous knee injury makes it more likely that you’ll injure your knee again.
Tips for helping to relieve all types of joint pain:
1. Start with simple over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If you’re currently on other medications, be sure to check with your doctor before starting these.
2. Consider using supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, or even some lesser well-known ones like quercetin or bromelain.
3. Think about a Mediterranean diet—a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and oil has been shown to have lots of health benefits. Some joint pain relief may be one of them, especially if you’re able to incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into it.
4. Start exercising. Exercise is considered the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in people with osteoarthritis2. It’s also beneficial for those with other types of joint pain. Light activities like walking, swimming, or gardening are a cheap and excellent way to help ease your joint pain.
1) Mayo Clinic. Knee pain. Updated Feb 26, 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/knee-pain/symptoms-causes/dxc-20190116
2) Arthritis Foundation. Benefits of exercise for Osteoarthritis. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/benefits/exercise-knee-osteoarthritis.php