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When it comes to mobility, your joints are among the most important parts of your body. They bind bones together, providing structure, and allowing muscles to move bones to carry out every task you perform that involves movement. 

We use our joints every day in many, many ways. But within these uses and as part of our habits, we may be actively harming our joints. If you have a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, these can be making them worse. And if you don’t have a joint condition, you could be setting yourself up for one.

On today’s blog, we go over 7 things you might do everyday that can cause stress to your joints, so that you can be more mindful about your habits and activities. 

1. Consuming too much sugar

Sugar is everywhere. In places you’d expect, but also in places you wouldn’t expect. For example, if you’re hitting a cafe for a specialized latte on your way to work, it could have up to 144 grams of sugar and 700 calories!

A seemingly innocent can of soda with lunch contains 39 grams of sugar and 140 calories, depending on which kind.

And sugar can be hidden in places you wouldn’t expect. Like jars of pasta, salad dressings, ketchup, and even canned soup.  

All of this sugar can add up, harming your joints. Several studies have attributed high sugar intake (especially from sugary drinks) with an increased risk of chronic inflammation. [1]

Additionally, one study found that a reduction of sugar led to a decrease in inflammatory markers in the blood, lowering the risk of chronic inflammation and the health issues it may cause. [2]

This can greatly impact the health of the joints, as arthritis is the result of chronic inflammation in the joints. 

The same is true for saturated fats, which is found in many types of meats and dairy. [3]

2. Not getting enough exercise

The amount of exercise you get impacts your joints, whether you’re dealing with joint pain or just trying to maintain healthy joints.

Exercise increases the muscle strength around the joints, decreasing bone loss. It also replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of the joint. 

If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, the thought of a workout can seem daunting, and even counterproductive. But it can actually help a great deal!

However, it’s important to not go too hard. Do exercises that have a low impact on your joints, like range of motion exercises, gentle strength-training, walking or swimming, or even just stretching.

3. Carrying too much weight

The more weight you’re carrying, the more pressure that’s put on your joints – particularly your knees – when you move around. 

When walking on level ground, the weight applied to the knee joint with each step is 1.5x the weight being carried. So, for a person carrying 200 pounds, that would be 300 pounds of pressure on the knee with each step. [4]

This doesn’t just include body weight. Be mindful of the weight you carry around that isn’t part of your body as well. If you’re carrying heavy boxes at work, loading up your backpack with hardcover books, or just taking on more than you should be, consider finding ways to take that load off. It could be causing more stress to your joints than you think, and may potentially lead to an injury. 

4. “Text neck”

When you’re staring down at your phone, your computer screen, or even a book, all too often your head is tilted forward for long periods of time. 

The average human head weighs about 11 pounds. Your spine and neck support it. When your posture is straight, they’re supporting it properly. But when your head is slumped forward, that weight is straining not just your joints, but the muscles as well. 

Also, if you are at risk of – or already have – arthritis, typing on a keyboard or the movement of texting or scrolling on your phone can further irritate the joints in your fingers, hands, and wrists. 

If you find you spend a lot of time looking down on a device or book, be mindful of how you’re sitting, and allow breaks for your hands. 

5. High heels

Research has found that those who regularly wear high heels are predisposed to joint issues. [5, 6]

The higher the heel, the more your weight tips forward. This puts a strain on certain leg muscles and the joints in your knees. 

If you like to wear heels, consider opting for shorter heels, and take breaks from them as much as possible. 

6. Smoking

If you smoke, here’s yet another reason why it’s time to kick the habit.

Smoking increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The longer you’ve been a smoker, the more severe your arthritis is likely to be. On top of that, smoking appears to decrease the effectiveness of drugs meant to treat and relieve the symptoms of arthritis. [7]

Additionally, smoking may impede other avenues to seeking relief from the pain arthritis can cause. For example, it may be more difficult to exercise, due to a decreased lung capacity. 

It will certainly be a challenge, but your overall health – including your joints – will greatly thank you if you put the cigarette down.

7. Not asking for help or support

Some aspects of life can be physically demanding. If you work a job that requires a lot of lifting or a lot of time on your feet, that can take a toll. In these situations, don’t hesitate to ask those around you for help. Taking on too much, especially if you’re tired or already feeling a strain, can cause harm to your joints.

This is especially true if you’re already experiencing joint pain or arthritis. It’s good to gently work your joints in this case, but not to the point where you stress them out even more. 

It’s important to ask for help in other aspects of your life as well, not just for things that require physical work. Stress in general has been shown to increase the severity of arthritis. [8]

This is likely because stress can cause or increase the state of chronic inflammation in the body. [9]

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References and resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986486/ 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24418247/ 
  3. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/ATVBAHA.110.203984 
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/why-weight-matters-when-it-comes-to-joint-pain 
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9593411/ 
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29475153/ 
  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nicotine-dependence/expert-answers/rheumatoid-arthritis-smoking/faq-20119778 
  8. https://arthritis-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/ar3024 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6491771/ 
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