For many people as they age, aches and pains seem to be part of the equation. Sometimes it’s a result of earlier sporting greatness on the netball court or football field and other times it can be a result of poor posture, long years of physical work and more recently too many hours of sitting in front of a computer screen.
Regardless of the cause there are a few options that will assist in reducing the aches and pains. There are diet and lifestyle strategies which can make a big difference as well as bodywork treatments.
First priority in improving joints and probably the most important area to consider is exercise, generally this is the best researched area to reduce pain and improve mobility. Importantly if you have a particular area of concern it’s a good idea to work with someone to build a graded exercise program and gradually build up strength and flexibility. Options could include pilates, yoga, physiotherapy, or specific programs such as Better Bones. Pilates semi-private classes usually involve a small group and may give you additional support in ensuring you are doing exercises safely. Other alternatives could be working with an exercise physiologist or a physiotherapist to design a programme.
If you haven’t exercised much historically one of the easiest options to start with is walking. Start with a ten minute walk round the block or around an oval and then gradually increase the distance you are walking. Even small increases in activity building to 4,000 steps a day will assist in reducing inflammation and the subsequent aches and pains.
Second pillar of supporting your joints is improving your diet and including foods and supplements to provide you with the nutrients needed. Many people talk about fish oils and turmeric for inflammation and pain. For the quantity needed from fish oils you probably need to be including four to five fish meals a week. It can be quite difficult however having trialled a six week period of eating tuna every day for lunch (and you really want more variety) it did improve my skin as well as my overall health, so this one is a great option from diet. Turmeric needs the equivilant of 5g a day so its more difficult to include and its usually recommended you look for a good quality supplement.
In addition to the good quality essential fatty acids and turmeric reviewing your diet to see if there are foods which make your joint pain worse is very helpful. Typically you need to be including a minimum of three cups a day of vegetables as well as a small amount of good quality protein to provide yourself with the nutrients to heal and repair. Some foods can make joint pain worse and it can be surprising options for people. For example if you are prone to gout, foods high in purines (shellfish, asparagus and mushrooms) can be problematic. Ideally track your diet for a week and record symptoms to see if there is a correlation. Usually increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in the diet and decreasing processed food will see an improvement in the levels of aches and pains as well as your overall health.
Depending on the issue with your joints the addition of either collagen as a supplement or regular intake of bone broth can also see significant improvement. Traditional bone broths are made by boiling bones with aromatic vegetables, water, apple cider vinegar and a little salt. This extracts the collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin from the bones. Making bone broth from the bones and connective tissue is a good way to ensure that all of the animal is utilised for those who choose to eat animal products.
Good bone broth or stock is often the base for soups and stews but it can also be drunk as a warm drink daily for joint and gut health.
The third area to consider is some form of supportive bodywork therapy. Generally if the problem is structural its ideal if you can be assessed by a chiropractor or osteopath. They support patients with manual therapy interventions including exercise prescription and education to improve movement and reduce pain. They can also recommend appropriate treatment going forward whether its remedial massage or some more gentle therapies such as lymphatic massage, reflexology and craniosacral therapy.
- Lymphatic is a gentle style of massage which works on the superficial lymph structures that sit below the skin. This is ideal for anyone recovering from surgery or an injury with significant swelling. The gentle flowing strokes can assist to improve the flow of lymph and reduce swelling and pain.
- Reflexology involves working on the feet and may assist with pain management through pressure on the soles in areas related to the underlying source of pain. Reflexology assists with circulation and increases the flood of blood and nutrients around the body.
- Craniosacral therapy is a type of bodywork that relieves compression in the bones of the head, sacrum and spine. It’s thought that through the gentle manipulation of the bones in the skull, spine, and pelvis, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system can be balanced which then improve the body’s ability to heal.
To really address aching joints its important that you know what has created the issue and then gradually implement the strategies discussed above. Dietary change is probably the most affordable step, followed by a graded exercise program and then if budget allows add in some supportive bodywork.