4 tips for when joint pain strikes
As we get older, minor muscle aches and joint pain are not unusual. Wear and tear on our joints can result in pain after exercise and daily activities, especially for people with previous joint injuries and those with a family history of arthritis.
If you are experiencing occasional joint pain, here are four ways to keep the pain from getting worse.
1) Take action if you’re overweight.
Even a few extra pounds can hurt your joints.
“Being overweight raises the risk of developing osteoarthritis,” says Dr. Harun Durudogan, an orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Weight loss is often the first way to relieve pressure on joints and prevent further damage.”
According to a study cited in Harvard Health Publications, a decrease in body mass index (BMI) to less than 30 would reduce the possibility of knee osteoarthritis by 20 percent in men and 30 percent in women.
Eating just 100 calories more than your body needs each day can result in a 10-pound weight gain in one year.
2) Regular exercise can help relieve joint pain.
“Regular exercise helps increase the joint fluid needed for lubrication,” says Dr. Durudogan. “If you are experiencing joint pain, it is important to determine whether this is from a lack of conditioning.”
Dr. Durudogan explains that exercise can help relieve joint pain by strengthening the muscles around the joints, improving the quality of joint fluid and helping with weight management.
Increase your physical activity and decrease your calories for the most effective weight loss strategy to help alleviate the strain on your joints. Your physician and/or dietitian may be able to help you find the appropriate balance.
3) Avoid pain-inducing exercises.
If you usually run or do other high-impact workouts, try an alternate exercise to give your joints time to rest. Swimming, walking, yoga and Pilates are effective low-impact exercises.
“A break of two to three weeks will help determine if your painful condition has healed or if it is becoming chronic,” says Dr. Durudogan. “Exercise is crucial to joint health, but should not be painful.”
A pain that stops you from continuing your activity may require medical evaluation, explains Dr. Durudogan. Avoid the “no pain, no gain” attitude and listen to your body.
“If exercise has become uncomfortable to the point of pain, your doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises and stretches that will keep you active in spite of this issue,” says Dr. Durudogan. He stresses that it is important to modify your exercise program in order to stay limber even if your pain is due to advancing osteoarthritis.
4) Discuss concerns with your doctor.
Dr. Durudogan recommends you first discuss your concerns with your family medicine or internal medicine physician.
“A primary care physician can provide an initial evaluation and help determine what types of services could help most, whether it’s physical therapy, medication, custom orthotics or a consult with a sports medicine physician or orthopedic specialist,” he says.
Find out if your joint pain is a sign of something more serious. Click here to take a joint pain assessment.