1. Don’t gain weight.
Obesity and joint pain are constant companions.
“If you are overweight or obese, it is nearly impossible to avoid inflamed joints in your legs, pelvis or lower spine,” says physical therapist Matthew Goodemote, MPT, founder of Community Physical Therapy & Wellness in Gloversville, N.Y.
The best way to lose weight? Eliminate high-fat, high-sugar foods and eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and fish instead.
Get out and exercise too, even if you only walk around the block. Every little step helps you lose weight and ward off joint pain.
2. Avoid regular cortisone shots.
You’ll get immediate relief from cortisone injections, a short-acting steroid that reduces inflammation and pain.
But keep in mind: Cortisone inactivates vitamin D, hampers calcium absorption and inhibits growth hormone, which is important to bone repair. The upshot is weaker bones, ligaments and tendons.
“This is a major don’t,” Wei says, because corticosteroids can damage cartilage over time. “The more shots you get, the worse the damage.”
3. Don’t smoke.
“Smoking damages joints,” Gulati says. Tobacco’s toxins also stress connective tissue, which leads to more problems.
In a 2007 Mayo Clinic study of men with knee osteoarthritis, smokers were twice as likely to lose significant amounts of cartilage than nonsmokers.
The researchers believe that smoking slows cartilage cell production and raises the levels of blood toxins, which leads to cartilage loss. Smoking also increases carbon monoxide levels in the blood, which could indirectly affect cartilage repair.
4. Don’t overuse painkillers.