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:
- 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!