Pain is a universal human experience. It has a very important biological function; that is to keep us from danger and further injury. In acute injury, say a sprained ankle, the swelling and heat serve to promote blood flow to the area to assist the healing process to occur. At this point in time, loading and exercising the joint or injured site might not be a very good idea, and our pain levels would confirm this.
Much of our aches and pains however seem to come about more insidiously, that meaning soreness and stiffness seem to just be there all the time, sometimes of no apparent cause or due to very old injuries.
If regular aches and pain are slowing you down, these daily habits should be the first point of call.
1. Perform Daily Movement
Sleep, wake, drive to work, sit all day, stress, drive home, dinner then bed is a recipe for achy joints and tight muscles. In a lifestyle that looks like this one right here, your joints never really get to move beyond a small range of motion. Joints NEED to be moved to be nourished and to stay supple. Connective tissue and facia adapt to the range of motion and joint positions that are regularly experienced. Therefore, you must regularly explore the full range of motion available to maintain or improve mobility. Walking for 30 mins and stretching for 15 minutes every day can produce amazing results.
2. Reduce Alcohol Intake
If aching joints are accompanied by a beer or wine in the evening, it could be time to reconsider how you quench your thirst. Not only is alcohol a toxin, it has a pro-inflammatory affect on our system, which is a primary mediator in joint pain.
3. Be mindful of your Body Weight
This one is more of a guideline than a habit, however our daily habits can have a significant effect on our body weight. Studies consistently show a strong correlation between osteoarthritis and bodyweight. Over weight and obese people can have up to 5 times the risk of developing knee arthritis in later life (1). What is interesting is that high rates of osteoarthritis can be found in not weight bearing joints like the fingers. This would suggest that carrying excess weight has a systemic effect, above and beyond the extra loading excess body weight would provide. More evidence is emerging that confirms excess body fat releases pro-inflammatory mediators, which contribute to cartilage degeneration (2).
4. Omega 3 Supplementation
Some people swear by it, some people report no benefit. If you have not tried supplementing your diet with omega 3, it may be one additional habit you can use to combat joint pain. But how does it work?
The evidence would suggest that Omega 3 supplementation has an anti-inflammatory affect. Studies will show that supplementation can inhibit the production of cartilage-degrading inflammatory cytokines.
5. Make time for you
The path to better health cannot be outsourced. It cannot be bought in a pill or supplement. The time you invest in yourself will pay huge dividends because ultimately your physical and mental health is a combination of the behaviours (and thoughts) that you practice daily.
Anderson J, Felson DT: Factors associated with osteoarthritis of the knee in the First National Health and Nutrition Examination (HANES I). Am.J.Epidemiol. 1988;128:179-189.
Rita I. Issa and Timothy M. Griffin: Pathobiology of obesity and osteoarthritis: integrating biomechanics and inflammation. Pathobiol Aging Age Relat Dis. 2012 May 9; 2(2012): 17470.