Keeping Your Joints Healthy
Painful joints - something we've all experienced at one point or another. Whether you've injured a joint or just overdone it with exercise, you know how debilitating it can be to experience joint pain. Maintaining mobility is one of the most important things you can do to ensure good health throughout the entire course of your life. It helps you lose weight, reduce your blood pressure and blood sugar, improve your mood, enhance the quality of your sleep, and reduce stress. That's why it's essential to take good care of your joints and address joint problems as soon as they arise.
Getting To The Root of Joint Pain ...
Most often, joint pain can be traced back to an injury or overuse. In other cases, however, joint pain may develop gradually and without apparent cause.
In both cases, you experience inflammation, whether visible - swelling, pain, and possible redness and heat - or underlying - aching and stiffness along with pain when moving and even at rest. If a joint becomes swollen, warm and tender, you should see your healthcare practitioner. And any injury with acute swelling where you are unable to use the joint, i.e. unable to bear weight on it or move it or if you have joint pain accompanied by a fever or numbness, should be examined by a qualified healthcare practitioner right away.
Getting relief for your joint pain requires identifying where the problem lies. Most of your joints are made up of a joint capsule, muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and the bones on either side of the joint. The joint capsule is a membrane covered, fluid-filled space that encases both ends of the bone with cartilage as a type of cushion between the two bones. The fluid within the joint capsule acts as a lubricant and provides nourishment for the cartilage.
Joint problems can arise in any of these structures, so let's look a a few of the most common ones:
Sprains/Strains: A sprain typically involves the overstretching or even tearing of the ligaments which connect the bones of that joint to each other. A sprained ankle, for example, will be swollen and painful when attempting to put your weight on it. There may also be bruising. Strains involve the pulling or tearing of muscle or tendon. Characteristic of a strain is discomfort, muscle spasm, limited ability to move the joint, and possible swelling. For most acute injuries, relief can be found with RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.1
Tendonitis: Tendonitis occurs a tendon, which has the function of attaching muscle to bone, becomes inflamed. Overuse, especially by repetitive motion, is the most common cause of tendonitis, and leads to discomfort when moving the joint, tenderness, and possible swelling. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation will help. If your tendonitis is caused by a repetitive motion - be it from a sport like tennis or from the use of our mouse at work - it's important to identify if your technique or body position is to blame and make changes where indicated. Proper warm-up and stretching can also help reduce your chances of developing tendonitis. Finally, giving the affected joint a rest by engaging in different forms of exercise will aid the healing process and reduce the wear and tear to your joints.1
Bursitis: This involves inflammation of the fluid filled sacs which act as cushions for your bones, tendons, and muscles around your joints. When inflamed, the bursae are swollen, tender to the touch, and painful with movement. Repetitive injury is often a cause of bursitis as is sitting or kneeling on hard surfaces for prolonged periods of time. If you have diabetes, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis, you are at greater risk for developing bursitis. The shoulder, elbow, knees, and hips are most often affected by bursitis. Rest is essential for healing and it may be necessary to temporarily immobilize the joint to decrease the irritation. Ice is also helpful in reducing inflammation and swelling. See your healthcare provider if you also have a fever, if you have a rash, if your pain is intense, or if your symptoms don't resolve with rest within a week. Physical therapy may be necessary if resting the affected joint does not bring an improvement in your symptoms. Protecting the affected joint by learning proper body posture when lifting or kneeling as well as using cushioning when kneeling will help to speed healing and prevent repeated bouts of bursitis. Before exercising, be sure to warm up and cool down properly. Vary your workout as much as possible to reduce the possibility of a recurrence.1
Osteoarthritis: This is a degenerative form of arthritis, where the joint cartilage has degenerated over time due to wear and tear and, thus, can no longer act as a cushion between the two bones of the affected joint. The result is pain - especially when weight is place on the joint - stiffness, and the formation of bony growths called osteophytes. These bone spurs further impede the normal movement of the joint. A common form of arthritis in older adults, osteoarthritis is on the rise.2 Obesity is a major risk factor in osteoarthritis due to the additional stress that extra weight places on joints.3,4 Once the cartilage is worn away, there is no way to replace it, making treatment options limited to:
Pain management which may include over-the-counter pain relievers (see below), steroid injections, physical therapy, occupational therapy, acupuncture, gentle forms of exercise like yoga or tai chi, and supplements like glucosamine (don't take it if you have an allergy to shellfish) and chondroitin - both of which can interfere with blood thinners.
