Lifestyle and joint pain are two concepts that are commonly entwined. This begs the question, does lifestyle affect joint pain?
Research has shown that an unhealthy lifestyle can increase one’s risk for joint pain. For instance, a high-fat diet can lead to obesity. This may increase inflammatory responses in the body and place undue stress on your joints.
Such risk factors can lead to cartilage breakdown and joint pain, worsening over time.
Don’t wait until the only option you have is surgery which can be costly and dangerous. There is also no guarantee that it will eliminate all your symptoms.
Making simple changes to your lifestyle can help prevent or slow down the progression of joint pain. These lifestyle changes also address the root causes of the problem — one of which is inflammation — to help bring relief to your joints.
Are you ready to make the change? Here’s what you need to know.
How Does Joint Pain Affect Daily Life?
According to the CDC, over 58.5 million people have arthritis — half of whom fall into the working age category of 18 to 64.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. It manifests as joint pain, swelling, or stiffness. This is due to the breakdown of cartilage that serves as a cushion between bones.
Osteoarthritis commonly affects weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees, and feet. However, it can also affect your hands, neck, back, and spine.
About 1 out of 4 with arthritis experience severe joint pain. If you’re living with severe joint pain, you know how it can significantly impact day-to-day life.
Difficulty climbing stairs, walking long distances, and becoming easily fatigued limits the kinds of activities you can do. Even simple tasks such as brushing your hair or picking up utensils can be difficult.
For some, work becomes challenging, and they have no choice but to go on disability. Due to the impact on your mobility, it can also limit your social activities and interactions.
In one study, participants with knee osteoarthritis perceived their quality of life to be lower. Another study also found that hip or knee osteoarthritis participants scored lower on a mental health scale.
However, there’s no reason that you should accept joint pain as an inevitability and let it restrict your daily activities.
Studies have shown that lifestyle changes can influence the progression of joint disorders. For those who have already been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, lifestyle changes may help reduce the incidence and severity of your symptoms.
5 Lifestyle Changes to Help Fight Joint Pain
Here are 5 lifestyle changes that you can make today:
1. Switch to a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Diets high in fat, sugar, and carbohydrates have been linked to joint pain. According to one study, saturated fats can weaken the cartilage under bones and make them more susceptible to damage.
Unhealthy diets can also lead to obesity. Obesity, in turn, is associated with osteoarthritis. This is due to an increased burden on weight-bearing joints. It can also trigger low-grade systemic inflammation that affects non-weight-bearing joints.
Switching to a healthy, balanced diet can reduce body weight — which then reduces the stress on your joints. Certain foods also help reduce inflammation in the body, which can help reduce symptoms of joint pain.
Here are the best foods to help reduce joint pain:
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that prevent free radical damage and help suppress unwanted inflammatory responses.
Fruits: Avocadoes, blueberries, cherries, grapes, kiwis, oranges, strawberries, watermelon
Vegetables: Leafy greens, carrots, eggplants, olives, onions, red peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been beneficial in reducing joint pain symptoms. They help inhibit the production of enzymes that trigger inflammation.
Foods rich in omega-3 include salmon, tuna, mackerel, cod, soybeans, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Drink Green Tea
Drinking green tea can help address symptoms of joint pain.
Studies have found that green tea is rich in catechins. It can help protect against cartilage loss, downregulate inflammatory responses, and maintain the balance of skeletal muscle cells.
2. Increase Physical Activity or Exercise
Exercise may seem too much for those struggling to walk. However, studies have found that physical activity is crucial in successfully managing joint pain.
Not moving your joints can make them stiffer and more painful. Exercise helps by increasing the strength and flexibility of your joints and the muscles and bones around them.
Exercise can also help you lose weight, reducing the burden on your joints.
Low-impact or low-load exercises are recommended for those with joint pain. You can also engage in aerobic activities such as biking, yoga, and swimming.
One study found that participants who engaged in low-load treadmill walking for 12 weeks reported significant increases in thigh strength and significant reductions in knee pain.
When it comes to exercise, it’s important not to overdo it. Start with light exercises as you gradually build strength and endurance. Make sure to talk to your doctor as well for the best exercises based on your current condition.
3. Improve Gut Health
Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, consuming processed foods and sugars, and chronic stress can lead to a gut imbalance — or dysbiosis.
The overabundance of pathogenic bacteria can make the intestinal barrier more permeable. This can cause pathogens to escape into the bloodstream and trigger systemic inflammation. Researchers also hypothesize that pathogens migrate to the joints and contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis.
