How to protect your BONES & JOINTS

By admin
March 06, 2017

Unidentified marathon athletes legs running on city road

You’ve heard the adage use it or lose it…when it comes to your bones and joints that old saw is about as apropos as it comes. To stay active and keep bones and joints strong and healthy, one has to keep moving. Regular exercise, a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight, the basics for overall good health, are also paramount to maintaining bone and joint health and keeping active throughout all the stages of one’s life.

Well-Being turned to James Randall Ramsey, M.D., Orthopaedic Surgeon with Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center for answers to our questions about what one can do to keep bones and joints strong and healthy over the course of a lifetime.

Q. What are some of the best ways to strengthen bones and care for joints so they will remain healthy as you age?

A. Three basic ways to strengthen and maintain the health of bones and joints as one ages, are to do the following:

  • Weight bearing exercise/activity to strengthen bones such as walking, running, hiking and weight training;
  • Flexibility training to keep joints mobile and healthy, such as yoga, Pilates, and various forms of martial arts;
  • Maintaining a healthy weight as obesity leads to increased stress across the lower back and joints of the lower extremities such as the hip, knee and ankle.

Clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods – those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.

Q. How important are food choices to bone and joint health?

A. Food choices are crucial. Not only is weight management important to lessen stress and degeneration of the load bearing areas of the body, but an anti-inflammatory diet or eating pattern is also very important. “clean eating,” and healthful food preparation lessen the chance of chronic inflammatory conditions of joints and muscles.

An anti-inflammatory diet calls for buying and consuming non-processed foods. This means eating as our ancestors most likely ate. Some good examples are:

  • Organically grown vegetables, fruits and nuts;
  • Lean and non-processed meats that are antibiotic and steroid free;
  • Free range poultry products;
  • Wild caught fish products.

Shopping for whole foods often means avoiding the center aisles of the supermarket. The produce, meat and dairy items are typically located on the perimeter of the store. Put in simple terms, “buy what comes in bags, and avoid those items that have a barcode.”

It is also very important to avoid any food with added sugar. This includes soft drinks, sports drinks and many fruit juices. Water remains the best form of hydration.

It’s important to remember that 80% of weight loss comes from what you eat, not from burning calories during exercise (although regular exercise does enhance your ability to lose weight when eating right). In other words, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

Q. Overuse can be a factor in joint deterioration. How do you know how much is too much?

A. Activities that cause repeated pain and/or swelling of joints and muscles are likely to result in an “overuse” condition and should be halted or modified until better or until they have been evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Q. What sports or activities are most likely to cause joint problems if you are not careful? Baseball, running, tennis, golf…?

A. Most activities can be safe and injury free if undertaken with moderation and with a plan of moderate progression. Certain activities confer a greater risk of injury simply because of the risk involved with them. These types of activities include but are not limited to extreme sports such as ultra-marathoning and heli-skiing, and some more mainstream sports like mountain biking and crossfit. Epidemiological studies support the inherent risks in many exercise or activities, but these are but a few.

Q. Can some medications affect the health of your bones and joints?

A. There are some medications that can adversely affect the health of the musculoskeletal system – most notably a group of antibiotics in the floxacin class (Levaquin) and cholesterol lowering agents that are in the statin class (Lovastatin). ACE inhibitors for blood pressure control and corticosteroids also have been linked to various muscle/bone/joint problems, as has the recreational use of cocaine.

Q. How can parents help their kids adopt habits that will be good for their bone and joint health as they grow into adulthood and beyond?

A. Parents can help their children best by setting a good example with exercise and healthy eating habits. Obesity in children is most commonly associated with obesity in their parents and siblings. Long-term health problems associated with obesity are thought to be the largest healthcare burden of the present century. Parental modeling of healthy lifestyle habits and risk avoidance with sports are paramount for the long-term health of our children.

Family mountain biking on forest trail, front view, close-up

A child with one obese parent has a 50% chance of being obese. When both of a child’s parents are obese, their chance of becoming obese increases to 80%.

Q. Why is it so important to consider the long-term impact of your favorite sport or activity on your bone and joint health?

A. Choosing a sport to enjoy as you age is important to continued participation in that activity. Sports that don’t allow for regression of expectations as one ages are likely to lead to frustration and eventual cessation of that activity. A combination of strength training, balance and coordination training, and cardiovascular fitness training is likely the best for one’s body and health over a lifetime. Blending these things with enjoyable activities such as tennis, golf, hiking, running, cycling, etc., should provide a long, healthy life for one’s bones and joints.


James Randall Ramsey, M.D., Orthopaedic Surgeon, received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. His professional training in Orthopaedic surgery incudes serving a transitional internship and completing his orthopaedic surgery residency at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science. Dr. Ramsey also completed a sports medicine fellowship with the Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance / The Lipscomb Clinic in Nashville. He is Board Certified in orthopaedic surgery, with a special interest in shoulder surgery and holds an American Board of Orthopaedic Sugery Subspeciality Certification in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 

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