More often than not, it’s the little things we do each day that add up and cause pain and inflammation over time. We asked a few experts to share how to undo those bad habits to keep joints working smoothly and pain-free!
1. You text too much
“Being hunched forward for hours creates painful lower neck muscles, which can lead to headaches and inflammation,” says Nick Carr, physiotherapist at Balance In Motion. That’s because the further you drop your head, the more the load on your neck muscles. ‘Texting thumb’ is a real thing, says Carr. “Those who overuse phones can develop ‘tenosynovitis’ – where the tendon around the thumb or fingers can get swollen – something postmenopausal women are often at risk of, as changes in oestrogen levels often increase swelling in tendons and joints.” The solution? Move your phone closer to eye level, keep your back straight, and take frequent breaks.
2. You suck your tummy in
That natural reflex you do in public is causing more tension than tone. How so? “When we tighten the tummy incorrectly using the sides of the abs (rather than core muscles), this reduces spine mobility and can lead to a compressed chest area, or thorax,” explains physiotherapist Steve Hanks. The good news is that standing up straight can have an instant stomach-flattening effect, so always keep your posture in check.
3. You drink most nights
Think that vino each night won’t hurt? Actually, it can. “Alcohol interferes with the pancreas and its absorption of calcium and vitamin D – crucial for creating osteoblasts (the cells needed to form bones),” says Carr. When the pancreatic cells metabolise alcohol, they create toxic byproducts that damage the ducts reducing the flow of enzymes to the digestive tract. “Over time, the enzymes build-up and it’s harder for the pancreas to absorb the vitamins needed for bone development,” explains Hanks. So, aim to rethink that nightly glass of red.
4. You sit all day
Working at a desk may seem unavoidable, but do you make up for it with regular movement? Staying stagnant leads to more joint issues than exercise does, notes Carr. “When joints become injured, it’s because a part of the body isn’t moving properly,” he explains. “The more bone density you build, the more resilient your bones and joints will be in old age. So, try weight-bearing exercises for 30 minutes a day.” Not into planks? Walking works just as well. “Indeed, any movement that spreads fluid to the joints is good,” Carr says.
5. You cross your legs
Crossing your legs when seated might feel comfortable, but it’s not so great for the hips. “When you sit with legs crossed, the glute muscles get tighter over an extended time and eventually compress against the hip bone causing pain in the hip tendons,” says Carr. Avoid keeping legs crossed for longer than 10 minutes and make sure you get up and have a walk or stretch every now and then.