5 New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Bone & Joint Health

2017 is almost history—time to start thinking about those New Year’s resolutions. We have a few that anyone can benefit from, as they all work together to help your bones and joints stay strong, healthy, and pain-free! Plus, they’re easy to incorporate into your life no matter what your age, job or fitness level.

We encourage you to adopt at least a couple of these habits, but why not challenge yourself to master all five?

Resolution #1: I will eat foods naturally rich in calcium & Vitamin D

How it helps: Calcium and Vitamin D go hand-in-hand for helping you maintain bone density as you age. Calcium is the building block of strong bones, and your body needs Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium and put it to good use.

How to make it happen: Get to know which foods give you the most bang for your buck with calcium and/or Vitamin D, and include at least one of these foods in your daily meal plan. A few calcium powerhouses include salmon, sardines and other small fish with the bones in, almonds, broccoli and dark leafy greens.

While sunlight is your body’s preferred source of Vitamin D, soaking up rays in January can be challenging, even in our relatively mild Asheville climate. Many of the same foods that are high in calcium are also rich in Vitamin D: wild-caught fish, fortified dairy and soy, and nuts. Other sources include eggs, liver, and shitake mushrooms.

If you’re thinking “but I hate fish, liver and kale. Should I take calcium supplements instead?” talk to your doctor. While supplements can help make up the difference, getting too much calcium could increase risk of digestive problems or kidney stones, so it’s best to get medical guidance. (It’s very difficult to overdose on calcium from food sources.)

Resolution #2: I will make movement a part of my daily life

How it helps: As they say, “use it or lose it.” Weight-bearing exercise is essential for healthy bone density, and activities that engage your joints help keep the tendons and ligaments in shape to better support your joints.

How to make it happen: First, focus on activities you enjoy: walking, dancing, tennis, yoga or bicycling are all easy and popular to do in Asheville, with our many great parks, trails, and dance studios. Then, remember that consistency is more important than duration—if you only have 10 minutes to go for a jog, go for a 10-minute jog.

If the weather is truly horrible, even doing squats and lunges by your desk at work can help strengthen joint tissues and improve range of motion. And don’t forget about everyday things: gardening, taking the stairs vs. elevator, and walking to and home from the grocery store carrying your bags are all great ways to incorporate more weight-bearing movement into your day and get some errands done to boot!

Wearing a fitness tracker, or keeping an exercise diary can be helpful ways to both keep track of your daily activities and motivate you to reach small goals each day, meaning you’re less likely to fizzle out before February.

Resolution #3: I will invest in (and wear) the proper gear during activities

How it helps: Sports safety and support gear serve a good purpose: to keep you from getting injured! We see too many patients who have broken a wrist because they skated without wrist guards, or developed runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain) after running in old, worn-out shoes. And while these injures usually do heal, acute or chronic joint injuries early in life increase the risk for arthritis down the road.

How to make it happen: It’s not too late to add new gear, shoes, or gift certificates from your favorite sports retailer to your Christmas list! If you are new to a sport, research the gear you need, and see an experienced professional for advice on finding pads, clothing, and shoes that fit you properly.

If you’ve been at your sport for awhile, schedule a time to assess the condition of your gear and make it your goal to replace worn out items by a certain date (the sooner the better). You might even try to time your gear upgrades with after-Christmas sales.

Resolution #4: I will ask for help when I need it

How it helps: While implementing long-term strategies and tips for bone health are important, many of the worst joint injuries our Asheville orthopedic specialists see happen in the blink of an eye—and often because a patient attempted to lift, carry or climb more than they could handle. These accidents are almost always avoidable if you simply get help with heavy or risky tasks.

How to make it happen: Plan ahead. Don’t decide to clean the gutters when everyone else is out of town; plan it for a time when your spouse or a friend can help spot you on the ladder and carry bags of debris off the roof. If you’re at the gym and want to reach a new goal on the squat machine, wait until you can work out with spotter or, better yet, hire a personal trainer to help you perfect your form first.

Your resolution #5: I will see a doctor about my nagging aches and pains

How it helps: Ignoring a problem rarely, if ever, solves it. If you’re dealing with knee, hip or shoulder pain, or you notice one of your shoulders is much stiffer than the other, a qualified orthopedic specialist can help you pinpoint the source of the issue and figure out what’s causing it, so you can figure out the best way to correct it.

How to make it happen: This one’s easy: if you’re in Asheville, schedule an appointment with our experienced orthopedic surgeons and non-surgical physicians! At Carolina Hand & Sports Medicine, our doctors offer a variety of surgical and non-surgical options to diagnose and treat bone and joint problems, including musculoskeletal ultrasound, PRP therapy, stem cell therapy, and minimally-invasive arthroscopic surgery.

We’d be happy to meet with you to discuss your concerns and help you design an effective treatment plan to reduce pain, restore strength and flexibility, and lessen your chances of getting injured in the future. Until then, have a wonderful holiday season and happy, healthy New Year!

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