When we talk about the mechanics of the body, two things seem to grab a lot of the headlines.
First, your muscles. After all, they’re what help you move, they influence metabolism, and they’re—at least culturally—the head-turning body parts that take center stage on magazine covers, beaches, and Instagram posts. Second, your bones. We take them for granted most of the time—until we start aging or until one of them breaks. And that’s when we remember how important they are to our health and well-being.
Mechanically, your joints should get just as much attention. After all, they’re like your body’s intersections—where bones meet and where soft tissues and fluids are in place to help keep you moving, bending, and living. And just like a traffic intersection that can be dangerous when things go wrong, so can your joints.
That’s because many factors—age, obesity, repetitive use from sports, and genetics—can influence your joint health to the point where you feel pain or are limited in activity. In fact, almost a quarter of U.S. adults have diagnosed arthritis and 10 percent of people have to limit their activities because of joint pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
For me, I never really had any joint pain until I was 55 and started hiking and biking again. I tend to feel it in my left knee, so I’ve really started thinking about what I can do to help limit the pain and twinges I feel.
It’s one of the many reasons why I’m really in tune to staying as healthy as possible. Every pound of body weight applies 3 to 4 pounds of force on your knees. So the more you carry excess weight, the greater the pounding you feel. It’s certainly one of the most important things you can do for all of your health—keep your weight at healthy levels. When you do, your joints will certainly thank you.
Keep it Flowing
Your joints aren’t just made up of tendons and tissues. There’s also a substance called synovial fluid, which helps lubricate the joint and, as you can imagine, is part of what keeps you from feeling pressure and pain in your joints. Well-lubricated joints are well-functioning ones.
I do find that another fluid—water—helps me with joint pain, so I constantly make sure to get enough water throughout the day. Hydration is key for so many aspects of your wellness. Other nutrients that appear to be related to improved joint health:
Vitamin C: It’s an essential cofactor in the biosynthesis of collagen, which is an essential building block in joint tissues.
Curcumin: Derived from turmeric, it supports healthy inflammation in the joints, which can help minimize acute pain following exercise.
Glucosamine: Cartilage is a complex matrix of collagen fibers interwoven with proteoglycan molecules. Higher levels of glucosamine in the chondrocytes (cells that manufacture the building block of cartilage) promote the production of proteoglycans.
Ice is Nice
Back when I wrestled in college, I took icy showers after a hard workout. I didn’t know anything about the science of it, but I just knew that it seemed to really work to help soothe my sore body—even though it was about as comfortable as a couch made of shards of glass.
When I stopped competing, I stopped the habit.
But recently, I started again. I know it may sound odd, but I find that shocking my body with about 60 to 90 seconds of ice-cold water after a hot shower really helps when I overdo it and end up with sore muscles and joints.
I started up again because I read a scientific article explaining how cold exposure (like cold showers or ice baths) triggers a process in the body that’s associated with cell repair and longevity.
It’s surely not for everyone, but for me, I find that not only does it keep soreness at bay, but it also gives me a burst of energy that makes me ready to go on with my day.