14 Ways to Reduce Joint Pain With Diabetes
Diabetes can damage joints, making life and movement much harder. How does this happen, and what can we do about it? A lot.
“Without properly functioning joints, our bodies would be unable to bend, flex, or even move,” says Sheri Colberg, PhD, author of The Diabetic Athlete, The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan, and other books.
Joint pain is often called “arthritis.” “A joint is wherever two bones come together,” Colberg writes. The bones are held in place by ligaments, which attach bones to each other, and by tendons, which attach bones to the muscles that move them.
The ends of the bones are padded with cartilage, a whitish gel made from collagen, proteins, fiber, and water. Cartilage allows bones to move on each other without being damaged.
Joint cartilage can be damaged by injuries or by wear and tear with hard use. “Aging alone can lead to some loss of [the] cartilage layer in knee, hip, and other joints,” says Colberg “but having diabetes potentially speeds up damage to joint surfaces.”
Sometimes extra glucose sticks to the surfaces of joints, gumming up their movement. This stickiness interferes with movement and leads to wear-and-tear injury.
High glucose levels also thicken and degrade the collagen itself. This is bad because tendons and ligaments are also largely made from collagen.
Reduced flexibility of joints leads to stiffness, greater risk of physical injury, and falls. People with joint damage may reduce their physical activity due to discomfort and fear of falling. Reduced activity promotes heart disease and insulin resistance.
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