4 Tips to Naturally Manage Joint Pain

Over the colder months, do you find yourself feeling more joint pain and arthritic symptoms? Or do your regular workouts end up with stiffness and body aches the next day?

Whether you struggle with joint pain or have diagnosed arthritis, you’re not alone. The CDC estimates that one in four American adults have arthritis, with even more adults struggling with stiff or painful joints from time to time. And cold weather decreases the amount of lubrication between joints, which causes this number to get even higher in the winter.

Before we dive into what causes joint pain and how you can (naturally) alleviate stiffness, let’s briefly cover joint basics.

Joints are locations in the body where two bones, or bone and cartilage, come together, typically (but not always) to facilitate movement. Joints are made up of bone, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and cartilage. When you think about your joints, you’re likely thinking about your synovial joints, which are the most common in the body, particularly in your limbs. This is where two bones join in a cavity filled with synovial fluid to spur movement.

We experience joint pain most frequently due to inflammation. Whether from lifestyle, diet, stress, or vitamin deficiencies, our body will frequently experience inflammation. When inflammation becomes chronic, we may experience symptoms like joint pain regularly and feel at a loss for how to alleviate it.

A quick fix may be taking an Advil or a pain reliever, but this rarely addresses the root of the problem. So in this blog, we’ve outlined four actions you can take to help get to the root of your joint pain. 


Do a lifestyle check

There are a variety of lifestyle factors that can contribute to joint pain: stress levels, sleep quality, and level of hydration. Any discrepancy in one of these can contribute to joint pain.

First, stress is one of the main causes of inflammation in the body. Rising cortisol levels caused by stress can elicit an inflammatory response, which can have an effect on your joints. To decrease your stress, consider a meditation routine, or another stress management tactic outlined in this blog..

Next, consider your sleep hygiene. During sleep, the body repairs itself, nurtures, replenishes, and prepares for the next day. If you’re not sleeping enough, or if your quality of sleep is poor, your body will have higher levels of stress and inadequate time for repair and replenishment. Try getting to bed an hour earlier – especially in the winter months – to increase your sleep time.

Lastly, hydration. How often do you hear people saying to drink more water? Not often enough, because the majority of us are constantly dehydrated, even if we don’t realize it. Water is key to lubricating your joints, so aim to drink at least half of your body weight in water each day. For example, if you’re 150 lbs, you’ll want to aim for 75 ounces each day!


Foods to add and remove

 You’ll want to become aware of the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods in your diet as well. Nutrition is often the first place where you can make small changes to see big results, and you want to focus on foods that support repair, rather than promoting inflammation. Anti-inflammatory foods stabilize blood sugar levels, provide more nutrients, and, as the name suggests, help fight inflammation in the body.

Foods to incorporate are less processed and more natural, with limited sugar, refined carbohydrates or unhealthy fats (but healthy fats are great for your joints!)

Consider foods like:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Berries and citrus fruit
  • Pasture-fed meat and poultry
  • Herbs and spices (garlic, rosemary, turmeric, etc.)
  • Wild caught fish
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Olive oil, olives, avocados (healthy fats!)

Foods to avoid are highly processed, sugary foods like fast food, frozen meals, vegetable oils, trans fats, and refined wheat products.


Move regularly and (somewhat) gently

 The ideal type of exercise for people with joint pain is low-impact exercise. Physical activity helps decrease inflammation, mobilize fluid in the joints, and helps the body with its overall waste removal processes.

Consider the following exercises:

  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi

You want to be gentle on your joints with your exercise, and you also will want to prioritize stretching. Yoga is great for this, and you can also find short videos online that help you stretch out each morning or evening. This gets your joints moving, helps decrease inflammation, and improves overall health. You can check out this 7-minute guided stretch below!

Add supplements into your regimen

Four specific supplements can be extremely powerful in decreasing inflammation and improving your joint pain: magnesium, proteolytic enzymes, collagen, and omega-3 fatty acids. We outline each below!

Magnesium supports the cartilage in joints, while also aiding in the digestion of other important nutrients in the body, like vitamin D and calcium. The majority of Americans are deficient in magnesium, and adding it into your routine can be immensely helpful to your overall health.

For more magnesium, check out Bio-optimizer’s all-seven forms of magnesium supplement, found here.

Proteolytic Enzymes have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, with specific effects in the joints. They help remove scar tissue in the joints, while also preventing any other fibrolytic tissue from building up. Serrapeptase is a proteolytic enzyme which may be helpful for joint pain.  Though not widely studied, clinical studies show preliminary information that serrapeptase may work as an analgesic for inflamed tissues. Here’s one to try.

Collagen is the protein in our bodies found in our joints – particularly in the ligaments and tendons – and aids their movement. Adding collagen to the diet can improve pain and motility in people with joint pain and associated diseases.

We recommend Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen (find your favorite flavor!) as a boost to your smoothies. You can check it out here.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are another anti-inflammatory. Moreover, they also provide a boost of healthy fats in your diet, which provide further lubrication and support to your joints! You can find these fatty acids in salmon, nuts, eggs, and seeds, but if you want a supplement to provide Omega-3s regularly, we recommend Carlson Maximum Omega 2000, which you can find here.

