When we think about joint pain and stiffness, we usually think of senior citizens. You probably see them all the time (especially if you live here in Southwest Florida) slowly shuffling down the aisles at the grocery store. I wish I could carry an adjustment table around with me wherever I go, to serve them.
Not Just The Elderly
But while it’s true that the overwhelming majority of people over 50 suffer from arthritis or some other debilitating joint pain, they are not alone. In fact, a study by Wakefield Research shows that people ages 34 to 49 report the same frequency of joint page as those 50 and over. This is especially disappointing, considering that in most cultures around the world, joint stiffness is reserved for people in their 80s and 90s, and in the Blue Zones, people are living past 100 without losing the spring in their step. When we should be in the prime of our lives, we are sick and deteriorating. It’s not right.
You can draw your own conclusions, but from my perspective, it demonstrates that our food supply is toxic and our healthcare system is broken.
Now that I’m moving through my 50s, this topic is as real and present to me as it is to my patients. It’s not enough to know it or teach it, I have to live it day by day. So, today I want to share some simple strategies that you can start implementing in your life today to prevent joint pain or win back any flexibility you may have lost. These are things I do and it’s how I plan to stay limber and fit for as long as I own this body.
Reduce Inflammation By Eliminating Inflammatory Foods
As I’ve mentioned a few times in recent articles, inflammation is when your body parts hurt because your cells are fighting a battle against toxic invaders. When the immune system sends an army of T-cells to confront and neutralize threats, your brain recognizes the heat and swelling as pain. Over time, your joints fill up with fluid, nerve endings can be damaged, bones can be depleted, and tendons around joints can grow stiff. When that war goes on day after day without ceasing, it’s called chronic inflammation, and it’s awful.
Fortunately, you can end the war (or at least reduce it) by removing the bad guys from your body. You have 100% complete control over what goes into your mouth and what doesn’t, so you can stop eating things that are hurting you. This is going to start to sound like a “Wellness Wednesday” instead of a “Move Right Monday,” but here’s a few things I recommend you stop eating now (if you want to feel better):
Processed, Prepared, and Packaged Foods:
If your food doesn’t have to be refrigerated, it might be time to ask yourself why. All that food in cardboard boxes is full of chemicals, preservatives, sugar, salt, and bad oils. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
Hydrogenated Oils and Trans-fats:
If you look at my cooking oils chart, you will see that most of the cooking oils you see at the grocery store turn rancid at high temperatures. The fact that they are hidden in most processed foods should make you want to run screaming.
If It’s White, It Aint’ Right:
White flour, white salt, white sugar, white bread, and white milk are all products that have had all the nutritious elements removed in the name of “purity” and have instead become highly-toxic anti-nutrients. Pasteurization removes from milk all the beneficial bacteria, fat-soluble Vitamins A and D, and amino acids that your body needs. rBGH is a growth hormone they give to cows to fight diseases they get because farmers feed them corn, even though their bodies weren’t designed to digest corn. It leaves a residue in the milk and in your body. White flour is a useless powder that has had all the healthy fiber of the wheat germ removed. What’s left is essentially dried glue. And then there are the genetically modified crops, like corn, wheat, and soybeans. Have you noticed that genetically modified grains are banned in nearly every nation but the United States, where the one government agency designed to police the food and drug supply (FDA) is run by a former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, and a former Monsanto attorney sits on the US Supreme Court?
Aspartame and Other Synthetic Sweeteners:
I know it looks like I’m taking all the fun food out of your life, but someday, the past heads of the FDA are going to stand before God and give an account for why they allowed these poisons free reign in our food supply. I don’t want to be there when it happens.
Aspartame is a known neurotoxin, damaging nerve cells in the brain, spine, and eyes, and has over hundreds of published studies declaring it unsafe, yet it passed the FDA in 1981, right around the time the CEO of the company that developed it (Donald Rumselfd and Searle, if you’re curious) used his political influence with the new head of the FDA (Arthur Hall Hayes) to get it approved. I’m not making this up, folks. The government and the packaged food industry do not care about protecting you or your kids.
