What to do when you have joint pain

Nearly one in every four people have arthritis in the US and nearly five percent of the population deals with debilitating joint pain on a daily basis. 

Even if you don’t have severe joint pain, dealing with a painful knee, ankle, shoulder, hand or back due to a chronic injury or arthritis can cause you to alter your lifestyle in a meaningful way.

And that ain’t no way to live.

There’s so much you can do to manage joint pain that most MD’s typically won’t get into because it isn’t something they can easily write on a prescription pad.  In part because arthritis is one of those medical issues for which we have no cure.  And while science has allowed us the benefit of joint replacement (thank goodness), many of us are far from that stage but still need relief.

So what can you do to not just deal with your joint pain but, rather, thrive beyond it?

  1. See a doctor. Depending on your level of pain, it is recommended that you have x-rays or potentially an MRI done to rule out any additional disease and to ascertain the extent of your arthritis.  Knowing more about the type, extent, and location can help you take a more direct plan of action.  Be sure to ask around for positive referrals to local doc’s who are familiar with treating your issue.
  2. Eat a wide variety of lots and lots and lots of veggies.  The goal is to reduce sugar and highly processed meat intake- both of which increase inflammation in the body.  Aim for 5 servings of veggies every day.  You can always eat fruit too, but vegetables tend to be lower in glycemic index,which keeps your inflammation down. Research suggests eating vitamin K-rich veggies like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale and cabbage dramatically reduces inflammatory markers in the blood.
  3. Take an omega-3 rich fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement daily. Daily supplementation with as little as 2.7 grams of EPA and 1.8 grams of DHA can markedly reduce the number of tender joints and increase the time before fatigue sets in. Some studies have also noted a decrease in morning stiffness and at least two clinical trials concluded that arthritis patients who took fish oils could eliminate or sharply reduce their use of NSAIDs and other arthritis drugs.
  4. Of all the arthritis banishing supplements studied beyond omega-3 rich fats, Turmeric and Curcumin (which is the most active constituent of turmeric) appear to be the winners in reducing joint related pain. According to Dr. Weil, taking 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric extracts (available in tablets or capsules) three times per day or as directed on the product label can be a wonderful aide for those with any inflammatory disorders. He directs his patients to look for products standardized for 95 percent curcuminoids. However, curcumin nor turmeric taken orally is well absorbed unless taken with black pepper or piperine, so when shopping for supplements, be sure to choose one that contains black pepper extract or piperine.
  5. I’ve had four people in my practice in recent weeks who’ve all had severe forms of arthritis or chronic injury who were still able to find ways to get in a total body workout without further aggravating his or her pain.  In fact, after nearly every single workout I would get a message saying, “My knee/back/hip actually felt better today after our workout!”  It is possible, and even recommended that exercise and arthritis coexist. People with arthritis who exercise regularly have less pain, more energy, improved sleep and better day-to-day function.

So what should you do for exercise?  Stay tuned as I will be talking more and more about this in the weeks to come, but for now, the easiest thing to do are those things that are less-impact like swimming, biking, or walking on low incline terrain.  Mild stretching is always highly recommended to keep the joint as mobile as possible. 

Because here is the thing, movement lifts your spirits, improves your overall health, and will also motivate you to eat healthier too. You don’t have to be a slave to your condition, no matter what it is.  There is always more you can do to take back your energy, to move your body, and to find joy in your health.

Please forward this message to anyone you know who suffers from arthritis or chronic joint pain, and comment below if you have found these or any other pain relief options you love and can share.