Healthy joints are a bit like having heat or electricity: you’re unlikely to notice them when they’re in working order, but when they’re not, your life is hugely impacted. Having joint pain is limiting: not only can it literally limit your range of motion or your use of a limb, but joint pain can also impair your ability to move around easily. And that is really, really frustrating.
Luckily, there are things you can do to keep your joints happy, like regular exercise, stretching, and resting them when they hurt. If you do need surgery, like hip replacement or knee replacement, know that these are very common procedures.
Regular Exercise Keeps Your Joints Strong
Exercise is a solution for everything from high blood pressure to mental health challenges, and for good reason: exercise is using your body’s superpowers to heal itself. Exercise is specifically helpful for joint health, as exercising strengthens the muscles around joints; when the muscles around joints are strong, joints are supported. Exercise also helps you maintain bone strength. (Alas, we start losing bone mass around age 30)
You may not feel like lacing up your sneakers and going for a walk when you’re feeling achy, but know that exercise can help loosen up sore joints. When it comes to exercise, the effort is the reward.
The Benefits of Stretching
Exercises like simple range-of-motion movements can be great for joint health. Stretching can be as simple as rolling your shoulders and shaking out your arms while you are waiting for your morning coffee to brew. Or, you can break out the yoga mat you may have rolled up somewhere and really go for it. Try gentle stretches like leg lifts and leg extensions. You can check out these instructional videos on stretches and home workouts specifically for seniors.
If you experience joint pain or stiffness after sitting still, that may be a sign of osteoarthritis. In that case, you should see your doctor… and definitely keep up the stretching.
Ice and Elevate
When you’re experiencing joint pain, icing the area and elevating it can help to ease swelling and discomfort. Just as it’s important to exercise to loosen up achy joints, it’s important to rest them, too. Instead of using a pack of frozen peas, wrap an ice pack in a towel--make taking care of yourself really feel like self-care. Ice away, and read a book, surprise a few friends with a phone call, or fall into a Facebook black hole.
Did you know doctors replace more than 1 million hips and knees each year? If you are exploring orthopedic surgery as an option, take solace that you are far from alone.
Joint replacement used to be considered "high-tech," but it's now a common operation, with 600,000 joint replacements carried out per year in the United States. 92% of patients are functioning 15 years after surgery. The vast majority reported satisfaction in their increased mobility.
Your situation will always be unique and it’s important to talk to your doctor and support system before making the decision to undergo surgery. Recovery is a long road, but many people find that joint replacement security gives them a renewed sense of mobility and independence.