Bone & Joint Action Week is held each year between 12-20th October and focuses on raising awareness of a variety of musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders including arthritis, back pain, trauma, osteoporosis, and paediatric conditions that affect the bones.
So, why is bone and joint health important?
- Quality of life
Healthy bones and joints are crucial for maintaining a good quality of life. They enable individuals to move, walk, run and perform daily activities with ease and without pain. Problems with bone and joint health can significantly impact mobility and independence and contribute to numerous issues later in life.
- Physical activity
Promoting bone and joint health encourages people to engage in physical activity and exercise. Regular physical activity is vital for overall health and wellbeing and can help prevent the onset of conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
- Aging population
The UK has an aging population and as people get older, the risk of bone and joint conditions such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis increases. Promoting bone and joint health is essential for maintaining the wellbeing of the elderly population.
- Preventing falls
Further to the point of an ageing population, maintaining strong bones through proper nutrition and exercise is crucial for preventing fractures, especially in the elderly. Falls are a significant cause of injury among older adults and strong bones can help reduce the risk of fractures. The World Health Organisation states that falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide; over 680,000 deaths occur annually because of accidental falls.
- Economic impact
MSK conditions account for nearly 1 in 3 of GP consultations in England and are estimated to cost the National Health Service (NHS) £4.76 billion each year.
Bone and joint health are closely tied to productivity in the workforce. When individuals experience pain or limitations due to bone and joint problems, it can lead to absenteeism and decreased productivity at work.
It is clear to see that there any many reasons why bone and joint health is crucial to our health and wellbeing, and there are things we can do to help protect our musculoskeletal health:
- Maintain a balanced diet & stay hydrated
Ensure you get adequate calcium and vitamin D for strong bones. Calcium is central to bone formation whereas vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium. Dairy products, leafy greens (such as broccoli and cabbage) and nuts (almonds are the best!) can help boost our calcium levels, and we should also look to consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables for essential nutrients.
Regarding vitamin D, it is hard to get this through our diet as it mainly comes through exposure to sunlight. Given the sun can make its appearance sparingly at the best of times, vitamin D supplementation may be something individuals wish to consider.
Lastly, we should look to drink plenty of water to support joint health, as the cartilage in your joints contains a lot of water.
- Stay physically active
Engage in weight-bearing exercises like walking, running and resistance training to build and maintain bone density. You can also include flexibility and balance exercises to reduce the risk of falls and joint injuries.
For those that struggle with load-bearing activities due to a history of joint/bone problems, stay active with activities that are gentler on the joints, such as swimming or cycling.
- Manage your weight
By eating well and being active, we can maintain a healthy bodyweight. Long-term, this can contribute to reducing the strain on your joints, especially the knees and hips. Excess weight can contribute to osteoarthritis and other joint problems.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
Smoking can weaken bones and impair blood flow to joints. Excessive alcohol consumption can harm bone health.
- Protect your joints
Use proper body mechanics when lifting and carrying heavy objects, wear protective gear, and use proper techniques in sports and physical activities to prevent injuries. We should also seek to maintain good posture and use ergonomic furniture and tools to reduce strain on your spine and joints, especially in your workplace.
Whilst there are numerous implications for poor bone and joint health, there are also many things we can do to help prevent their onset. Many of these behaviours form a central part of living a healthy lifestyle, further underling the key premise that all aspects of health and wellbeing are so heavily intertwined.