If you suffer from joint pain, eczema, MS, irritable bowel syndrome, Chron’s Disease, arthritis, psoriasis, or other inflammatory diseases, get the processed foods out of your life for good. Do yourself a favor: eat organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains like buckwheat, quinoa, or millet, and a little meat and fish. My best recommendation is the Mediterranean Diet. Your joints will thank you.
Drink More Water
If you want to build muscle, the “experts” tell you to consume more protein. That’s all fine and good, but they often forget to mention that everything your muscles do requires water. When you’re dehydrated, your body leeches water from your muscles to your bloodstream to ensure healthy circulation. Once you get down to a certain level of fluidity, protein production breaks down anyway. Here’s a simple way to think about it: if you feel thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated enough that aerobic performance is already being affected. Dry muscles are more brittle and prone to injury, especially around your joints. Water also flushes out toxins from your muscle cells, into the bloodstream and out through your kidneys.
Warm Up and Stretch Regularly
Exercise is important, but exercise in the absence of proper stretching and warming up can cause injury. Warming up softens and stretches the muscle tissue, increasing elasticity and reducing the risk of damage. You never see a professional athlete run out on the field or court without warming up first. Doing so would end their career. Warming up and stretching also distributes lactic acids and helps flush out latent deposits of toxins in your muscles and organs.
Maintain Good Posture
Most of us sit all day at work, sit in the car, and then sit on the couch at home, so the muscle groups around our back, pelvis, and legs develop out of balance from each other. For example, if your hamstrings are over-tightened compared to your quadriceps, they are at greater risk of injury when you run, lift or exercise. Similarly, your back is a series of joints, like your shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles in that poor sitting or standing posture can limit their ability to articulate and can cause you pain if you get outside their typical range.
Wear Good Shoes
I just wrote an article about shoes recently, but for our purposes here, it’s enough to mention that your shoes should provide adequate cushion and arch support, and should compensate if you tend to roll your feet inward or outward when you walk. If your shoes are worn out unevenly, it puts uneven tension on your back and can throw your pelvis out of alignment. Replace them.
Listen To Your Body
Your body was created with the most amazing internal warning system to help protect you from injury. If you are doing an activity and your joints start to hurt, it’s an indication that you should slow down, back off, or just reduce your exertion. Pain is the flashing red warning light on your body’s dashboard. Your body has limits and you are wise to heed them. Over time, through use and training, you can expand your limits, but avoid going past them.
This one comes with a little bit of a caveat because I recommend exercise to help my patients deal with stress in a healthy and productive way. Your body produces adrenaline and cortisol as a reaction to stressful situations. They are meant for short bursts of energy in what most psychologists call “fight or flight” scenarios. Your body is not designed to leave the adrenaline or the cortisol faucet on all the time. Exercise helps to flush them out of your system, but if you’ve been living with high stress for an extended period of time, it can be corrosive to your joints and muscles, so don’t be surprised if they are a little tender the first few times you try to incorporate exercise into your routine. Regular exercise is an effective way to deal with stress, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do. Regular times of meditation and prayer are also helpful, as is cleaning up your diet (see Reduce Inflammation By Eliminating Inflammatory Foods). But the best strategy to reduce stress may be to say “no” as often as you can. Otherwise, identify the sources of chronic stress in your life and see what you can do to manage or eliminate them.
My YouTube channel is filled with simple, 5-minute exercises I’ve developed to help you move your body in a way that promotes stability, flexibility, and motor control. If you’re doing weight training, high-impact interval training, or running stairs for fitness, the “Move Right Monday” series is a terrific warm up. If not, these movements stand alone as a comprehensive core muscle training system that will help you keep your joints and muscles limber.
Pick One…or Two (or Eight)…
We covered a lot of ground today, but if you will incorporate one these strategies into your daily habits (even just one or two at a time), you should see a world of difference in your body in a relatively short time. You can’t expect the effects of a lifetime of deterioration to disappear overnight, but if you’ll be consistent with any of these strategies, you will feel a difference within a few weeks.
Like I mentioned before, joint pain and stiffness aren’t just for the elderly anymore, so chances are you know someone who is frustrated by the decrease in flexibility they’re seeing in their own life. Please take a few seconds to share this article. You never know who it might help.
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas