1. Nonstop texting (and other repetitive activities)
Typing, texting on your phone, dicing food, and other activities that make you repeat the same motion over and over can tax larger joints like your shoulder, as well as smaller joints like your thumbs.
The solution is simple: Take a break every 2 to 3 minutes, says Zacharia Isaac, MD, medical director of Brigham and Women’s Multidisciplinary Spine Center. Try to avoid the activity if the joints it uses already don’t feel so great. For example, call instead of texting, and use a headset if your conversation will last more than 5 minutes.
3. Toting a too-heavy purse or backpack
Loading too much into your bag can alter your posture and walking stride, strain the muscles and joints in your neck, and even press on your shoulder joints, compressing delicate nerves, says Michael Perry, MD, medical director of the Laser Spine Institute.
“Weigh your purse when it’s full,” Perry says. “It should be no more than 5% of your body weight.” If you weigh 140 pounds, that’s 7 pounds.
If you wear a backpack, those distribute weight more evenly than a purse, so you can carry more weight in them. But if it feels uncomfortable, or causes you pain or soreness, it’s too heavy, Perry says.
4. Not strength-training
Of all exercise, strength training can be especially protective, because it builds and strengthens supportive muscles around the joints. For example, working your quads can help protect your knees, says Abby Goulder-Abelson, MD, rheumatology department chair at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Abelson recommends strength training a few times a week. You can lift weights or do exercises that use your body weight for resistance. Those include Pilates and yoga, though some forms of yoga may be too gentle to be effective for strength training, Abelson says.
New to exercise, or unsure if you’re exercising safely? Seek out a certified personal trainer or a physical therapist to create a workout plan for you.
5. Ignoring your joints
If any of your joints have been hurting for more than a week, don’t try to power through the pain: “Your body’s trying to tell you something,” Abelson says.
Instead, see your doctor. If you also have symptoms like tenderness, stiffness, and swelling, your doctor will determine if it’s normal aches and pains or something more.
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