Marty Tuley, Author and Personal Trainer
Though I don’t have arthritis, I find my joints are often stiff and sore after normal workouts or a long day sitting at my desk. What are some natural approaches I can take to help keep my joints healthy and flexible?
Exercise! I’m not trying to be overly simplistic, but the fact is most people have sore, painful joints because they’re out of shape. The more de-conditioned you become, the more stress and load you place on your skeleton, and specifically your joints. Your bones work in conjunction with your muscles neither work alone, and both are limited to the strength and condition of the other. Weight training not only creates strong, supportive muscles, but the movement and load created by using weights properly helps lubricate and bring nutrition to the joints.
Think of it this way: Your skeleton is like the frame of your car, and your muscles are your shocks. Individuals starting an exercise program often have stiff and sore joints because their muscles are out of shape. Will it get better? Of course, but it takes DDC: dedication, discipline, and consistency. There are no short cuts. In addition to building your strength and muscle tone, regular and intense exercise also increases your pain tolerance. If you’re already doing all of the above, you might want to try some supplements. Studies have been piling up that support the effectiveness of glucosamine/chrondroitin/MSM supplements. However, it takes about three months to notice the effects, so this gives you plenty of time to cowboy-up and keep exercising pain-free joints are right around the corner.
Marty Tuley has been a personal trainer for over twenty years. Tuley is the author of Get Off Your Ass! (Basic Health Publications, 2005), and Busting Your Butt and Gut (Basic Health Publications, 2008). www.getoffyourass.biz
Michael Finkelstein, MD, Certified Holistic Physician
The more comprehensively you understand the nature of your symptoms, the more likely you are to find an approach that will work. Western medicine tends to limit its focus to a purely physical level, which overlooks other factors that might be involved. However, if you broaden your view, your chance to find a solution increases. I would define this approach as Skillful Living.
Most symptoms of pain and limitation of movement are a result of some degree of inflammation. Identifying things in your life that could be inflammatory, such as stress levels and certain foods, will allow you to minimize them. Inflammatory foods such as animal products, which contain saturated fats, and other common prepared foods that contain hydrogenated oils and trans-fats should be minimized or eliminated.
Some anti-inflammatory foods to add to your diet are dark green leafy vegetables, including spinach, kale and broccoli, and such herbs as garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Supplements containing these herbs, and also a good quality fish oil with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, can help with inflammation. A second area to examine is stress, which also leads to inflammation. Thus, anything you can do to manage your stress will lead you to better health.
Finally, consider the possibility that your inflexible joints may reflect something about your own personal nature. How can you become more flexible in your thinking?
Michael Finkelstein, MD, is a Board-Certified Internist, Certified Holistic Physician, and the founder of SunRaven, a Westchester-county holistic healing and living center that teaches his approach to Skillful Living. www.sunraven.org
Desi Bartlett, Yoga Teacher
An integral part of fitness is maintaining our joint flexibility. Joint flexibility refers to the range of motion of a particular joint. The shoulder, for example, should have an approximate range of motion of 180 degrees. This simply means that you should be able to lift your arm directly over your head without any pain or limitation. The best way to ensure freedom in the joint is to practice flexibility training that is mindful and purposeful. A fantastic way of doing this is through the practice of yoga.
Yoga can help to increase the range of motion of any particular joint. Many yoga postures address more than one joint. Eagle (Garudasana) is a great posture for the shoulder and ankle joints. Begin by standing up straight, with your belly muscles engaged. Cross your left leg over your right as you slightly bend the right knee. If possible, try to get a second crossing of the leg, by tucking the left foot behind the right calf. Cross your right arm on top of your left, and slowly lift the elbow joint to eye level. Maintain the posture for 5 to 10 slow, deep breaths.
Yoga instructor Desi Bartlett hosts Acacia’s Yoga for Beginners, 3-in-1 Total Body Fitness, and Dance and Be Fit: Latin Groove workout DVDs. She also designed the first round yoga mat on the market, the 360-Degree Yoga Mat, as well as a class format based on its design.