If I can pinpoint one thing I am completely obsessed with, it would be joint health. Analyzing it, researching how to maintain it, and instructing how to improve it. And I’ve found (when I talk with others) there are four common suggestions that always find their way into the conversation. If you care about keeping your joints healthy as much as I do (and you don’t want to spend a small fortune to do it), then I will encourage you to follow these practices as well.
(Spoiler alert) Yes- you will need to spend time on these each day. If giving up around 20 minutes daily doesn’t seem doable for you, though (and there’s absolutely no shame coming from me if this is you), spending money for the gadgets and the pills is going to be your best option.
1) Do regular self-movement and postural assessments.
In order to support your joints, you have to understand where it’s not working or moving properly. And joints are directly (and primarily) impacted by muscles so movement assessments can be very telling. If you find you are not in pain (or noticing any specific breakdown), avoid believing it must mean everything is working or moving correctly. (Pain is there very last signal our body gives us, and we only feel it when something has completely broken, not when it’s breaking down). In over 13 years working with clients, I have yet to find a single person who wasn’t displaying some type of movement dysfunction or postural deviation (including yogis, body-builders, personal trainers, etc.). So every person can benefit from this practice. Identifying where your body is not sitting properly/is out of alignment is critical because this highlights the joints in your body that are most at risk of premature breakdown.
If you are unsure how to do these assessments, and what to look for, let’s talk more.
2) Spend 5-10 minutes doing corrective movements each day.
This is one of my very favorite things to do, and to teach! Spending this time each night brings a smile to my face knowing that I am releasing tension that will cause breakdown if left unattended; knowing that I’m allowing my body to return to it’s natural (and optimal) position. And it makes me smile every time I hear a client tell me how quickly they noticed relief! We’ve been so conditioned to believe that in order to be effective, we must do “things” for long periods of time, but when it comes to the body, the truth is that when you do the RIGHT “things” (i.e. movements), your body will be very quick to respond! It truly does not take longer than 5-10 minutes each day to find massive improvement.
Need help determining the right movements and routines? This is my specialty!
3) Keep a movement journal.
Before you roll your eyes- hear me out. I know you are probably tired of people telling you to keep a journal for “this” and a journal for “that”, but another observation I’ve made over the years is that it’s very hard for clients to associate cause and effect. They experience a new (and seemingly random) symptom, and forgot about the new (even minute) adjustment they’ve made to their daily routine that could lead to this change. A journal is a wonderful way to keep all events organized. And it serves a double-purpose by providing you with a clear timeline of events, too. When you see a doctor, or other professional (if you end up needing that), you can clearly highlight for them exactly what came first- saving you even more money since they’ll be able to rule out possibilities, and expensive procedures, much sooner!
I will begin sharing my personal movement journal here as a separate blog post soon. Check back often, and feel free to follow my own movement journey, especially if you are needing ideas for what to include in your own journaling practice.
4) Avoid foods you know hurt your body.
I’ve heard, and read, so many times how people stop eating certain foods (which ones can vary), and find great relief from their joint pains. And it’s no surprise. It has been well documented that foods can cause inflammation, which then leads to (or exacerbate) autoimmune issues such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, and many other joint-affected diseases. While I know personally how hard it can be to change eating habits (bye-bye gluten and dairy), I can also say it’s sooooo worth it, and it does offer a TON of relief. My first three recommendations are included specifically to help prevent you from developing what’s called osteoarthritis (the most common type, caused by poor movement mechanics and behaviors); I’ve included this fourth practice in order to round out your preventative strategy and limit your developing (or at least, developing more of) these other types of arthritis also. Think not of what you’ll be giving up, but what you will be gaining in movement freedom and fewer medical bills!
(If you notice you have (increased) pain after you eat, but you’re unsure which foods are the culprit(s), this would be a great time to start a food and symptom journal as well. One to two weeks’ worth of eating and symptom tracking is usually all that’s needed to get a clear picture. Make sure you write down everything you eat, and each symptom you feel. And I cannot recommend enough that you ask a nutritional professional for help with interpreting it. They can see many more patterns than you or I would even know to look for).
If you can be forward-thinking enough, and plan for your future movement health by incorporating these practices into your daily routine now, I know you’ll find great relief. And TONS of satisfaction by not having to have, or pay for, more drastic interventions!