Although it may strike at any time, joint pain is an issue for many people as they age. It is typically a symptom of arthritis, but may be caused by other conditions as well, so it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to determine the cause of your pain.
As with many chronic conditions, managing joint pain effectively often requires a whole body, holistic approach that goes beyond medications. Each of the tips below offers improved health and wellness without causing the side effects commonly experienced with the medications typically prescribed to treat pain and inflammation. As always, talk to your physician before making significant changes to diet and exercise.
1. Lose Weight
Any extra weight your body carries adds pressure to your joints, particularly those in your hips, knees, and feet. Losing weight reduces stress on your joints, which improves mobility and decreases pain while helping to prevent future damage.
2. Keep Moving
Regular exercise and an active lifestyle come with incredible health benefits. First, of course, staying active helps you achieve that first tip, losing weight. The benefits of exercise don’t end there, though. Through regular movement, you increase blood flow to your joints, which helps keep them loose and flexible. In addition to your physical health, regular exercise improves your mental health, reduces stress, and helps you relax. Look for low-impact workouts, such as swimming, biking, and walking, so that you don’t cause further joint pain. Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program. He or she can also recommend the best exercises for someone with joint pain.
3. Follow a Healthy Diet
A plant-based diet rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals that includes lean proteins and the right fatty acids helps reduce joint pain by stabilizing blood sugar and reducing inflammation throughout the body. Look for leafy green vegetables, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, and aim for three to five servings each day of fruit and vegetables to ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals your body craves. Talk to your doctor before making significant changes to your diet, and consider working with a registered dietician to determine the best diet to manage joint pain.
Mindfulness meditation requires you to focus on your breathing and really notice your body and what it feels. Meditating does not treat arthritis or any other condition causing joint pain, but it does help reduce stress, which is a major cause of inflammation. When you reduce stress and inflammation, you reduce pain.
5. Hot/Cold Therapy
Heat helps prevent joint pain by easing stiffness and keeping joints loose. A long soak in the bath or a warm shower in the morning helps ease stiffness that develops overnight. You may also try sleeping with an electric blanket and applying heating pads and hot water bottles to stiff joints, just take care not to overdo it, as too much heat may cause the joints to swell.
If the joints are already swollen and painful, use cold treatments to reduce swelling and inflammation. For quick pain relief, apply an ice pack or even a bag of frozen vegetables to the painful joint.
6. Enjoy a Massage
Massage therapy improves circulation throughout the body, helping to reduce inflammation and pain in the joints. It also improves range of motion and increases flexibility.
7. Consider Vitamin D Supplements
With our indoor-based lifestyles and processed food diets, most Americans suffer from some level of vitamin D deficiency. This negatively impacts bone and joint health (as well as your skin and hair). For many, the answer is a vitamin D supplement (if your doctor approves). You can also look at adding healthy fats, such as fish oil and avocado, to boost vitamin D naturally and lubricate joints.
8. Try Acupuncture
Based on ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture dates back thousands of years. It didn’t arrive in America until the 1970s but since then, the practice has gained respect from the World Health Organization as an effective treatment for a variety of conditions, especially those involving pain. In addition, many insurance carriers now cover acupuncture treatments. If you decide to try acupuncture, make sure you visit a licensed, certified acupuncturist.
Do you have any tried and true methods for managing joint pain? Help other readers by sharing them in the comments.