Joint pain is a very common problem with many possible causes, including injury or arthritis. Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as arthritis and back pain affected an estimated three in ten, [or 18.8 million people,] across the UK in 2017.
Joint pain can be irritating or frustrating at best and crippling or debilitating at worst. And it can impact your mental and emotional health and wellbeing too.
What causes joint pain?
There are many causes of joint pain, but two contributory factors include an inactive lifestyle and being overweight.
Around one in four adults in the UK do less than 30 minutes of physical activity per week. Inactive people are at increased risk of developing a painful Musculoskeletal condition.
In addition, Musculoskeletal conditions are one of the biggest threats to the health of people who are obese. Over 6 in 10 adults in the UK are overweight or obese. Obesity directly damages weight-bearing joints such as knees and hips because of the abnormally high loads they have to carry.
Drug free alternatives to joint pain
Whilst many people reach for painkillers if joint pain is acute, it’s not a good idea to take them long term without medical supervision. Fortunately, you don’t always need to resort to painkillers and it’s important to remember that although they may alleviate pain, they don’t necessarily enhance your movement or protect your joints. In fact you can do MORE harm if you’ve used painkillers as you might over stretch yourself!
So what are the alternatives, if you don’t want to take pain killers?
The old-fashioned treatment for generalised joint pain was bed rest. Sadly this is not the right advice as it tends to make joint pain worse. Plus complete rest means muscles get weaker and pain can feel worse.
While it might sound counter intuitive, movement is key! Gentle walking, swimming, yoga or cycling can help joint pain and improve your mood, too. To make walking less stressful on lower joints, try Nordic walking. This lower-impact exercise uses specially designed walking poles to propel you forward, which takes the pressure off your knees. Swimming is a wonderful exercise for joint pain because the water supports your weight and gentle swimming or aqua aerobics can strengthen the muscles around joints.
ESCAPE-pain is a rehabilitation programme for people with chronic joint pain of the knees and/or hips that integrates simple education, self-management and coping strategies, with an exercise regimen individualised for each person:
Physiotherapy and exercises at home
A physiotherapist can teach you how to do daily tasks, such as sitting, standing, walking and lifting properly. They can also show you specific exercises to practise at home to help relieve symptoms. There are some helpful exercises you can do at home here. If you’re unable to leave your home, these flexibility exercises can help keep your joints and muscles moving.
Anyone can use meditation as a tool for managing pain, without any prior experience. Meditation can help guide your mind into a relaxed space where pain seems less intense. Try this free 20 minute meditation. If you want more specific help then book some hypnotherapy, here in the Forest of Dean – it can help with pain reduction and control. You can be taught self-hypnosis to self manage your chronic physical health problem and deal with pain management.
An aromatherapist will apply specific diluted essential oils to your skin through massage. Different essential oils have different properties. For example, if you have back pain, an aromatherapist might select lavender or marjoram to relieve muscle spasm, or ginger if you have a circulatory problem.
When used during massage, aromatherapy can help you de-stress and relieve muscle tension whilst promoting a sense of relaxation and wellbeing.
Vitamin D is required for strong bones. The principle sources of vitamin D are sunlight exposure, supplements or foods (oily fish, red meat, egg yolks, offal and fortified breakfast cereals). Dietary sources are essential when the amount of sunlight containing UVB light is limited such as throughout the winter, or exposure to sunlight containing UVB light is restricted. As more and more adults and children spend time behind screens, rather than outdoors, Public Health England recommend everybody gets adequate vitamin D through foods or supplements.
How many times have you heard ‘You are what you eat?!’ Certain foods have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system. Adding these foods to your balanced diet may help ease the symptoms of joint pain. 12 of the best foods for arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation include oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, cherries, broccoli, green tea and garlic. This is very much like the “Mediterranean Diet”.
A Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain. It’s generally high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.