Joint pain is on the rise. The CDC reports that 23.7% of the population over 18 years of age suffers from chronic joint related pain.
Over 80% of all people will experience significant low back pain at some point in their lives. Joint replacement is becoming commonplace. By 2030, the demand for hip replacements is projected to more than double, while the demand for knee replacements is projected to increase more than 600 percent.
But here's the crazy part, for 98% of people, joint pain is a preventable disease. The other 2% is due to disease and trauma, which means the majority of people don't have to live with chronic joint pain. So what gives, and why do so many end up suffering for years with aching and often debilitating pain?
The Wait-Till-You-Break Approach
Would you wait until after your car engine blows-up to add oil? Of course not, and waiting for actual joint pain to occur works the same way. Pain is an after-the-fact sign that something is broken – that joint damage has already occurred. This kind of "approach" catches most of us off guard, but is common in terms of how we tend to deal with joint pain and many other health issues as well ... wait until something is broken, sometimes beyond repair, and then ask our physician to fix it.
Make a Better Decision
It's your job to prevent joint pain before it happens. How? By watching for subtle signs that something might be wrong. Your posture and how you move are the two best predictors of joint pain.
For example, if you sit with rounded shoulders and a head forward posture then you will have joint pain at some point in your life. Your head weighs 10-12 pounds. For every inch forward your head protrudes, due to poor posture, your head exerts 10 pounds of additional force on your neck.
Let your head drift forward 3 inches while you drive or work on a computer and your neck and all it structures including nerves, ligaments, disks, bones and muscles have to work double-time to support a head that in essence weighs 40 pounds – something your neck was never designed to do. Your neck will attempt to compensate for the heavier load and then over time those structures will wear out, eventually leading to chronic pain.
If you are unable to lift an object without rounding or arching your spine, you will have joint pain. If you squat by bending your knees forward instead of pulling your hips back, you will have joint pain. Posture and how you move matters - a lot. Remember, you can move poorly for a while, until you can't.
Keep in mind that there are other subtle indicators that you're heading toward dysfunction and joint pain. These warning signs include swelling, numbness/tingling, weakness, muscle tightness and again poor posture. If you notice any of these issues then it's time to seek an intervention.
So knowing "what" is happening is only half the solution. Putting the information above into action is the true solution to joint pain. So let's take a look at a simple practical action plan for resolving joint pain. Obviously, if you have significant pain then go see yourdoctor immediately. If you notice any of the signs above then schedule an appointment with a good chiropractor, physical therapist or certified fitness trainer.
Any of these professionals should be able to assess your dysfunction and give you a simple 10-minute corrective exercise routine that you can do at home or in the gym on your own. Corrective exercises generally don't require any fancy equipment and are designed to reduce muscle imbalances, restore posture and functional movement patterns, which will take the stress off of your joints.
Keep in mind that in order to resolve the movement compensations and muscle imbalances that cause joint pain you will need to spend about 10 minutes per day doing the corrective exercises until the pain is gone. Once you have a well-designed program, it is the commitment to a daily routine more than any other aspect that leads to a pain free life.
Remember, you're an amazing, adaptable, healing machine designed to last a lifetime. As a human being you have the ability to resolve most chronic conditions. So take action, and make better decisions!
Mike Carville is a NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and co-owner of South Yuba Club www.southyubaclub.com. South Yuba Club owns and operates two full service health clubs (Nevada City and Grass Valley) and specializes in helping people achieve their health, weight loss and wellness goals. South Yuba Club has won best health club 14 years running, and is the exclusive provider of the Silver Sneakers senior exercise program at www.silversneakers.com.