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In your 20s or 30s? 5 essentials to avoid joint problems later in life

5 minute read
young health man stretching to avoid joint pain

Between trying to balance your rise up the career ladder with mortgage repayments, a social life and family commitments, you probably haven’t thought to throw ‘learning about joint health’ into the mix.

You’re young, healthy and fit, so why should you?

Turns out that minimising your risk of needing a hip or knee replacement later in life starts now. We spoke with Professor David Hunter, aka ‘The Joint Doctor’ about why it’s so important to start looking after your joints - because you’ll get just as much enjoyment from the phrase ‘hip replacement’ as you would being stuck on a dodgy train with no wifi.

I’m still young, so why is my joint health important?

Professor Hunter explains, “Looking after yourself when you’re young can help reduce the chance that you will develop the leading cause of disability in older adults. You can achieve this by simply reducing your risk of joint injury, maintaining an ideal weight and staying active.”

With the help of Professor Hunter, we’ve put together 5 things you should start doing now to help avoid joint problems later in life.

1. Warm-up

Whether you play sport, love an evening run or simply like to bust out a few smooth moves on the dance floor, it’s important to warm-up before you take part in exercise. For sports like netball, rugby, AFL and soccer, Safe Sport has a number of free agility programs designed to help protect and strengthen your joints before you play.

Joint injuries are not only bad news when you’re young but are a leading risk factor for arthritis (and joint replacements) later in life.

Other easy ways to warm-up your muscles include taking a brisk walk before you start pounding the pavement or applying a thermal wrap to your knees pre-workout to boost circulation. As for the dance floor? Start with smaller movements to get your muscles moving before you bring out The Dab or The Floss.

2. Know your risk

Although your genes can play a part in the health of your joints (thanks mum and dad), there are factors that you can control. Obesity puts extra stress on your knee and ankle joints, smoking can cause chronic joint pain, hard physical labour (tradies, this one’s for you) and repetitive activities can lead to joint strain and stress can cause swelling in your joints.

If you have any of these risks, it’s probably a good time to visit your doctor or GP for advice. You can use Whitecoat to find a doctor in your local area, see other patient reviews and book your appointment online.

3. Move at your desk

Sitting for prolonged periods can increase joint stiffness and pain, so make a conscious effort to get up and move – especially if you’re working from a desk most days.

Every hour, have a stretch and take a walk around the office and try to spend your lunch breaks doing some low-intensity exercise like Pilates, cycling or rowing.

4. Know the difference between muscle and joint pain

Joint pain affects your bones, ligaments and the lining of your joint, whereas muscle pain can be caused by something as simple as going hard at the gym; and it’s essential that you learn to recognise the difference between the two.

Muscle pain can be eased with light exercise which releases lactic acid, stretching, hydration and massage. It generally only takes a few days for muscle pain to subside.

Joint pain, however, takes longer to heal and it should be a different soreness to muscle pain; you might also notice redness, heat and swelling around the affected joint. If in doubt, consult your GP; they may refer you to a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist who can prepare exercises to help you strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints and alleviate the pain.

If you have an nib policy with Extras, you may be able to claim benefits on your physiotherapist or exercise physiologist visits. To get information about your policy, waiting periods and remaining benefits, use Online Services.

For each kilo of weight loss you’ll take 4 kilos of force off your knees when standing or walking

5. Watch what you eat

For every kilo of weight you lose you’ll take four kilos of force off your knees when standing or walking – myjointpain.org.au

Even if you’re in a healthy weight range, it’s a good idea to up your intake of fruit and veg to help minimise your risk of developing joint issues. A 2015 study on participants aged 19-70 with osteoarthritis found that a whole-food, plant-based diet significantly alleviated their symptoms.

So, it might be a good idea to put down the Mars Bar and pick up some broccoli instead. Need some inspiration? We’ve partnered with nutritionist Jessica Sepel for a range of delicious and exclusive recipes.

Concerned about the state of your joints? At nib, we offer eligible customers a range of free programs that can help you get back to your healthiest, including Healthy Weight For Life™. This program is specially designed to help customers with diagnosed knee or hip osteoarthrosis to lose weight and manage joint pain. It includes more than $800 worth of meal replacement products, personalised service and online support. For more information check out our Health Management Programs page.

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