With over 15% of all Australian’s suffering from arthritis at any one time, joint pain is something that may or possibly will affect any one of us at some time.
Even if we currently don’t have arthritis, or even experience any joint pain at all we can use some basic lifestyle changes to reduce our risk, or the severity of joint pain as we age.
Remember that it is often much easier to prevent a disease, rather than to try and treat it after the fact so even if you don’t currently experience any joint pain it can be worthwhile knowing how to look after your body for the future.
What Causes Joint Pain
Joint pain can be caused by a number of factors including injury of any tendons, ligaments and muscle surrounding the joint. If you are aware of a sudden onset injury then this is likely the cause for new joint paint.
In some cases, joint pain isn’t caused by a new injury, but rather it can be a symptom of inflammation in the joint. This can be a sign of arthritis, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, most commonly.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting thousands of Australians each year. It can affect any joint in the body, although it most commonly affects joints in the hands, knees hip and spine.
There is no blood test for osteoarthritis, but a blood test may rule out other forms of arthritis. An x-ray may also be used to determine any changes or narrowing in the joint.
Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease usually caused by an antibody in the blood. Because of this, it can be detected by a simple blood test.
Like all autoimmune diseases, your body mistakingly attacks its own body tissues. This affects the lining of the joints causing a painful swelling that can eventually lead to bone erosion.
How to Reduce Joint Pain
While some joint pain is chronic and has no cure, there is certainly a range of lifestyle factors available to reduce joint pain and lead to a better quality of life.
This is especially true for certain forms of arthritis. The other good news is the same factors that may reduce joint pain are generally very healthy for you and may also play a factor in reducing other preventable diseases such as heart disease too.
This seems like an obvious one but you would be surprised how often it is overlooked – probably because we often like to take the path of least resistance and the idea of losing weight can be both scary and uncomfortable.
None the less, losing weight can be a great way to reduce joint paint – especially on your leg joints (knees, ankles, etc) and your back.
There is no magic secret why this works. Obviously, the more weight a person is carrying around, the more stress that is placed on the joints.
There are also many other benefits to reducing weight too such as making it easier to exercise and reducing the risk of preventable diseases caused or contributed to by extra weight.
Like losing weight exercise is also often frowned upon for the same reasons. It can be difficult and uncomfortable to start an exercise routine. Especially if it is something you haven’t been doing in a long time.
Issues such as intrusive thoughts or self-confidence can play a big part in talking us out of the need to exercise.
But like the aforementioned losing weight, exercise provides a myriad of benefits on top of easing joint pain and it should be something we all strive to do more of.
If you have serious joint main such as arthritis remember to speak to your doctor though. You don’t want to go too hard or do the wrong sort of exercise and make joint pain worst.
But, the good news is regardless of the severity of our joint pain there is often a form and amount of exercise that can benefit us such as water aerobics or swimming, for example.
How can meditation help reduce joint pain, you might be wondering? Well firstly, mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce chronic pain by teaching individuals how to observe but not react to painful sensations as they arise.
To observe painful sensations as they arise, without struggling with them it allows us to stop throwing second darts at the original sensations.
With practice, this can then reduce the amount of suffering we experience. After a while, we come to the realisation that there are two forms of pain.
The first, initial sensation of pain and then the secondary reaction we have with our mind to the pain. By reducing the secondary pain we self-inflict it gives us greater control over our suffering.
There are various forms of massage such as massage for relaxation and therapeutic massage each of which may provide benefits to easing joint pain.
Massage for relaxation promotes a state of relaxation in the body which helps reduce stress hormones. With fewer stress hormones released into the body, there can be a reduction in inflammation which may contribute to joint pain.
Therapeutic massage aims to address specific injuries or pains in the body and should be done by a skilled massage therapist aware of working with joint pain and any specific conditions such as arthritis.
An anti-inflammatory diet is the basis of any good diet, as we don’t want to promote unnecessary chronic inflammation regardless of one’s health conditions.
By concentrating on ensuring we get an adequate supply of anti-inflammatory foods we can help reduce the inflammation that causes joint pain.
As well as eating anti-inflammatory foods, we should also ensure we avoid foods which promote inflammation such as foods high in added sugar, artificial trans fats and other vegetable oils, excessive alcohol and refined carbohydrates.
Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as eating fatty fish a few times a week can also benefit joint pain, and reduce the amount of those large fish oil supplements we often find ourselves taking.
These are just a few simple ways we can reduce, or prevent joint pain from troubling us in the future. It might be no coincidence that some of these tips should be a foundation of every healthy lifestyle journey as well, having far more reaching effects than just joint pain too.
Keep this in mind when looking for things to incorporate into your “must-do” daily routine.