Joint pain is a debilitating condition that affects nearly ⅓ of the population. It can be caused by arthritis, sprains, breaks, gout, bursitis, and other injuries. Common areas for joint pain include: knees, hips, shoulders, ankles, feet, hands, the lower back, etc. The older you get, the more frequent and painful joint pain can be. While your doctor may have given you medication or injections, the pain can still linger. Joint pain also tends to increase during the winter months, so if you suffer from joint pain, it has probably been at its peak over the past few months. There are ways to ease the pain that don’t require medication or surgery. Read on for six ways to naturally alleviate joint pain. (While the ideas below can help to ease the pain temporarily, they may not be a permanent solution. Always talk to your doctor before making major lifestyle changes.)
A common myth is that if you have joint pain, especially arthritis, you should take it easy. In fact, the opposite is true. Gentle exercise can do wonders for your joint pain. It is important that you do not attempt to do more exercise than you can handle, so start slow and ease yourself into exercising. Start by walking around the block once a day. As you get stronger, increase the distance or the speed. Pick up cycling, yoga, or Tai Chi. Ellipticals are another great option to get a cardiovascular workout without hurting your joints. Always stretch before you exercise to prevent injury. Make sure to pace yourself and drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. Pay attention to the cues that your body gives you during exercise to make sure that you don’t push yourself too hard.
Hydrotherapy is any therapy done in the water. It is a great way to ease joint pain and relax tense muscles. When you slip under the water, 90% of your body weight is taken away, allowing you to move more freely without the resistance of gravity and their own stiffness. Four ways to reap the benefits of hydrotherapy are: professional therapists, swimming, hot tubbing, and bathing. Professional therapy is a great option for those who have the means. The therapist can help strengthen your muscles and joints, and ease your pain. If you don’t have the means to work with a professional, the other options are good alternatives. Swimming or hot tubbing (or if you don’t have access to a pool or hot tub, a warm bath) can help ease joint pain as well.
Cryotherapy is a fancy way of saying “Ice it.” The cold reduces swelling by reducing blood flow to the area. A good rule of thumb is 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. Apply an ice pack to the area for about twenty minutes, and then take it off for twenty minutes. You should do this four or five times a day. Do not place the ice pack directly on the skin as you can get an ice burn. Wrap it in a towel or T-shirt and then place it on the skin. (Note that cryotherapy is used for many other purposes besides easing joint pain. It is used to treat skin diseases like warts, as a whole body procedure, and to treat headaches.)
If you suffer from joint pain, it may be wise to temporarily immobilize the area. Your doctor may recommend that you put a brace on the area to make it so that you can continue on your everyday activities without accidentally moving it, causing further pain. Also make sure that you get adequate rest if you have joint pain. This includes taking breaks as well as make sure that you are getting a good night’s sleep. During the day, if your pain starts to flare up, take a break. Sit down, breathe deep, and relax. While you are sleeping, your body repairs itself, so make sure that you are getting at least 8 hours every night to help your body repair and recover. If your joint pain is bad enough, it may be hard to get a good night’s rest. To help you sleep better, avoid caffeine, don’t nap, don’t overeat, avoid alcohol, turn off your phone one hour before you go to bed, and make a consistent sleep schedule.
Getting a professional massage or having a family member give you one can be a great solution for joint pain. If you are doing this treatment at home, rub a topical ointment like menthol on the area to help further ease the pain. Strokes should be done towards the heart in a slow, steady motion. Make sure that you do not apply too much pressure as it can make the pain worse. You can also use olive oil, a natural lubricant and anti-inflammatory, help make the massage smoother.
Maintaining a healthy body weight and eating the right nutrients will also help ease joint pain. Even ten extra pounds on your body can make a huge difference in the amount of joint pain that you expereince. Make sure that you are getting enough vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals in your diet. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and omega-2 fatty acids (found in fish, nuts, and leafy vegetables). It may be a good idea to take supplements to make sure that you get enough vitamins and minerals every day.