Joints & Bones
Did you know that the adult skeleton has 206 bones and that babies are born with 300 that eventually fuse together? Bones and joints play a big role in the body and along with muscles, these are what make up the musculoskeletal system which provides form, stability and movement to the body.
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The role of bones
The role of bones is to give your body shape, hold the body up and to protect vital organs such as the heart. They also store essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorus & bone marrow. This is necessary to our survival as bone marrow is where new blood cells are made.
There are 5 different shapes of bones within the body: long (the upper arm), short (the hand), flat (the ribs), irregular (the vertebrae) and sesamoid (the kneecap). These all play different roles within the musculoskeletal system and grow throughout your lifetime until you reach a fully grown adult.
The role of joints
Joints are where two or more bones come into contact with each other. They contain cartilage which works to cushion the joints to stop them rubbing together and causing painful damage, as well as connecting one bone to the other. Joints also contain ligaments which join bones to each other in order to strengthen.
There are different types of joints within the body that have different uses. Firstly, you have synovial joints which contain synovial fluid. These are found in the arms and legs, the fluid helps the bones to move over each other so you can move easily. You then have cartilaginous joints in the spine and pelvis which are more stable but you cannot move as much. You also have fibrous joints that are just to stabilise and you cannot move them. These can be found in areas such as the skull.
Why is it important to look after your bones and joints?
As you now know the roles of the bones and joints, you can see why it is so important to keep them healthy. Damage to the bones can lead to a lot of pain and mean you can’t use that part of your body; if you’ve ever broken your arm, you’ll know how painful it is and how long your arm has to be in a cast for! A breakage or fracture to your bones due to injury can be fixed over time, however, general wear and tear leading to weakness can cause more long-term issues. Bone loss could eventually lead to low bone density (osteopenia) where the bones are weak. This could then lead to osteoporosis where the bones become porous. As a result of this, they are more likely to break so you’re more at risk from a simple fall.
For your joints, they can begin to deteriorate over time and this can lead to pain that limits movement. A lack of synovial fluid can also lead to the bones rubbing together causing a great deal of pain and discomfort. If you don’t look after your joints, this could also lead to pulled ligaments, which is most common for athletes. If your joints get to a certain point of disrepair, you could end up with different forms of arthritis, where the joints have gone past a point of no return so you can only cope with the symptoms instead of fixing the damage. This is why it is important to always take care of your joints to keep them healthy and moving freely before it is too late.
Symptoms of damaged or weak bones and joints
If you think you could be suffering from damaged or weakened bones and joints, there are some symptoms to look out for. Whilst these can vary from person to person and are dependant on the type of damage or problem, here are some overall symptoms to look out for:
- Pain in the area
- Aching and discomfort
- Swelling, bruising or tenderness around the bone
- Inability to bear weight
- Loss of function or movement
- Brittle bones that break easily
- Stooped posture for your back
- Bone deformities
- Joint pain
- Joint redness
- Joint swelling
- Joint warmth
- Aching and discomfort
- Locking of the joint
- Loss or lack of movement
What can cause weak or damaged bones and joints?
Just like with the symptoms, there are many different factors that can lead to bone or joint issues and these can affect each person differently. Here are the most common causes to be aware of:
- Wear and tear
- An unhealthy diet
- Being overweight or obese
- A lack of or no regular exercise
- Menopause and hormonal changes
- Bad posture
- Nutrient deficiency (especially Calcium and Vitamin D)
- Infections and infectious diseases (such as hepatitis)
- Illnesses (such as gout and lupus)
- Certain medications
How to look after your bones and joints
Whilst some of the causes of bone and joint problems cannot be avoided (such as age, certain illnesses or menopause), there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make to help. These include:
- Keeping active and doing regular exercise
- Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a balanced and healthy diet
- Getting enough Calcium and Vitamin D
- Having proper posture, especially when sitting
- Keeping hydrated and drinking lots of water
- Quitting, or at least reducing, smoking and drinking
- Using natural supplements for bone and joint health
- Wearing supportive shoes
Foods for healthy bones and joints
Did you know that diet and what you eat can make a big difference to the health of your bones and joints? Here are some great foods to add to your daily and weekly diet to help maintain good bone density and keep your joints moving.
- Calcium-rich dairy including milk, cheese and butter
- Fatty fish with Omega 3 including salmon, krill, cod and mackerel
- Plant-based Omega 3 sources including flaxseeds, algae oil and chia seeds
- Glucosamine and chondroitin
- Hemp including hemp seed oil
- Collagen including from marine and bovine sources
- Green leafy vegetables including broccoli, kale and cabbage
- Soya including the beans and drinks
- Turmeric including curcumin
- Garlic including garlic oil
- Ginger including the extract and oil
- Nuts including walnuts, almonds and peanuts
- Antioxidant-rich berries including strawberries, cherries and blueberries
- Resveratrol-rich red grapes including grape seed extract
Your bones and joints play a massive role in the wellbeing of your body so it is super important that you take care of them throughout your life. Whilst some of the causes of bone and joint issues are unavoidable, there are still plenty of simple changes you can make to your lifestyle one step at a time that can help.