According to the CDC, 22.7 percent of adults in the US have arthritis which accounts for 52.5 million people. By the year 2040, an estimated 78 million adults aged 18 and older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Joint pain associated with arthritis, or even some injuries, is very common and if left untreated it can have a major impact on the overall quality of life. Although arthritis doesn’t have a cure which could eliminate it entirely, there are numerous ways to relieve joint pain and improve flexibility.
Weight loss or management is the first and the most important thing a person can do to protect joints and prevent the severe pain. When you are overweight or obese, the excess pounds increases the load that you put on your knees, hips, and ankles every step you take. The reason is simple when you walk up and down the stairs, get into or out of a chair or car, you put three to five times your body weight on the joints, sometimes even more than that.
Doctors always advise their patients to keep their weight in a healthy range or to lose a few pounds. And, it works! There’s a growing body of evidence that weight loss reduces the risk of osteoarthritis, one of the most common types of arthritis, in women due to the decreased load on joints. Benefits of weight loss also extend to the relief of joint pain and improved functionality.
Furthermore, one study revealed that irrespective of weight loss, reduction of body fat has the potential to reduce the mechanical and biochemical stressors that contribute to joint degradation.
Although physical activity is, probably, the last thing you want to do when you experience joint pain or dealing with arthritis in general, you shouldn’t neglect it. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle can only aggravate the pain you feel, while exercise has positive effects. Physical activity is essential to optimizing both physical and mental health and plays a pivotal role in arthritis management.
Regular exercise keeps the muscles around the affected joint strong, decreases bone loss, and controls joint pain and swelling. Furthermore, physical activity replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of the joint, thus reducing stiffness and pain. Thanks to its ability to decrease fatigue and improve sleep, exercise enhances energy and stamina much-needed for your weight loss.
The Journal of Aging Research published a study which showed that exercise seems to improve overall function in rheumatoid arthritis without any detrimental effects on the disease activity. Thus, all people who suffer from arthritis should be encouraged to engage in low-impact exercise.
Hot and Cold
Hot and cold therapy is one of the most common ways to find joint pain relief. Applying hot compresses or taking long, warm showers help relieve stiffness in the joints, which is a common problem for most people with arthritis. It is practical to use an electric blanket or heating pad at night to keep the joints loose.
On the other hand, ice packs or cold gels are useful for joint pain relief. Wrap a gel ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables into a towel and apply to the painful area. One study found that patients often experiment with hot and cold therapy to find the perfect way to relieve pain. For example, a lot of people find the best relief when they alternate hot and cold treatment.
Meditation and other relaxation techniques are helpful for reducing joint pain by decreasing stress and enabling you to cope with it better. The Annals of Rheumatic Diseases published a study which showed that meditation eases tenderness, pain, and stiffness among patients with rheumatoid arthritis. These findings are consistent with previous studies that confirmed the beneficial of mindfulness meditation on chronic and inflammatory diseases. Moreover, evidence also shows that meditation improves mood and related outcomes in individuals with osteoarthritis too.
Of course, benefits of meditation don’t apply for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis only, this ancient practice helps relieve joint pain caused due to other factors as well. Make sure you meditate at least 30 minutes each day.
Increase Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our overall health and wellbeing. It’s strongly recommended to increase consumption of these healthy fats to decrease the risk of numerous diseases, but it turns out they can help with joint pain too. Omega-3s block inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins which could, otherwise, aggravate arthritis. Fish oil, the richest source of Omega-3, has a tremendous potential to decrease joint tenderness and stiffness. Besides fish, nuts are also a great source of these healthy fats, but you can also opt for supplements containing this ingredient.
Regular massaging of arthritis joint prevents stiffness, tenderness, and pain. Also, massage improves your range of motion. For instance, one study found that a 60-minute session of Swedish massage therapy delivered once a week for pain due to osteoarthritis was both optimal and practical.
Massage lowers the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol and stimulates the production of serotonin, thus improving mood. Although scientists do know that massage therapy works through stress reduction, the underlying mechanism is still unknown and a subject of ongoing studies. That said, massage is also associated with better sleep which could also play a role in addressing and managing joint pain. To relieve joint pain and improve range of motion or reduce stiffness, it is necessary to work with a physical therapist and also learn some self-massage techniques to do yourself.
Joint pain management and relief require a healthy lifestyle. Everything you do also affects the joints, and your job is to make that impact positive. Low-impact exercise is a must to work on flexibility and relieve pain in joints. Moreover, you should also pay attention to what you eat and consume a well-balanced diet. Don’t underestimate the potential of hot and cold therapy. Nowadays, you can even buy products like JointFlex formulated to provide instant relief. Consult your doctor or physical therapist about exercises and massage techniques to do and be mindful regarding lifestyle choices you make.