As orthopedic physicians, our top priority is helping people stay healthy and active. That means not only treating injuries but also preventing them – especially in the new year, when many people resolve to start increasing their activities. The following list provides 20 quick tips for achieving and maintaining better orthopedic health in 2020.

For Overall Orthopedic Health

  1. Go low-impact: Especially as you age, consider activities such as walking, swimming, cycling and elliptical trainers. They are gentler on the body while still improving health and fitness levels.
  2. Start slowly: If you are training for a new sport or starting a new activity, ease into a routine to prevent sudden overuse and muscle/joint injury.
  3. Move more: Exercise as regularly as possible while maintaining a routine that aligns with your current health status and goals.
  4. Focus on the core: Activities such as Pilates and yoga help develop a more stable spine and stronger core muscles. Your posture and movement will improve, and your joints will undergo less stress.
  5. Watch the weight: A healthy weight will keep extra pressure off your joints.
  6. Don’t overextend: Be careful not to push past your normal range of motion or put your body in stressful positions.
  7. Eat right: Foods that are anti-inflammatory or high in calcium and Vitamin D can support strong bones and help prevent degenerative joint conditions. Proper hydration is important for muscles and tissues, too.

If You’re a Runner

  1. Warm up, cool down: Warming up prepares the cardiovascular system by gradually increasing the heart rate and improving blood flow to the muscles, while also reducing the risk of muscle tightness and injury. Similarly, cooling down helps prevent tightness and soreness.
  2. Stretch it out: Daily stretching elongates the muscles and is essential for improving and maintaining flexibility, as well as avoiding injury.
  3. Find proper footwear: Invest in well-designed athletic shoes and ensure the correct fit to support your weight-bearing joints.
  4. Build strength: Your best defense against injuries is a strong body. Basic strength training for sturdier muscles can help you improve your form and run with greater control and stability.
  5. Care for your arches: Stretch the arch of your foot or add shoe inserts to help avoid inflammation and pain from frequent, forceful stress on the feet.
  6. Listen to your body: If you feel pain, soreness, nausea, dizziness or fatigue, you may be overdoing it.

If You’re Having Joint Replacement Surgery

  1. Exercise as instructed: Your care team should provide at-home exercise instructions – perform the exercises exactly as instructed to optimize recovery.
  2. Check out special equipment: A firm chair with a higher-than-average seat may be safer and more comfortable. You also may benefit from a shower chair, gripping bar or raised toilet seat to prevent a fall when you’re bending over or raising yourself from a lowered position.
  3. Use assistive devices: A long-handled shoehorn, long-handled sponge or grabbing tool may eliminate the need to bend or lean forward to reach items, reducing the chance of injury.
  4. Avoid rigorous activity: Wait until your doctor approves before restarting activity like running, swimming or heavy weightlifting. You could put yourself at risk for reinjury or complications.

If Your Job or Hobbies Involve Repetitive Motion or Lack of Motion

  1. Don’t stress: Watch for repeated stress on the joints – such as continually lifting your arms over your head, kneeling and leaning forward, or overuse of a stair-climbing machine – to avoid irritation and inflammation.
  2. Stand tall: Incorrect posture or a frequent hunching of the shoulders can injure tissues and cause pain.
  3. Sit less: If your job keeps you fairly stationary, try to change positions often throughout the day, and go for short walks when you can.