Protecting Joints and Managing Pain

Most people experience aches and pains at some point in their lives which can be eased by simple exercises, pain killers and RICE. Some need additional treatment to manage recurring problems and address vulnerable hot-spots caused by occupation, recreation or accidents. For other people chronic conditions are a part of day to day life. For example, approximately 1 in 5 adults over 45 years in England have osteoarthritis of the knee, and 1 in 9 adults have osteoarthritis of the hip. If arthritis is causing pain, you may not want to move. But this can increase stiffness and in the long term your muscles will weaken, making movement even more difficult. The same goes for other joint-related conditions, so exercising is so important to keep mobile and muscles strong. Unfortunately in doing this, many people overdo the exercise and then need to rest for several days, and end up doing more harm to their joints without realising.

Here are 8 ways to keep mobile, protect your joints and avoid excessive pain.

1. Maintain a healthy stable weight
Having excess weight puts pressure on your joints and your knees suffer the most. The cartilage around your joints struggle and the extra pressure goes straight on your joints causing pain and bone damage.
2. Warm up first
Whatever exercise you are planning on doing, whether its 10 mins walking or 6 mile run, a warm up is essential. Simple, gentle stretches can be enough or additional jogging may be what you need. Getting your body ready for using more energy is all that is needed. Heat to your joints also helps, so wearing additional clothing or warming up your hands can be good.
3. Wear protective gear.
If you have damaged your joints or have vulnerable joints or muscles, use the added protection available; wrist pads, insoles, elbow and knee pads and kinesology taping.
4. Pace yourself.
Take it gradually – doing too much at once can have a detrimental effect physically and psychologically. Start gradually and build your strength and endurance slowly so that you know your limits and your strengths. If you need to go slower, do so rather than having to stop completely.
5. Lifting and moving safely.
If you need to lift objects or carry shopping bags, only carry what you can manage and avoid straining yourself. Where equipment is provided, use it, or ask for help. Its the same as being overweight, it can damage cartilage, muscles, and joints.
6. Practice good posture.
If you have good posture you body is aligned correctly, which means your weight is evenly distributed and all your joints are working equally. Even when you are sat down, your posture can affect your muscles and joints. Distributing your weight on to one specific side to avoid pain on the other will not help in the long-term, and can potentially create more problems.
7. Understanding your body.
Knowing what is happening to your body, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your body needs and can do without, helps keep long-term conditions from deteriorating faster than necessary. We may not be able to change risk factors such as genetics, age and gender, but behaviours such as smoking and drinking and overeating can be changed.
8. Getting advice, help and treatment.
Finally, if you need support and advice to implement these ideas, or perhaps you have tried and have injured yourself or struggling with pain, ask for help. There are many services offering all kinds of interventions, from painkillers from your GP to clinics such as ours offering a wide range of treatments, from pacing techniques to sports massage. Just don’t give up.