As many as 3.8 million¹ Australians suffer from joint pain. Far too many are acutely aware of the agonising feeling of swelling, stiffness and weakness in and around the joints. With a change in season approaching, those who suffer from this debilitating pain may be considering how best to prepare. As seasonal changes can bring with them fluctuating degrees of pain, it’s also an opportunity to take care of yourself and apply simple, everyday remedies to help relieve and manage joint pain.
According to Amcal’s Accredited Practising Dietitian Megan Alsford, one of the most effective ways to help relieve joint pain, particularly in the lower joints, is to maintain a healthy weight.
“We have found that weight management is a very effective method of reducing pain from knee and hip joints, which is not surprising when just 1kg of excess weight adds an additional 4-5kgs of pressure on the lower joints,” Megan said.
Amcal Senior Pharmacist James Nevile says that in addition to weight loss programs such as Amcal’s Be Good To Yourself Program, there are a number of other everyday tactics Aussies can use to help minimise joint pain and related stress.
“We all too often ignore the early signs of joint pain, and as the change of season approaches, it’s a timely reminder to check in on your personal health. There are a number of easy and simple ways to manage pain and while a number of these ways provide short term relief, we also encourage all Aussies to undertake long-term measures,” James said.
“As most pain sufferers know, if you do experience persistent pain it’s still important to seek support from a GP or pharmacist to understand the full spectrum of relief options available to you.”
To help you get on the right track, we’ve asked James for some of the easiest ways to manage joint pain, while Megan has shared some helpful ways to decrease weight and improve joint pain.
Taken correctly, anti-inflammatory medicines can significantly help to manage pain. In addition, anti-inflammatory medication is also known to reduce common symptoms of joint pain, such as swelling. James believes that when it comes to choice, there has never been a better time to find suitable anti-inflammatory medication, with a large number of options available to suit all customer needs.
“For those seeking alternative medicines, there are a number of herbal and natural options which may offer a suitable way to minimise pain and discomfort,” he said.
Megan added, “Nutritionally, foods known for their anti-inflammatory properties can provide additional benefits to traditional treatments. For example, omega-3 oils, turmeric and oleocanthal found in extra virgin olive oil have been shown to reduce inflammation and are good additions to the diet.”
HEAT & COLD PACKS
Heat and cold packs are one of the easiest and most popular ways to help relieve pain. Using a cold pack immediately after an injury can help reduce swelling and inflammation while numbing the acute pain from a sprain or strain. In contrast, heat packs can help increase blood flow 48 hours after an acute injury and provide relief for ongoing issues such as backaches and period pain.
“The easiest way to avoid consistent muscle pain is by getting up and moving. Even something as simple as walking around the block or around the house can help to relax your muscles and when used in conjunction with cold and heat packs, may significantly reduce symptoms associated with joint pain,” James said.
A lot of people suffering from pain issues get upset at the suggestion that therapy could help. They feel like it is dismissing their issue and implying that it is all in their head, but it’s not meant to minimise their pain at all. Numerous studies have found that there is often a mental aspect to pain, especially when it becomes chronic. Professionals like Dr Faiz Noore have spent their whole careers looking into this and they are sure that pain has an emotional factor in at least some cases, which means therapy can be a real help. It’s not to say that your pain isn’t physical, but your mental state could be making it worse, and if that’s the case, it has to be worth exploring.
GET SUPPORT WITH YOUR WEIGHT GOALS
Megan understands losing weight can be hard even if it’s just wanting to shed a few kilograms. With so many diet options available, it’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed and initially disappointed with our weight loss progress especially if your chosen diet under-delivered on the results. However, for best results look for programs that don’t eliminate whole food groups and include realistic exercise regimes while providing ongoing support. Also remember, you won’t need to lose large amounts of weight to feel improvements in knee and hip pain and a slow and steady weight loss will more likely have lasting health benefits.
“Proven weight loss programs such as Amcal’s Be Good To Yourself Program (BGTY) are a great starting point because they give information and advice that translates into manageable steps for the everyday grind,” Megan said.
“We found in a recent program undertaken by Australians who trialled the BGTY program, that 95% of the participants with joint pain felt an improvement in their pain after just 12 weeks.
“Even better, some participants who needed joint replacement surgery no longer required the surgery after losing weight on the BGTY program and some no longer felt pain at all, saving the Australian healthcare system between $231,361 – $546,091² in surgical costs amongst the participants. At a national level, this can save our public system upwards of millions.”
“The results of reduced joint pain and in some cases the complete removal of pain seen in the study were so positive, they were better than results experienced through surgery**,” Megan said.
Often not included in many how-to-guides relating to joint pain, you may be surprised at just how much meditation can assist joint pain management.
“More often than not, the effects of joint pain are described in physical terms like soreness and stiffness. While these are the more common ways in which joint pain affects Australians, what often goes less noticed is the mental impacts of such pain,” James said.
“Meditation and mindfulness may provide a natural way to manage the anxiety around chronic pain, as well as helping to minimise depression commonly associated with on-going joint pain issues,” he continued.
1. Arthritis Australia, http://www.arthritisaustralia.com.au/index.php/arthritis-information.html
2. nib BGTY pilot study 2017 with 340 participants over 12 weeks.