Joint pain can limit your motility, comfort, and happiness, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Incorporate a few of these tips into your regular schedule to fight inflammation, soothe discomfort, and help address the root cause of any joint issues.

Remember: Preventing pain is easier than treating pain!

Being SMART About Making Positive, Sustainable Changes, Part 2

Many of us started the New Year with resolutions for positive change – and to keep these sustainable, it’s helpful to know that your brain is a powerful tool to help you stick to new habits!

When it comes to changing your habits, there’s a key process in the brain that is involved: it’s called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the process by which your brain develops new connections, strengthens existing ones, and prunes out the old ones that are no longer in use.

The “connections” are more formally known as synapses – these are where two neurons connect and share information. Synapses spur learning, store memories, and – important for our purposes today – create our habits!

Neuroplasticity is important when it comes to your new year’s resolutions because it allows your brain to become familiar with your new habits; it sets them in stone as a new part of your neural hardwiring. Neuroplasticity lets your brain grow, develop, and adapt to changes in your life and schedule. In other words, neuroplasticity is how an old dog learns new tricks!

Think of changing your brain through neuroplasticity like working a new muscle – your bicep, for instance. Let’s say you do 15 bicep curls each day. At first, they may be challenging; perhaps your arms aren’t your strongest muscle group. However, as you keep at it, you find those bicep curls getting easier and easier. With time, the bicep curls become a habit – and you’ve successfully grown and strengthened the muscle.

Repetition of new habits and skills follows a similar process in the brain. The brain is not a muscle; it’s actually mostly made of fatty tissue! But strengthening the synapses in the brain, and consequently the habits they support, is a repetitive process. When you sufficiently strengthen these synapses with repeated action, then the habit begins to feel like a regular part of your life, rather than an uphill battle to incorporate into your daily life. This is the neural process occurring as you take on a new habit – your brain’s hardwiring is literally changing with your habits, lifestyle, and schedule.

With a better understanding of how your brain changes as you take on a new habit, let’s review ways you can better stick to those habits and spur neuroplasticity. Below we’ve outlined a few tactics to help you stick to your 2023 goals!


1. Become aware of where you typically fall off

Start by reflecting. You’ve probably tried to take on new habits in the past and both succeeded and failed. Consider:

  • When I incorporated a new habit into my life in the past, what helped me succeed?
  • When I failed to stick to a new habit in the past, where did I go wrong?
  • Specifically, when I failed in the past, did I see a form of self-sabotage arise? (eg: procrastination, deciding “it’s not worth it,” avoidance, perfectionism, etc.)

Creating awareness of the patterns you fall into when you fail or succeed can help you work smarter, not harder! Thinking back to neuroplasticity, our specific patterns of failure or success are often hardwired in our brains. Thus, obtaining clarity on the ways we typically sabotage new habits can be extremely helpful. For example, some of us opt for procrastination when the going gets tough, while others do a mental 180 and say to ourselves, “Well, it wasn’t going to work out anyways, I should just give up now.”

Once you have an understanding around your default mechanisms to sabotage or avoid new goals and habits, you can call yourself out when you see them arise this year! If you’re a procrastinator, what are you going to do when you see yourself procrastinating on your new habit? If you have those thoughts of “it’s just not worth it,” what are you going to tell yourself instead? In other words, what is the new neural pathway and pattern you’re going to create? You can utilize anything that’s helped you be successful in the past to help you get out of a rut here, too!

First build awareness. Then create a plan. We’re all human, so take some of the pressure off yourself by realizing it’s not if you fall off the wagon, but when. So when it happens, be prepared: what are you going to do instead to break the old pattern and create a new, healthier one?


2. Use SMART goals

SMART goals are goals that are…

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Check out our last blog post on SMART goals for a deep dive on how to incorporate them into your new year’s resolutions. They provide an outline to creating goals and habits that are genuinely manageable and set yourself up for success!


3. Link your new habit to something already in your schedule

There’s a process called habit stacking – outlined by James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits – where you link your new habit to something that already exists in your regular schedule. Your brain has already laid the neural networks to support the existing habit, and you can take advantage of this hardwiring when incorporating something new into your life.

For example, let’s say you want to add more movement into your schedule. You decide that after dinner on the nights you eat at home, you’ll take a walk around your block. Dinner is something already bound into your schedule, and adding a walk to it simply builds on that daily task, rather than adding a totally new time block and habit into your schedule.


4. Get clear on why you want to change

Knowing your purpose behind a new habit is vital to its success. Dr. Kate Hays, a performance psychologist, recommends knowing the personal reasons why your new habit or goal matters to you. When the going gets tough – when you fall off the wagon, when those bicep curls are just too grueling, when you keep forgetting to take your medication – recalling your why can be massively helpful to motivating you towards continuing on your path, or restarting if you took a break. Because taking on a new habit – and changing your brain along with it – can take time, energy, and practice. You need to have ample reasoning and purpose behind your desired change. This will keep you motivated and moving towards your goal in the long run.

