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Why staying hydrated and eating well is good for your joints and muscles

While most of us are familiar with common signs of dehydration such as excessive thirst, muscle cramps and light headedness, it’s important to note that these symptoms typically only occur when a person is severely dehydrated. However, milder forms of dehydration can lead to a range of other bothersome symptoms that can affect our day-to-day health and wellbeing, such as joint pain and muscle stiffness.

As part of this year’s Hydration & Nutrition Week on 11 – 17 March 2024, Faye Stones, Head of Musculoskeletal Services at Novus Health, sets out the benefits of staying hydrated and eating well for our joints and muscles, and offers fifteen practical tips on how to eat and drink for better health.

Benefits of staying hydrated and eating well

Staying hydrated and eating a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats can help support the health of your joints and muscles, promoting mobility, flexibility, and overall wellbeing. A good diet and plenty of fluids are beneficial for your joints and muscles for several reasons:

Hydration

Water is essential for lubricating your joints. Synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant and shock absorber in joints, is primarily made up of water. Proper hydration ensures that your joints stay lubricated, reducing friction and minimising the risk of joint pain and stiffness.

Bone Health

Eating a higher quality diet provides essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are vital for maintaining healthy joints. Nutrients like calcium and vitamin D support the maintenance of a healthy bone and cartilage structure, reducing the risk of developing MSK disorders.

Muscle function

Proper nutrition including sufficient protein intake, supports muscle repair and growth. Muscles need adequate fuel to function optimally, and consuming a balanced diet ensures that they have the necessary nutrients to perform well during physical activity and recover effectively afterwards.

Weight management

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for joint health. Excess weight puts additional stress on your joints whilst excess body fat causes a greater release of inflammatory properties. Both factors together and independently cause an increase in MSK pain and can significantly hinder the rehabilitation process. Improving the quality of food you eat and increasing activity levels where possible is a great start to supporting better weight management.

Here are 15 practical and easy-to-follow tips to stay hydrated and eat well throughout the day, every day:

  1. Begin each day by drinking a tall glass of water when you wake up.
  2. Keep a water bottle at your desk to sip throughout the day.
  3. Always drink a full glass of water before lunch and dinner.
  4. If you need a reminder, set a timer on your phone to send a notification when it’s time to drink.
  5. Consider using a water-tracking app to measure how much water you are consuming each day.
  6. Carry a reusable water bottle with you when leaving the house.
  7. Choose water over other beverages
  8. If you don’t enjoy the taste of water, try adding a bit of flavour with a squeeze of lemon. Alternatively, you can purchase low-calorie water enhancers to mix into your drink.
  9. If you prefer hot drinks to cold, try herbal teas which are considerably less dehydrating than their caffeine-containing counterparts
  10. Start keeping a food diary to become aware of the food you are eating
  11. Before thinking about the amount of food you’re consuming, aim to improve the quality of your food by looking at resources such as the Eatwell guide to see what good quality food sources look like
  12. Pick a sustainable food structure that works for you for 80% of the week and build your meals and snacks around this. Try and schedule in the other 20% to enjoy meals in or out with friends and family
  13. Set achievable goals in the short term (1-3 months), medium term (3-6months) and long term (6-12 months)
  14. Be prepared and plan ahead for the week to ensure you stay on track. This might be cooking in bulk or menu planning which will ensure you have the right foods to hand and are less likely to snack on unhealthy options
  15. The more sustainable your plan is, the better the results. Think long term, not short term.

How to treat joint pain and muscle stiffness with physiotherapy

Whilst proper hydration and good diet can alleviate and prevent a range of joint and muscle issues, there will be many occasions where clinical advice and treatment are needed. If you are an NHS patient living in Wakefield, you can ask your GP to refer you to Novus Health’s team of experienced MSK physiotherapists, or if you prefer, you can refer yourself for free assessment and treatment by visiting https://novushealth.co.uk/physio-self-referral/ to arrange an appointment today.

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