Approximately 54 million Americans have joint discomfort. Joint discomfort is a common issue, but most people who suffer from it don’t know the proven ways you can find relief. There are several strategies for helping your joints, according to our experts — and, more than likely, there’s one that you don’t yet know about that can help you.
1. “Motion is lotion”
If you’re having discomfort, it might seem like the opposite is true, but movement is key to maintaining joint health, according to Thanu Jeyapalan, CSCS, FCE, D.C, Chiropractor.
“Our joints are made up of a capsule and synovial fluid within that capsule,” he says. “Synovial fluid works as a lubricant to help the joint move with less pain, and less wear and tear. Regular movement and low stress exercise is the best way to encourage the body to increase this fluid and help fight off nagging joint pain.”
If you have joint discomfort, resist the urge to simply “rest” the affected area.
“Studies are now showing that when we get low back clients to move more, like taking a walk or riding their bike, their pain is relieved,” says United States Olympic Committee Approved Manual Therapist Lisa McNeil, M.Ed, CFSS-M, NASM-CES. “Depending on the area of pain, I like to recommend any activity that utilizes all three planes of movement.”
The way it works is pretty simple and understanding can help you make the healthy decision to keep them moving.
“Cartilage actually has living cells in it called chondrocytes who live in a complex structure of collagen and other proteins,” explains Dan Paull, MD, CEO and founder of Easy Orthopedics. “This structure holds a lot of water and acts like a shock absorber for your joints. If you damage the cartilage, it will release a lot of that water that it is holding, and this causes swelling. Cartilage cells don’t have any blood supply, so they need to be massaged to get rid of their metabolic by-products. We effectively are massaging our cartilage when we move our joints and participate in impact activities.”
2. Drop the extra pounds
We all know that losing weight improves health in many ways, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it does the same for joint health.
“For every one pound of weight you lose, that’s four pounds of pressure off of your knees,” says Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS. “Less pressure on your knees will help prevent cartilage damage from happening.”
When it comes to losing weight while you have joint discomfort, low impact exercise is best. Dr. Conrad recommends strength training, stretching, and yoga for those hoping to strengthen and support their joints.
“Aerobic exercises like using the elliptical, upper body ergo meter, stationary bicycle or treadmill also help decrease sensitivity to pain through exercise induced hyperalgesia,” says Lev Borokhov, DPT.
3. Diet changes can help
While suddenly swapping your chicken for omega-3 rich fish won’t instantly free you of joint discomfort, what you eat does make a difference.
“Eating a balanced diet high in omega-3s, combined with maintaining a healthy weight seems to have the best long-term outcome for preventing joint cartilage damage, but eating a bunch of fish won’t make your cartilage grow back,” says Dr. Conrad. “Foods that are high in antioxidants have shown some success in preventing cartilage loss, but not regenerating it. Some recommended examples to help prevent cartilage degeneration include extra virgin olive oil, oily fatty fish like tuna and salmon, legumes, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.”
Another way to go is to stop eating foods that can cause inflammation.
“If other options like movement and hydration don’t give us the results we desire, we start attacking foods that provoke an inflammatory result, such as dairy, grains, and red meat,” says McNeil.
4. Use thermal therapy
Using heat and ice to treat joint discomfort is a time-tested and proven option for many.
“If you experience a lot of stiffness in the mornings, a warm shower or heat pack will help loosen up the tissues and joints and provide relief,” says Dr. Jeyapalan. “However, if you’re feeling joint pain (not just stiffness), icing is the best way to cool down the area, reduce the inflammation, and relieve pain. Apply the ice or cold pack by wrapping it in a thin towel and applying it over the area for 10 minutes.”
5. Try a proven supplement
A high-quality glucosamine and chondroitin supplement is worth considering as well. Cosamin®ASU is an advanced formula to help support joint health. The unique formula contains QUIKLOX® from Boswellia serrata, an ingredient shown to work faster than glucosamine alone. The active ingredients in Cosamin®ASU work together to decrease the markers associated with cartilage breakdown and joint discomfort.
While there’s no silver bullet to make joint discomfort disappear, adding these lifestyle changes into your daily schedule can help make your joints feel better — and you can know you’re taking healthy steps to a better life.