Habit change can be challenging, but remember that you’re building new mental “muscles” each time you practice your new habit. Acknowledge that the process can and will take time – and that is completely okay. You’re building new ways of living and being – down to the smallest neural levels – that support your ultimate health and habits. Keep going, and use these tips when the going gets tough!

5 Tips for Managing Stress and Preventing Burnout in the Workplace

Are you tired of work? Have you been experiencing burnout in the workplace? If yes, you are not alone; a recent survey revealed that 77% of respondents – nearly 4 out of 5 people – have experienced burnout at work. For those of you working in the medical, human services, and education sectors, it is even more likely that you need a break.

So what is burnout? If you think you are experiencing it, online surveys such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory or seeking a mental health professional can help you clarify. But in simple terms, World Health Organization characterizes it with three dimensions:

  • Energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • Negative feelings or lack of pleasure at your job, such as becoming cynical or critical;
  • Reduced efficacy at work, such as low productivity or struggling with concentration.

These symptoms could have dire consequences if left ignored or unaddressed. According to the Mayo Clinic, sustained burnout can lead to the following:

  • Mental health and mood issues, such as fatigue, insomnia, sadness and anger, and alcohol and substance misuse; and
  • Physical issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, and vulnerability to illnesses.

Fortunately, many employers are pushing for policies to ensure employee mental wellness, such as increased time off and after-school childcare. In this blog, we’ll cover five additional tips to manage work stress and help you get through tough times at work.


Build Strong Relationships

We, humans, are social creatures. Like any other environment, social support at work and outside of work is necessary for workplace well-being. Research has shown that good social interactions regulate our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) system – the stress response system in our body, protecting us from psychological and physical diseases.

There are many scientific studies proving that good relationships decreases burnout at work. For example, a psychology study revealed that good coworker relationships are associated with lower burnout and higher job satisfaction. Obviously, not everyone is comfortable with making friends at work, but we still recommend that you try to connect with even a few that you share commonalities with. Or, in most cases, you may NOT LIKE the people you work with – they may be hostile, competitive, undermining your efforts etc. As this happens to most of us, it’s important to find a buddy (or two) who can also be a mentor and help you manage the politics in the workplace. Every job that I’ve had over the years, there was ALWAYS at least one key person that I was well connected to – this helped me navigate the challenges and difficulties.


Stay Active

Sometimes, mental exhaustion can hit in the middle of the day. Instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, try getting some movement! There are many research studies showing the cumulative benefits of staying active. For instance, a research study on 99 adults showed that 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise on a stationary bike improved mood and cognitive flexibility afterwards. This means a light run or a brisk hike during your lunch break is enough to energize you and help you mentally prepare to get back to work.

Don’t have 30 minutes? That’s fine, too. Science has already proven that 10 minutes of walking a day can literally lead to a longer life. Or try some at-home yoga after work; many Youtube videos are only 10 minutes long, and as long as you watch out for injuries and stretch effectively afterwards, they are amazing ways to boost your mood while staying healthy! Here is one for beginners.


Good Sleep Habits

Ever noticed you feel more cranky when you’re sleep deprived? Studies have shown that sleep loss is linked to burnout in the clinical field, and this holds true in other workplaces as well. On the other hand, quality sleep helps you grow new neural pathways in the brain, and thus enhances attention, creativity and decision making.

For good physical and mental health, the National Sleep Foundation recommends around 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, the necessary hours do vary between people, according to sleep expert Russel Foster, so focusing on building good sleep habits suitable for your energy levels is more important. Go to bed and wake up at similar times every day, across weekdays and weekends; invest in some curtains to keep your bedroom dark; adjust your room temperature to be cooler; and avoid caffeine and nicotine, including chocolates and soda, in the late afternoon and evenings. Finally, focus on progress and not perfection. Sleeping well three days a week is still better than none!


Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to the state of awareness where you focus on feelings and sensations of the present moment. According to research, mindfulness protects us against stress and burnout, helps cultivate better self-compassion, and even reduces blood pressure and cortisol (the stress hormone) levels.

Practicing mindfulness is easy to do but hard to put into practice. If you’re like me and your mind is always going and it’s hard to shut down, you can schedule some time out of the day and do it for just five minutes. The Mayo Clinic has outlined instructions for each on this website; or, here is a simple, 5-minute Body Scan exercise for you to try during a break. This will help you maintain a peaceful mind through and after work.


Establish Work-Life Boundaries

Work-life balance has never been easy but with more of us working from home resulting from the pandemic, establishing appropriate professional boundaries is even more important. These boundaries can be mental, such as setting certain “work hours” for yourself and tracking the tasks you allow yourself to do; or physical, such as turning off email notifications after work. If you work from home, changing in and out of work attire, and establishing an office space or corner can also help separate work and personal life. Some people even carry two phones so they are not ‘bombarded’ with notifications and messages during off-hours. You shouldn’t have to pay the price of working from home by working around the clock. And you will be more productive at work with a balanced life in the long run.

Workplace burnout is extremely common but know that you are not alone in today’s “gotta-get-everything-done-right-now” society. Hopefully, these five tips will help you prevent burnout from creeping into your professional life.

Remember that you work to live, not the other way around!