Joint replacement surgery
It's important that your joint problems are evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional, so seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or taking a nutritional supplement or pain reliever. Several treatments are available to provide relief for painful joints. Over-the-counter non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like Motrin or Alleve are most commonly taken to decrease inflammation and provide pain relief. These drugs, as well as Tylenol, do have side effects and continuous use can lead to serious kidney or liver damage. Thankfully, natural remedies containing Methylsulfylmethane (MSM) or THIAA from hops are also available for pain relief.
To Preserve Mobility and Good Health
Keeping your joints healthy involves paying attention to five specific areas of your life:
Eating a diet low in inflammation-causing arachadonic acids, a type of omega 6 fatty acids. Your body does need some omega 6 fatty acids, but the american diet is typically much too high in omega 6 as compared to omega 3 fatty acids. See our blog on essential fatty acids for more information.
Eliminating allergens which can produce low level inflammation throughout your body. Find out if you have any food allergies or sensitivities which can trigger a vicious cycle of inflammation in your body.
Targeted nutritional supplements:
EPA Omega 3 essential fatty acids which have an anti-inflammatory effect
Adequate Vitamin D: Low vitamin D is associated with cartilage loss in the knee and weak, brittle bones.
Chondriotin & Glucosamine to aid in growth of cartilage.5 Don;t take these if you are on blood thinners and avoid chondroitin if you have a shellfish allergy.
Exercise: Exercise, when done properly and regularly, is able to not only prevent joint injury by strengthening the joint, but aids in healing after an initial period of rest. Exercise improves the range of motion and circulation to joints and muscles. Overexercise should be avoided and you should stop exercising and consult your healthcare practitioner if you experience pain in the affected joint. Matching the type of exercise to your joint problems, level of fitness, and overall health is the best way to exercise because it enables you to reap the benefits while avoiding injury or illness. That's why there is no substitute for getting professional advice before you start up any exercise regimen.
Proper Skeletal Alignment: If your body is out of alignment, your joints will be affected. Good chiropractic care can make a major difference in the health of your joints as well as your overall health. Massage and acupuncture can also help prevent and heal joint problems.
Weight Loss: Weight-bearing joints like your knees are most susceptible to injury when you are overweight. Weight loss is a complex issue where one-size does not fit all when it comes to effective solutions. We use an individual approach that examines your diet, lifestyle, digestive health, and genetic predisposition to put together a tailor-made weight loss plan.
Prolonged Stress: Prolonged stress results in underlying inflammation which can affect the health of your whole body. Reducing your level of stress or transforming it is essential for your overall health. See our blog on transforming stress for more information.
If you suffer from joint problems, ask your healthcare provider about steps you can take to relieve your joint pain. If you would like more information on ways you can achieve healthy joints, please contact us for a personalized nutrition consultation. See our e-store for natural products supporting joint health like Wellness Essentials Active and MetaRelief.
2 Ali, N. Arthritis and You. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.: Lanham, Maryland. 2013.
3 Reves, C et al. Association Between Overweight and Obesity and Risk of Clinically Diagnosed Knee, Hip, and HandOsteoarthritis: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2016 Aug;68(8):1869-75.
4 Koonce, RC et al. Obesity and osteoarthritis: more than just wear and tear. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2013 Mar;21(3):161-9.
5 Bland, J. Improving Theapeutic Outcomes by Treating the Intersection of Osteoprosis, Cardiovascular Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and Arthritis. Metagenics Educational Programs: 2008.
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~