Ever notice that just as you start an exercise program, you become really aware of your joints? With the best of intentions you go out and start jogging. Everything feels fine. Until the next morning when you get out of bed, step on the hard floor and the bottom of your feet complain, or your knees creak a bit, or your lower back aches?
Or perhaps you're too busy to exercise. You spend hours every day working on the computer. And every night you go to bed with sore shoulders and neck. Perhaps your wrists or elbows or thumbs ache, maybe they're even a little swollen sometimes.
Well, it's time to start taking care of your joints! Even if you're too young for osteoarthritis, you can slow down the wear and tear effect on your joints with proper care. And if you've already spent a few decades abusing your body, your joints will definitely benefit from care.
What are Joints?
Joints are where bones meet. Ligaments connect the bones to secure the joints. The ends of the bones are capped by cartilage which keeps the joint space intact by producing lubricating synovial fluid. Meniscus are crescent shaped cartilage that partly divides a joint. Some joints are hinge joints like your knees. Some joints are ball and socket joints like your hips and shoulders. Some joints are sliding joints like the vertebrae in your spine.
Joint pain comes from many factors. Over-strained ligaments, too little lubrication, worn out cartilage. Osteoarthritis is a painful condition in which the joint cartilage is worn to the point that bone rubs on bone.
A Pain in the Neck
Recently, I've been having neck pain with numbness in my right arm. It started with all this typing. Writing books, articles, blogging...too many hours on the keyboard completing my two books, writing marketing articles, blogging, designing labels, graphics for lectures...too many hours hunched over my laptop.
I first noticed my neck issues in 2010. The same time my father was experiencing severe cervical neuropathy that required surgery. Getting my resistant father the care he needed through the medicare system was a symbolic "pain in the neck"! I wrote my neck issues off as empathic.
Now I did have a significant fall a couple years before. My horse tripped going down a muddy hill, went head of heels with me on her back. To avoid getting crushed, I vaulted off her back, tucked, rolled, and landed on my feet at the same moment my athletic horse landed on hers. My riding companion clapped, gave us a 10, and we called it a day. Just to be safe, I started my mare on natural anti-inflammatories (my DMAR Natural Anti-inflammatory Treatment) and had the equine chiropractor give her an adjustment. I did nothing for myself...I felt fine.
But that was the injury that haunts me now. My muscles tightened up to protect my vertebral joints and I added to the chronic tightness by too much keyboarding. About three years after the initial injury, I had enough pain and numbness to seek treatment.
After ruling out that I did not have a disc herniation, I sought chiropractic adjustment. Until my neck issues, I did not get regular adjustments, now I'm a believer. I always warm up first with direct heat or exercise and my chiropractor uses an electric massager that helps my muscles relax.
I also do traction. I apply heat to my neck for fifteen minutes twice daily. Then I "hang myself" with an over the door cervical traction device. It looks archaic and kind of scary...the first time my sister saw me in traction, she screamed, but then she tried it and felt relief from her neck tension. Gentle traction separates the joints. It's important to relax the muscle tension with heat before traction. I do this daily regimen until I no longer feel numbness or tingling which are signs of nerve compression, the slowly wean down the traction. Compressive activities like lots of computer work, horseback or motorcycle riding necessitate that I open up my cervical vertebrae with gentle traction from time to time.
I've changed the way I keyboard. I use my iPad which I can easily place at a comfortable position in my lap to write all my first drafts. If I need to edit or do graphic work, I raise my desk chair as high as possible, bring my laptop as close as possible and support my dominant hand on a pillow on the arm of the desk chair. I also find that wearing my grain-filled hot wrap over my shoulders while I work reminds me to relax my shoulders.
Regular exercise helps improve circulation. Plus I do stretching and strengthening exercises.For my neck, I do yoga poses that focus on the neck and shoulders. Doing supported back bends over a large physical therapy ball helps to stretch my neck and upper back.
I also take nutritional supplements to support joint healing (my DMAR Natural Joint Therapy) Loss of disc space between the vertebrae is common as we age, so I'm doing all I can to keep my discs plump and my joints healthy.
Three tips to keep your joints healthy:
1) Adopt proper body mechanics
First you must change the way you're doing things that are causing pain. I have to go over my patients' body mechanics in relation to their injury to help them Realize what they need to do to stop aggravating the issue. That may mean buying better running shoes, jogging on soft surfaces like dirt rather than concrete, getting an expo to evaluate your body mechanics during the offending activity. It may mean ergonomic chair, computer placement with keyboard on your lap and screen at eye level. Massage and chiropractic adjustment may be necessary.
2) Strengthen muscle groups that support the affected joints
Exercise - the key to healing. Yes, strong muscles support your joints. Exercise specific for the affected joint is important. Low impact aerobic activity increases circulation and relieves muscle tension. An evaluation with an exercise physiologist or physical therapist may be necessary to find out what specific exercise you need to strengthen the muscles that support your affected joint. Usually the exercises necessary to help heal your pain are not the same ones you've been doing that caused the problem. Many runners with lower back issues have tight hamstrings which need to be stretched.
3) Nourish your joints to help them heal
You may be eating all organic, well balanced meals, but joint healing requires extra nutrients. Many of my older patients complained of joint pain when they ran out of Genesis Gold. The extra nutrition from the whole plant foods in Genesis Gold keeps inflammation at bay.
There are joint specific supplements that have been shown to hasten joint healing. Glucosamine and chondroitin have both been show to help repair cartilage. Hyluronic acid helps lubricate the joints. MSM has an anti inflammatory effect. Collagen can help repair joint damage. Hot herbs like frankincense and turmeric are excellent anti-inflammatories.
All these supplements can be found at most health food stores, pharmacies, or online. Unfortunately many people take these supplements improperly and do not get the full benefit. I've put together my favorite joint supplements in a protocol that seems to do the trick. Check out: DMAR Natural Joint Therapy.
If physical therapy, body work, or chiropractic adjustments do not seem to last, myofacsitis may be an issue. Fascia is a fibrous plane of tissue that holds muscles in place. When you injure a joint, the body protects itself by splinting the area. the muscles become tense and inflamed and eventually the fascia scars and holds the joint and muscles in malalignment. Sometimes the fascia needs to be released with deep massage in order to allow the muscles and joints to heal in proper alignment. If the fascia is softened up for 2-3 weeks before therapy, myofascial release works better and faster. I developed a nutritional protocol to hasten healing of old injuries prevent scarring in early injury that's my DMAR Natural Anti-inflammatory Treatment.