When the major joints throughout your body become stiff or swollen, it affects everything you do. Joint pain relief can be the first step toward having more day-to-day joyful experiences and loving the body that moves you through life.
As many as 30% of adults in the U.S. report dealing with aches, swelling, or pain in their joints, including their knees, hips, back, and neck. Joint discomfort and stiffness are caused by contributing factors such as age, genetics, lifestyle, and diet.
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Depending on the cause, you may experience relief for joint pain from a variety of treatment options.
Common Joint Pain Causes
Pain in a joint or joints is called polyarthralgia. Typically, constant joint pain results from inflammation, injury, infection, or illness, although many people’s joints are affected by their lifestyle and diet choices as well.
Injuries are one of the most common sore joints causes. Often when exercising, playing sports, or engaging in strenuous activities, joints can be over-extended, twisted, or compressed from too much effort.
Typical joint injuries include sprains and strains, although joints will also suffer from injuries to bones or surrounding muscle tissues.
Arthritis is the most common cause for chronic, severe joint pain. “Arthritis” is a general term for any condition that causes joint stiffness and inflammation.
There are more than 100 types of arthritis, affecting millions of Americans. The three main types of arthritis are:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: an autoimmune condition that attacks the joints and other soft tissues.
- Osteoarthritis: Weakness in the joints caused by weak bone tissues, which can be a result of age, injury, or weight. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: This condition mainly affects the joints and skin. About one third of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis.
Arthritis is a chronic, long-term condition that requires dedicated, ongoing treatment. If one of the many types of arthritis is one of the causes of severe joint pain in your life, be prepared to try multiple and overlapping treatments to find full joint pain relief.
Fungal, Bacterial, or Viral Infection
In some cases, viral, fungal, and bacterial infections cause joint pain. There’s always a chance that achy joint pain stems from an infection. For instance, hepatitis C and parvovirus both include severe joint pain all over among their symptoms.
Lifestyle & Diet Choices
Millions of adults in the U.S. sit for work or other reasons for ten hours per day or longer, which is the very definition of a “sedentary lifestyle.” Lack of exercise and physical movement causes muscles to weaken, which puts additional pressure on your joints to perform simple tasks.
In addition, as much as 50% of Americans consume a high-fat, low-nutrient diet that contributes to weight gain and can lead to obesity. Poor diet choices can lead to dehydration and increased inflammation, which both cause even more stress on your joints.
Seeing a Doctor for Joint Pain Relief
Because some joint pain can be caused by injuries or might be mild enough to treat at home, you won’t necessarily call your doctor every time your back is sore or your knee is stiff.
However, ignoring or neglecting ongoing pain can lead to complications if your condition worsens with time.
If you experience any of the following, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to discuss the possible causes of severe joint pain and how to achieve joint pain relief, in your specific case:
- An injury with obvious swelling or discoloration to the joint, accompanied by pain, and especially if you cannot bear weight or put pressure on the injured area.
- Joint pain accompanied by a fever.
- Severe or intense pain that lasts longer than an hour after you wake up or pain that occurs all over your body.
- Chronic joint pain that continues for more than two (2) weeks and is not relieved by at-home treatments such as resting, over-the-counter medications, and temperature therapy.
- Pain along with other health conditions and active symptoms.
- Sharp or constant joint pain that wakes you from sleep.
A doctor can diagnose and prescribe the correct treatment for joint pain, depending on the underlying cause and the specific areas affected.
There are different medicines for joint pain your physician might prescribe, including over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as well as more intense prescription corticosteroids or painkillers. Depending which joints are affected, your doctor might recommend a medicinal injection or topical analgesic.
If the joint discomfort stems from a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, antivirals, or antifungals for managing those causes.
If the severe joint pain is due to injury or lifestyle, your doctor may refer you for physical therapy or chiropractic care. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Seeing a Chiropractor for Joint Pain Relief & Care
As specialists in the body’s musculoskeletal structures, chiropractors are experts in attending to and relieving joint pain.
If your muscles are weak because of a sedentary lifestyle or injury, a chiropractic adjustment can alleviate pain caused by joints pulled out of alignment by sore or tight muscles, improving your posture, range of motion, and overall mood.
No matter which joints are causing you ongoing pain, a chiropractor may be able to help relieve your symptoms and get you moving smoothly again.
