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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jesse Ropat

Natural Ways To Ease Joint Pain

Joint pain affects everyone at some point in their life. Whether you’re a younger athlete dealing with overuse injuries, or you’re entering your later years and are feeling the effects of aging, these tips can apply to you.


But first, let’s talk about some common causes of joint pain.


Many factors can hurt your joints, so if you don’t know which category you fall under, I highly recommend bringing this up to your doctor at your next appointment. Trauma to the joint (for example, a sports injury or fall), infection, inflammation, autoimmune disease, and of course, aging.


A few of the major types of joint diseases include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease), and gout (a build-up of crystallized uric acid in joints).


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of chronic joint pain and affects more than 43 million people worldwide. It’s also the second most expensive disease state in America. People at risk of OA tend to have at least one of the following: older age, muscle weakness surrounding the joint, some type of joint injury, and obesity. OA also tends to affect women more than men.


OA affects the entire joint and involves inflammatory markers that eventually lead to joint damage and affect movement, causing stiffness, and pain. Usually, the early signs affect the cartilage that surrounds our joints and allows the bones to move freely across each other. When cartilage erodes it can lead to pain and friction within the joint.


So if you’re dealing with osteoarthritis, what can you do? Or even better yet, if you’re lucky enough to be reading this before you’re affected by joint pain, how can you prevent it? Below I’ve listed the tips that have worked the best for my patients and myself, and I’m confident you’ll find something that works for you.


Preventing Joint Pain


Maintaining a healthy body weight is the most important factor for preventing joint pain, especially in our weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips. Extra weight puts unnecessary stress on the joints and accelerates wear and tear on the joint and cartilage. Every pound lost is less daily pressure on your joints.


Regular exercise can help make the muscles around the joints stronger, which provides more support and lowers your chances of injury. I tend to recommend low-impact activities like swimming and stationary biking or regular cycling since these tend to be gentler on the joints.


Regardless of how low-impact the routine is, though, make sure you warm up well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jumped into a workout without letting my body go through some basic movements, and accidentally tweaked a muscle. A simple stretching routine, or a short walk on the treadmill or around the block can help get the body warm and ready for activity.


You can also increase your mobility and relieve stiffness in joints by stretching or doing some form of yoga or tai chi. These are excellent options to add to your weekly longevity routine.


Also, if you play sports or work with repetitive movements, make sure you take breaks in between to stretch and allow your muscles and joints to rest.


When I was 19, I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my wrists from overuse. This was a mixture of weight training and guitar playing, leading to me having excruciating pain in both of my wrists which shot up my arms and kept me awake at night.


The major change I made was to stretch constantly and often and to put extra focus on training the muscles of my forearms to create a solid foundation of support around my wrists. More than a decade later, I am still pain-free.


Supplements for Joint Pain


Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon and walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce joint pain. This isn’t for everyone, since at higher doses it can slightly thin the blood, so I always recommend talking to your doctor before starting any supplements.


Additionally, curcumin has been known for its anti-inflammatory effects and can easily be incorporated into your daily supplement intake. It has been shown to help with joint pain similarly to anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, without the harmful stomach side effects.


A reasonable dose is about 1000mg of curcumin per day split in two 500mg doses in the morning and nighttime. You can increase this to about 2000mg per day.


Glucosamine and chondroitin are also common joint health supplements and can help strengthen joints, skin, and hair. They not only help reduce pain, improve joint function, and ease stiffness but can also slow down the narrowing of the cartilage in your joints.


A starting dose of 800mg of each ingredient per day, and increasing up to about 1200mg daily of each ingredient.


Alternative Therapies for Joint Pain


Heat therapy, such as warm baths or heating pads, can relax muscles and ease joint stiffness. It's typically used for chronic joint pain but can be useful for more acute pain as well.


Cold therapy, with ice packs or cold compresses, can reduce inflammation, numb the area, and make the pain more bearable.


One of my favorite therapies for pain is physical therapy, which focuses on exercises and techniques to improve joint function and reduce pain.


Normally people will seek out physiotherapy after an injury, but if you know you’re prone to a certain type of pain or injury, I recommend it as “pre-hab.” This is when you treat BEFORE you get injured to lower your chances of injury.


I use physiotherapy techniques for my knees and ankles during my marathon training seasons, to prevent injuries that I know I’m prone to, because of past pain and injury. I’ve had ankle injuries that have put me out for months while I recover and treat the damage, so I now take the prevention much more seriously.


Summary


If you haven’t got a simple joint health routine, I recommend including the basics I described here. Talk to your doctor and determine the root cause of your pain.


Once you know, you can begin to address it.


  1. Strengthen the muscles around the joint with some basic strength or endurance training on a bicycle or in the pool. This doesn’t have to be a long workout. About 150 minutes of activity a week is what you should aim for.

  2. Stretch. This will help your joints loosen up, and the muscles around it as well.

  3. Take some basic supplements, once you’ve discussed with your doctor. Curcumin, Omega-3’s and Chondroitin/Glucosamine supplements are an excellent starting point.

  4. Treat your body like you care about it! Prepare it for the stress of life by using the important technique of “pre-hab” if you know you’re prone to certain injuries.


Using these 4 basic steps, I have significantly reduced the number of times I’ve been injured over the last decade. They’ve helped many of my patients and I’m confident they will help you too.


I wish you all the best on your joint health journey, and I’ll be here to support you along the way.


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