10 Ways to Prevent Joint Stress

If you have pain in your joints, hear popping or creaking sounds when you move or feel stiff after sitting for a while, your joints may be under too much stress. That's how osteoarthritis develops, but it isn't always just due to aging. Joint stress can be caused by many factors including genetics, obesity, poor posture, and bone misalignment. Many of these joint stressors are preventable. 

Think of a joint as a hinge surrounded by lubricating fluid and supported by muscles and ligaments. Over time, if that hinge gets too much use or if it's misaligned and rubs on something it shouldn't, it begins to break down. With joints, two bones may rub on each other if they're not lubricated well enough or if protective cartilage wears out.  When bone rubs directly against bone, it can erode the bones' smooth surfaces, causing splinters to form and creating inflammation. This is why osteoarthritis is so painful.

Fortunately, there are many ways to minimize and prevent joint stress and osteoarthritis. The Arthritis Foundation offers these tips for protecting your joints from overstress:

  1. Maintain your ideal body weight. The more you weigh, the more stress you put on your joints, especially your hips, knees, back, and feet.
  2. Move your body. Exercise protects joints by strengthening the muscles around them. Strong muscles prevent joints from rubbing against one another and wearing down cartilage.
  3. Stand up straight. Good posture protects the joints in your neck, back, hips, and knees.
  4. Use the big joints. When lifting or carrying, use your largest and strongest joints and muscles. This will help you avoid injury and strain on your smaller joints.
  5. Pace yourself. Alternate periods of heavy activity with periods of rest. Repetitive stress on joints for long periods of time can accelerate wear and tear that causes osteoarthritis.
  6. Listen to your body. Don't ignore pain. Pain after activity or exercise can be an indication that you have overstressed your joints.
  7. Don't be static. Changing positions regularly will decrease the stiffness in your muscles and joints.
  8. Forget the weekend warrior. Don't engage in activities your body isn't prepared for. Start new activities slowly and safely until you know how your body will react to them. This will reduce the chance of injury.
  9. Wear proper safety equipment. Don't leave helmets and wrist pads at home. Make sure you get safety gear that is comfortable and fits appropriately.
  10. Ask for help. Don't try to do a job that is too big for you to handle.

See your doctor if you feel pain in your joints. There are many conditions that could cause this problem and finding the right treatment depends on getting the right diagnosis. 




Brigham and Women's Hospital
A Teaching Affiliate of Harvard Medical School
How to Prevent Osteoarthritis

The Arthritis Foundation
10 Ways You Can Protect your Joints