Studies also found that participants with joint pain also exhibited gut imbalance.
Improving gut health is important in managing joint pain and inflammation.
You can start eating yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, sourdough bread, kefir, and other foods with probiotics. For optimal gut health, you can also take probiotic and prebiotic supplements that increase your gut's healthy bacteria to achieve gut balance.
4. Address Nutrient Deficiencies
Though the literature on the role of nutrient deficiencies on joint pain is not as comprehensive as other risk factors, findings have been promising so far.
Studies have found that vitamin D deficiency may increase the progression of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Similarly, a vitamin K deficiency may also increase the risk of cartilage and meniscus damage.
Vitamins rich in antioxidants (including A, C, and E) may protect against cellular injury and age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis.
If you are experiencing joint pain, it’s worth checking with your doctor to identify if you have nutrient deficiencies. Deficiencies can not only affect joint health, but it is associated with other diseases as well.
5. Incorporate Natural Supplements
Regarding natural supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin have shown the most promise when it comes to joint pain and inflammation.
Glucosamine and chondroitin have anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve joint swelling and stiffness. They are also said to protect chondrocytes — cells that maintain cartilage structure and slow down its degeneration.
In one study, participants with knee osteoarthritis were given either 1,500 mg glucosamine sulfate or 1,200 mg ibuprofen. After two weeks, both groups observed a reduction in symptoms.
However, after four weeks, the glucosamine group experienced a more pronounced remnant therapeutic effect. Glucosamine was also better tolerated with fewer adverse reactions than the ibuprofen group.
In a similar study, participants with knee osteoarthritis who took 1,200 mg of ibuprofen reported faster pain relief than those who took 1,500 mg of glucosamine after two weeks. Meanwhile, the glucosamine group had a longer-lasting effect and was considered more effective by week 8.
Participants with knee osteoarthritis who took 1,200 mg of chondroitin for three months reported a significant reduction in joint pain compared to the placebo group. The beneficial effects became noticeable as soon as two weeks, and participants in the chondroitin group reported less need for paracetamol.
Another study found that 800 mg of chondroitin led to a 36% pain reduction after three months and a 46% pain reduction after six months for participants with knee osteoarthritis.
Though there is no true consensus on the effectiveness of these supplements, there is some evidence that glucosamine and chondroitin can help relieve joint pain.
XND’s Joint-4 supplement contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help prevent joint pain and enhance joint movement. It also incorporates Boswellia and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), which help support healthy joints by reducing inflammation. Our 20-year proven formula is all-natural and safe to take for all ages.
However, with any supplement, it’s best to consult your doctor beforehand and ensure that there are no interactions with your current medication.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Arthritis Be Caused By Lifestyle?
Certain lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, an unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity can increase your risk for arthritis and other joint diseases.
Can A Sedentary Lifestyle Cause Joint Pain?
A lack of physical activity can lead to joint pain. Not moving for extended periods puts more pressure on your joints. They also become stiffer, which makes them more susceptible to abnormal wear and tear.
How Do I Reduce Inflammation In My Joints?
A healthy diet with regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight. This helps lessen the burden on your joints and suppress your body’s inflammatory response. It also helps to avoid unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol as these two can trigger inflammation in the body.
What Foods Can Inflame Your Joints?
Foods high in sugar, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and red meat can lead to joint pain. These foods can lead to an overabundance of harmful bacteria in your gut. As the bacteria escape into the bloodstream, they can trigger systemic inflammation in the body.
How Can I Improve My Joint Health Naturally?
One way to improve joint health is to take natural supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin. Research has shown that these two compounds can be effective and safe as symptomatic slow-acting drugs in osteoarthritis (SYSADOA).
Can You Reverse Joint Pain?
Once osteoarthritis sets in, there may be no cure for it. However, that doesn’t mean you have to live with joint pain and other symptoms that come with this degenerative condition. You can still live well, and that has to do with making good lifestyle choices!
A healthy diet and regular exercise can strengthen your joints and increase their function. These lifestyle changes can also help you maintain a healthy weight, reducing the stress on your joints.
Studies have also shown that addressing gut health and nutrient deficiencies can reduce inflammation contributing to joint pain and swelling. Taking supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin has also yielded promising results when addressing joint pain and inflammation.
Don’t let severe joint pain stop you from doing the things you love. If your joint pain isn’t that severe yet, take this as a sign to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Prevention is always the best path to take regarding your health.