October 19th is World Pediatric Bone and Joint (PB&J) Day, created by the multi-disciplinary Pediatric Specialty Group of the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI). The United States Bone and Joint Initiative Group’s goal is to identify the primary areas of concern with regard to children’s musculoskeletal health, including those that relate to other health issues, and to develop programs and activities through research, education and advocacy to promote improved health and reduce the burden of disease.
Since 2012, this day has been set aside to urge doctors and parents to recognize the effects of musculoskeletal issues in children, and take action, so they do not lead to lifelong challenges. While every year has had its own theme, there has been an ongoing focus on obesity. The percentage of children who are overweight or obese has more than tripled since 1980, rising from 7 percent to nearly 30 percent today. Obesity can affect bones and joints at an early age.
In addition, a child who is overweight may not consistently eat foods rich in vitamin D, calcium and other important nutrients which contribute to healthy bones and joints. The child’s weight may lead him or her not to want to exercise and build bone mass, critical to maintain and improve their health. All these may cause undue stress on the musculoskeletal system and can impair growth and contribute to serious childhood or lifelong conditions.
As the summer comes to an end and the weather starts to cool, we find our kids indoors more often clutching video games or deep in social media. That means less physical activity. Any change in activity makes us more susceptible to joint- and bone-related issues. It is important we guide children in healthy living and activity to prevent damage, reduce pain, and improve their overall quality of life and health.
Following are 10 Tips we can all benefit from:
Exercise to protect and strengthen your joints. Overall, by strengthening muscles and aiding in weight loss, exercise can reduce the strain on joints. Squats and lunges, as well as certain exercises with weights, can help strengthen quadriceps and reduce the pressure on knees. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking also helps maintain bone density, no matter a person’s age. However, note that running and other high-intensity exercise may damage joints and ligaments, leading to inflammation, pain and, eventually, arthritis.
Stretch and warm up prior to exercising. Our bodies need to be warmed up in order to work properly and avoid excess injuries. This allows our tendons to flex and become suppler, helps the muscles to loosen up and work better, and gets the blood flowing through our body. Bodybuilding and weight lifting-related joint pain problems can be caused by tendonitis, an inflammation or irritation of the tendons. This type of joint pain can be reduced or eliminated by stretching and warming up tendons before working them too hard. This makes them more flexible and able to handle the added weight or exercise loads we put on them.
Change exercises. Both avid and novice exercisers should consider changing exercise routines. Impact-style exercising, such as step aerobics or kick boxing, is harder on our joints than exercises such as yoga and water-based workouts.
Don’t over-exercise. Regardless of the type of exercise, or how heavy the workout, our bodies need time to repair. Someone who does hours of intense exercising daily will have more problems with chronic joint pain than someone who allows their body to recuperate. Our muscles, tendons and ligaments all need time to rest and repair after a hard workout. That’s what causes them to strengthen over time.
Lose weight, if advisable. Extra body weight creates strain on our joints, particularly the knee joints. Losing as little as 10 pounds of body weight can help reduce pain and improves breathing and circulation.
Understand the value of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 acids are primarily found in fatty fish and some nuts and seeds, such as flaxseeds. Omega-6 acids are found in many vegetables, such as corn and corn oil. While the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (which include fish oil supplements) is well known, less known is the fact that your intake of these fats can affect both bone formation and the rate at which bone is broken down. It’s important to consume both varieties, though consuming more omega-3 fatty acids improves bone mineral density, particularly important for good hip health. Eating a fatty fish like salmon twice a week is recommended, and many physicians suggest fish oil supplements.
We need Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium and maintain enough calcium and phosphate in our blood so it doesn’t get pulled out of bone. It also enables bone growth and the breaking down and building up of bone. Low levels of vitamin D contribute to osteoporosis and a condition called osteomalacia, which produces an aching pain in our bones as the bone weakens. Low vitamin D also causes muscle weakness, which can lead to falls and fractures as we age. The best source of D is sunlight, but it’s nearly impossible to get enough in the fall and winter, or if we’re using sunscreen. That’s why supplements are helpful. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends a daily level of vitamin D to 600 international units (IUs) for anyone up to age 71 years old, including children, and as much as 800 IUs for those 71 and older. As with all medicines or supplements, consult with your physician or nutritionist to ensure the best regimen for your personal wellness needs.
Evaluate shoes. Proper footwear is important for bone and joint health. It is important that all shoes, including tennis and athletic shoes, fit properly. Toes need room and there should be good arch support. Some sort of cushion, especially under the ball and heel areas of feet, also is recommended.
Change positions. Sitting or standing all day, day after day, can cause joint pain. We need to vary our routines to give both our bodies and joints variety and rest periods. Getting up and moving around is helpful to break up a routine and keep our bodies in shape.
Listen to biofeedback. Overdoing it can be costly. Make sure kids are staying bio aware and addressing any aches and pains.
If you notice any of these conditions in a child, especially if they worsen over time, please contact your health care provider as soon as possible. After an examination, which may include X-rays or other imaging, a diagnosis and appropriate treatment protocol will be determined.
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