Is chronic knee pain putting a damper on your spring workout? More than one-third of Americans are affected by knee pain. Although many people think chronic pain is a normal part of aging, it can affect anyone – regardless of age. Close to 65% of Americans ages 18 to 34 or someone they care for have experienced chronic pain during the past year, and aching knees comes in as the second highest cause!
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers these suggestions to help ease knee arthritis pain and discomfort:
- Alternate between warm and cool treatments. Different techniques that work for one person may not work for another, but alternating between cool compresses and warm moist heat does provide relief for many knee pain sufferers. Cool compresses reduce inflammation while warm moist heat relaxes and loosen tissues while stimulating blood flow to the area. Be careful and never leave heating pads/towels on for extended periods of time or while sleeping.
- Strength and mobility training. The exercises you choose will depend on the strength of your knee. Aerobic exercise in a non-weight bearing environment – swimming or bicycling for example– can help you lose weight which will reduce the strain on your knees.
- Stretch. Stretching the muscles and tendons surrounding the joint can help with some causes of knee pain.
- Wear appropriate shoes. Shoes absorb the shock during movement. If they don’t, the shock moves up to your knee. For more information on the best shoe for you read our July, 2011 post If the Shoe Fits.
There are nutritional alternatives that will help you reduce or manage arthritis pain.
- Anthocyanins. You can help reduce inflammation by inhibiting production of inflammatory chemicals with the antioxidant anthocyanin. Anthocyanins contribute to the health of connective tissue, and are even more powerful than vitamin C for eliminating the free radicals that irritate body tissues and cause inflammation. Add anthocyanins to your diet with cherries, blackberries, black currents, blueberries, eggplant, elderberries, raspberries, boysenberries, red and black grapes, strawberries, and plums.
- Ginger and Turmeric. Many spices contain beneficial phytonutrients that can have powerful effects on health. Tumeric and ginger have been show to have anti–inflammatory effects, and are beneficial for joint health.
- Green Tea. A refreshing beverage cold or hot, green tea contains a natural antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Studies suggest that EGCG works to stop the production of certain inflammatory chemicals in the body, including those involved in arthritis. Early research indicates that EGCG and other catechins in green tea may also prevent cartilage from breaking down, extending your joint health.
- Olive Oil. Olive oil contains a natural compound called oleocanthal which may help prevent arthritis-related inflammation by blocking the same inflammatory pathways as medications commonly used to fight arthritis pain. Use olive oil when cooking instead of vegetable oil or butter. For the highest antioxidant content, choose “extra virgin” olive oil.
- Omega-3 Fats. Many foods increase inflammation, but omega-3s actually work to decrease inflammation by suppressing the production of enzymes that erode cartilage. Participants in a number of studies have reported more energy, heightened strength, a reduction of joint swelling and tenderness, and less stiffness and pain when omega-3s are included in their nutritional regimen. The best foods for omega-3 fatty acids are include salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, rainbow trout, flaxseed, and walnuts.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the nutrients most responsible for the health of collagen, a major component of cartilage. Research also indicates that people who eat a diet low in vitamin C have a greater risk of developing some kinds of arthritis. Make vitamin C rich food a part of your daily nutrition regimen. Guava, bell peppers, oranges, strawberries, pineapple, broccoli, kidney beans, kiwi, and cauliflower are all excellent sources of vitamin c.
Finally, avoid sugar and foods with added sugar and refined carbohydrates. Eat high fiber foods like whole grains and legumes. Studies have shown that high fiber diets are anti-inflammatory.
Don’t let joint pain stop you from enjoying a full and healthy lifestyle!