Like the hinges on a door, the joints in your body enable movement and a change of position and angle. The difference is that your joints work all day long under great pressure. And unlike their inanimate counterparts, your joints rely on living tissues to bend and extend, and when they get damaged, you can’t reach for a can of oil to ease the movement.
You can, however, reach for the phone and call Dr. Stanley Mathew, our triple-board certified pain management physician here at the American Rehabilitation Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He’s an expert physiatrist and specializes in the nonsurgical treatment of a wide range of physical problems, including joint pain.
Although some injuries and conditions require medication and/or surgery, many can be relieved significantly through less invasive methods. If you have chronic joint pain due to arthritis, injury, or inflammation, here are five ways you can battle the pain.
1. Get stronger
You know strength training is the only way to build lean muscle, which helps you maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart, but most people don’t link strong muscles with joint health. And that’s a big mistake, because if your muscles are weak, your joints take the brunt of the deal, as they take on the responsibility for load-bearing all on their own.
Keeping your large and small muscles strong, particularly around your knees, ankles, and shoulders, can help keep joint pain at bay. And tightening up your core muscles gives your back a fighting chance at staying pain-free as well.
2. Mind your posture
The human body is designed to move, but if you're like millions of other Americans, you probably spend a considerable amount of time sitting in a chair hunched over a screen. Poor posture puts pressure on your vertebrae and facet joints and accelerates the wear-and-tear of daily life.
Sitting cross-legged adds undue stress to your knees, so do your best to keep your feet flat on the ground.
And set a timer to remind yourself to get up and move every half-hour or so. If you work in an office, take a trek around the floor; if you work from home, take a jaunt to the mailbox or walk upstairs and back. This helps increase your circulation, lubricates your joints, and eases tight muscles.
3. Get healthy
If you’re overweight, you’re putting more stress on your knees than they can bear. For every extra pound of weight you’re carrying beyond your body’s healthy weight, you’re effectively piling four times the amount of pressure on your knees.
Losing weight, even as little as 11 pounds, can also reduce your risk of getting osteoarthritis by half.
And if you’re making some dietary changes to lose some weight, pay special attention to the foods that can help reduce the painful inflammation in your joints while you’re at it, such as:
- Dairy products (low fat)
- Olive oil
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
Any foods that contain vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids are good choices for the health of your joints.
4. Rely more on your bigger, stronger joints
Share the load with your healthier larger joints when your smaller ones are aching. For instance, when lifting a heavy box with arthritic hands, use your palms to place pressure on the sides, and call upon your shoulders and knees for the lift instead of your finger strength.
Likewise, you can save your back by using the larger muscles in your legs and knees to hoist. Remember to keep the load close to your body and keep your back straight.
5. Listen to your body
When you have joint pain, some days are worse than others. During a flare up, listen to your body and rest that joint. If you can still exercise while keeping the painful part protected, the activity can go a long way toward relieving your discomfort. Exercise releases endorphins into your bloodstream, and they act like natural painkillers.
If you need a little extra relief, OTC anti-inflammatories can help quell the pain, as can a cold compress or bag of frozen peas.
Professional joint pain relief
If you have chronic joint pain that won’t respond to these conservative techniques, you may need Dr. Mathew’s expert help. The first thing he does is run relevant tests that help him diagnose exactly what’s going on in your painful joints. Depending on the cause and the severity of the damage, he may recommend a variety of treatments, including:
- Chiropractic care
- Hot or cold treatments
- Physical therapy
- Electrical stimulation
- Injections (nerve blocks or steroids)
- Trigger point therapy
If your joints are killing you, there’s no need to suffer. Call us at 319-369-7331, or use our online tool to request an appointment today.