Related: Shoppers With Arthritis Say These Cloud Sandals ‘Changed Their Lives’
The worst habit for arthritis pain
In addition to being linked to a wide variety of other health problems, a sedentary lifestyle can be bad for your joints. “One of the biggest misconceptions we deal with as rheumatologists is the belief that if you exercise, you’re going to make your arthritis worse,” says Dr Elaine Husni, MD, MPH, an Arthritis Foundation Expert Source and Vice President of the Division of Rheumatic and Immunological Diseases of Cleveland Clinic. “That’s a common myth that we want to dispel because we think that sensible and regular exercise can actually help your arthritis.”
Husni emphasizes the potential benefits of exercise for people with arthritis and joint pain, as long as you tailor your exercise regimen to your ability and fitness level. “We want people to understand that exercise is good for arthritis in your joints. However, everyone should exercise at the level that suits them. If your fitness level is lower, you may want to start with water exercises and work your way up to exercise on land. If you’re like me and just a weekend warrior, then we may need to follow a gradual program to get to a regular training regimen. And if you’re a high-performance athlete, you may need to work with a trainer to making sure you don’t overdo your exercise.
Other not-so-great habits for people with arthritis
Maintaining an unhealthy diet
Diet and exercise often go hand in hand, so it makes sense that eating a lot of unhealthy foods isn’t good for arthritis pain either. “Foods high in sodium, processed sugars and fats have been linked to weight gain, cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” says Dr. Kathryn Dao, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Rheumatology of the Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “When you gain weight, the joints have to work harder. For those who have arthritis and are overweight or obese, losing 10 percent of their body weight will reduce stress on weight-bearing joints by 40-50 percent.
Dr. Dao notes that doctors often recommend the Mediterranean diet — which emphasizes healthy oils, plant foods and limiting red meat — for people with arthritis. This diet has also been found to reduce weight, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In addition, certain types of arthritis can flare up with a poor diet. For example, gout attacks have been linked to red meat, shellfish, high fructose corn syrup and alcohol.
Related: This Super-Popular Diet May Lower Heart Disease Risk in Women by 24%
Wear bad shoes
If you have arthritis or experience any type of joint pain, consider what you put on your feet. “Improperly fitting shoes and high heels can interfere with the way a person walks and shift the center of gravity, making arthritis pain worse,” says Dr. Dao. “Foot discomfort can translate vertically into pain in the knees, hips and lower back. The best shoes for arthritis are those that provide stability, good arch support, and shock absorption.”
Related: Do You Have Plantar Fasciitis? These 25 pairs of shoes can relieve your pain
Carrying heavy purses or backpacks
Lugging heavy bags or routinely carrying heavy backpacks can strain your back, but it’s also bad for arthritis pain. “Carrying heavy objects will put more stress on the joints, especially when the weight of the object is not distributed,” says Dr. Dao. “Large purses, bags and backpacks worn on one side of the body can affect a person’s gait and center of gravity. The uneven distribution of forces will put more pressure on the joints, causing hip bursitis, knee osteoarthritis, neck and lower back pain.”
Can Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?
It’s a common belief that cracking your knuckles can cause (or worsen) arthritis. Dr. Husni says there’s no official consensus on that, because there haven’t been any major studies comparing the arthritis diagnosis rates of people who crack their knuckles with those who don’t. “However, we don’t recommend cracking your knuckles because you’re stretching your joints beyond the physiological range to make that sound, and we just don’t like people doing things with their joints that aren’t normal movement. I don’t know if we can say it causes arthritis, but it can cause some joint discomfort and damage over time, we can’t imagine doing it repeatedly would be good for your joint health in general.”
Next, find out the most common causes of sudden knee pain.