Whether it’s in your shoulders, knees, elbows, ankles, neck, or back, joint pain can quickly disrupt your quality of life. Even though your joints are designed to be flexible and fairly durable, tough tissues and bones can be affected by a hard blow, sudden impact, or an underlying condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure. The condition that often contributes most to joint pain is arthritis, with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) being the most common forms. While medication can help ease discomfort, there are certain lifestyle changes that may also provide welcome relief from joint pain.
Get Regular Exercise to Minimize Joint Pain
In addition to preventing muscle atrophy from lack of stimulation, regular exercise can also counter the fatigue and depression that sometimes results from chronic joint conditions. Avoid any movements that place excessive pressure on joints, especially if your joint pain is due to age-related wear of joints and tissues and a reduction in bone strength. Instead, opt for exercises likely to provide the right amount of stimulation, including:
- Casual walking
- Swimming and other water-based activities
- Some forms of yoga and other disciplines like Tai Chi and Pilates that involve gentle, controlled movements
Make Diet Changes Good for Your Joints
Give an added boost to your bones, joints, muscles, and tissues by adopting a diet that includes an assortment of nutrient-rich foods. Doing so can also help your body naturally fight the inflammation that often makes joint pain worse. Fill your plate with a mix of green, leafy vegetables, bright-colored fruits, lean proteins like fish, chicken (without the skin), and eggs, and low-fat dairy products, especially those high in vitamin C and calcium content (i.e., cheese, yogurt). Joint-friendly foods also include:
- Fatty fish with a high omega-3 fatty acid content (salmon, tuna)
- Antioxidant-rich berries (blueberries top the list)
- Garlic, onions, and leeks
- Turmeric (yellow spice common in curry and other Indian dishes)
Ease Joint Stress as You Sleep
The Arthritis Foundation estimates that as many as half of all patients with joint pain have difficulty sleeping. Improve your odds of getting a good night’s sleep by choosing a supportive mattress. The National Sleep Foundation recommends medium firmness, although you may need something a little more supportive. Also avoid sleeping in positions likely to place added pressure on the affected joints. For pain stemming from spinal (facet) joint issues, for instance, this would mean avoiding stomach sleeping since the natural alignment of the spine isn’t maintained in that position.
Mind Your Posture for Joint Pain Relief
Placing added pressure on any joint is likely to result in pain from the added stress and strain on both joints and supporting muscles. If you’re not paying attention to your posture, you’re likely doing something that’s throwing off your body’s natural balance, which often means more pain when you change positions or get up to move around. Improve your posture and ease stress on your joints by:
- Keeping your shoulders back and head upright
- Using ergonomically designed chairs (or sitting-to-standing desks, when possible)
- Avoiding excessive neck bending
- Wearing comfortable, supportive shoes
Chronic joint pain is rarely something that will go away completely. The purpose of making positive lifestyle changes is to bring pain levels down to a point where discomfort is managed. Start with a visit to your doctor to get some recommendations specific to your condition and situation. You may be referred to a dietician or fitness counselor specializing in musculoskeletal pain for further guidance. Report any new or worsening symptoms once you make lifestyle adjustments, especially with anything involving exercise.