Joint pains can be highly frustrating. Whether they affect your knee, your shoulder or your back; losing mobility is no laughing matter and can prevent you from pursuing the activities you enjoy or even just moving around freely and without pain. For these reasons, it’s very important to address any stubborn joint pains you might have and not to just ‘ignore them’ as so many of us are inclined to do hoping they will subside on their own. If you don’t see a professional and don’t make any attempt to change your normal routine, then you shouldn’t expect your pain to go away – in fact it could just get worse or even develop into something more serious.
Once you decide to do something about your joint pain though, what can you do? Going to the doctor is one option but there are also many other things you can do to start getting back to your full ROM (Range of Motion) and to address any discomfort.
Depending on the nature of the discomfort, stretching can often be very effective in reducing pain. This is often true for back pain in particular which may indicate tight quadriceps or tight hamstrings which can pull unevenly on the hips or the lower spine creating problems.
Try stretching your legs and/or your back regularly to increase mobility and you might find that any back pain also improves as a result.
Ironically, avoiding movement altogether can sometimes be the worst thing for a painful joint as this causes it to become stiff and weakens the muscle. As a result, it can sometimes help to gently move the limb or back through the motion that is causing discomfort. If you work out then you should avoid doing this with heavy weight but can use very light weights instead just to regain some of the movement and some of the strength that you’re losing otherwise. Make sure when using weights that you use exercises that support you in case you need to drop them – this is a scenario in which a resistance machine makes a lot of sense.
It’s also important to make sure you continue to move your body in other ways and to try and avoid developing any bad movement patterns which can come from ‘compensating’ for injuries leading to muscular imbalances and further problems.
Wearing a Support
Wearing a support is taking the opposite tact and removing pressure and strain from your joint. This is a good strategy too as it will provide your joint with more time to recuperate while also providing gentle compression. Try this method first and if it doesn’t work/you start to improve, start to gently reintroduce exercise.
Sometimes the answer is rest and this is particularly true if you are only just now experiencing the pain. In this case, you need to try and address any swelling while also giving tears and sprains time to mend. RICE stands for ‘Rest’, ‘Ice’, ‘Compression’ and ‘Elevation’ – all of which can help to speed up recovery and address swelling in particular.
Massage can help with joint and muscle pain in numerous ways. Not only is the gentle pressure immediately relaxing and helpful as a distraction but it can also help to direct more blood and oxygen to that part of the body to encourage repair. A professional masseuse is also more likely to discover knots and stiffness that could be causing or just exacerbating the problem.
Swimming can often be very beneficial for rehabilitating painful joints and muscles for multiple reasons. For starters, it is a form of gentle exercise that doesn’t have any impact. At the same time, it also isn’t ‘weight bearing’ meaning you aren’t supporting your body’s full weight. A similar example of such exercise is to use a recumbent bike. Aqua aerobics can also provide similar benefits.
A physiotherapist in many ways will offer the best combination of massage and exercises. Physios will start by manipulating the painful area with the combined intentions of helping provide relief and at the same time diagnosing the underlying issue.
Your GP can refer you to a physiotherapist and can also help you to ensure you don’t have any more serious problems such as a fracture or arthritis. Try the above methods but don’t avoid seeing your doctor!