Common Joint Pain Treatment Options
The best cure for joint pain depends on what’s causing your aches, pain, or stiffness.
Consult with your doctor to help you with joint pain and stiffness, and to treat swelling or other symptoms.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Temperature therapy is common for alleviating joint stiffness. Depending on the reason and location of the pain, you might find relief from either heat or cold, or you may find relief from alternating between them.
Generally, cold therapy helps reduce swelling in your joints, while heat therapy helps loosen tight muscles that keep an irritated joint feeling “locked up.”
Apply a cold compress as a remedy for aching joints; leave for up to 20 minutes and then remove for at least 5 minutes before applying another compress.
You might repeat this throughout the day when you need it.
Alternatively, apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to the affected area and leave for up to 20 minutes.
After you remove the heat, make sure to allow your skin and muscles to rest for at least 5 minutes before you apply heat again or alternate with cold therapy.
Some people prefer to a take a warm shower or bath as a temporary joint pain remedy, especially if they experience aches and pains in multiple joints or across a large area, such as the whole back.
Temperature therapy can dull pain receptors, reduce swelling, relax your muscles, and relieve joint pain.
NSAIDs are the most common over-the-counter medicines for joint pain that people take. They are effective at relieving mild pain and inflammation. The generic names for these medications are naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen.
Consult your doctor first before taking any pain medications, especially if you have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, gastrointestinal conditions, or kidney or liver disease.
Supplements that may provide joint pain relief, include:
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D
When selecting supplements, discuss options with your doctor. Some supplements may have ingredients that interact with other medications you take.
Chiropractic Care & Joint Pain Relief
Many people find that chiropractic care is effective for different kinds of joint pain. Soft-tissue therapies and mobilization are central to many people’s long-term recovery from joint pain, and chiropractors are experienced with both.
When injury or muscle weakness pulls joints out of alignment, it puts increased pressure on large and small joints.
With a chiropractic adjustment, the joints and muscles may be moved back to their proper positions, allowing for joint pain relief and facilitating improved blood flow and proper movements that promote long-term healing.
Tips for Treating Joint Pain with Stretches & Exercise
A common piece of advice for how to deal with joint pain is to try stretching and exercise.
Physical activity, physical therapy, and chiropractic care will help increase joint strength and enhance joint mobility, which reduces pain and stiffness.
As you become more mobile with your chiropractic and other joint pain treatments, you may feel less discomfort when stretching and exercising.
And, the more you exercise and stretch, the less joint pain you should feel overall. It’s a positive cycle.
Always seek advice and professional insight from a physical therapist, chiropractor, or other medical professional before beginning any stretching or exercise routine.
Tips for Effective Stretching & Exercising
Consistency is Key: You can’t stretch “every now and then” and expect to reduce your pain, just like you can’t eat healthy “once in a while” and expect to maintain your fitness.
What helps with joint pain most when you implement a stretching and exercise routine is your consistency.
Plan to spend at least 30 minutes, at least once per day, stretching and exercising.
If you can afford to stretch and exercise twice per day, for 30 minutes each time, you may find that you alleviate more pain, quicker.
Go Slow: Especially if you are new to stretching and exercise to relieve joint pain and stiffness, do not expect that results will be immediate or that there are any “shortcuts” to fast results.
Time is an important factor, and you should expect at least one week of consistent stretching and exercising before you notice a change in symptoms.
Balance with Rest: Push yourself to stretch farther than last time, or to try a new exercise that you weren’t strong enough to complete before, but always be sure to counter-balance any strenuous workout with plenty of water, good nutrition, and time for your body to rest and recuperate.
Watch Your Form: You may have heard that “practice makes perfect,” but consider this: if you practice incorrectly, won’t you simply be “perfectly incorrect”?
This is especially true for physical activities, where you could be injured, such as stretching or exercising.
It’s important to complete the motions, but it’s even more important to complete them with correct form, if you want to improve your muscle strength and ultimately figure out how to heal joint pain in your life.
Final Thoughts on the Best Thing for Joint Pain Relief
When it comes to achieving complete joint pain relief, your doctor, medical professional, or chiropractor’s guidance will be invaluable.
Have your joint paint diagnosed with all your personal factors taken into consideration, then together, and your physician can compile a joint pain relief treatment plan that’s right for you.