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Walking on Sunshine: Stay active and pain-free this summer

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

A study conducted by the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute found that injury was among the top five barriers to physical activity. If your favourite summer activities include canoeing, hiking, and biking, but pain is raining on your parade, follow these tips to stay active this summer!

Eat As produce stands pop up along roadsides, the Canadian summertime is best for eating fresh and local food. Locally grown produce is typically transported less than 100 miles from where it’s grown, meaning that we get to eat it while it’s fresh and at peak nutrient value. Eating produce with more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants gives the body better building blocks with which to promote optimum structure and function.

Knowing what building blocks are required for your particular barrier to exercise is key. Joint pain can occur due to an age-related decline in cartilage, a connective tissue that acts as a cushion between bones. One of the best ways to plump up the cartilage layer in the joints is to increase vitamin C. Vitamin C is required for the synthesis of collagen, an important protein found in joint cartilage. Dig into fresh berries, leafy greens, and colourful vegetables for an ample dose of vitamin C. You can also directly increase your collagen intake by drinking bone broth. Collagen is the gelatinous layer you can see on top of chilled bone broth, which goes to show how well it acts as a protective cushion for your joints!

Arthritis pain involves inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues, and benefits from an anti-inflammatory diet. Avoiding inflammatory sugar, dairy, white grains, and nightshade vegetables including tomatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers, and increasing anti-inflammatory foods like leafy greens, fish, extra virgin olive oil, and nuts, can be helpful for reducing arthritis pain.

Move When you’re in pain, moving might seem like the last thing you want to do. But if you have arthritis, exercise can be very beneficial for regenerating protective joint fluid, reducing stiffness, and building up muscle strength for joint support.

The Mayo Clinic recommends applying hot packs to your joints 20 minutes before exercise, to reduce surrounding muscle tension. Then, gently warm up your major joints (shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles) by circling through their range of motion for about 10 minutes prior to exercise (ibid).

Choose gentle exercises with low-impact on the joints, such as recumbent biking, elliptical, and swimming, which allow for full range of motion to reduce stiffness. Pace activity by slowing down if you notice joint redness or swelling, and stop if you experience sharp pain that’s worse than usual. When you’re done, cool down and reduce swelling with an ice pack on your painful joints for up to 20 minutes (ibid).

Chill Life is full of unavoidable stressors, like bill payments, work deadlines, and relationship challenges. The connection between stress and disease has been explored in medical research, and it’s been found that chronic pain is exacerbated by an overactive stress response (Hannibal et al, 2014). But, how we manage our subjective feeling of stress in response to these life stressors is key in determining its toll on our physiology. Lifestyle practices including meditation, mindfulness, yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, and positive social time are all evidence-based interventions shown to reduce stress. Choosing one or several of these practices to implement into your daily routine can help reduce stress and lower your pain perception.

Supplement There are evidence-based natural anti-inflammatory supplements that can be prescribed on an individual basis when you're working with a Naturopathic Doctor. Keep in mind that what works for your friend might not work for you, because treatment success depends upon proper diagnosis and assessment of the underlying cause. Inflammation, particularly rheumatoid type, can be a result of an autoimmune process and/or a reaction to a low-grade-infection. Working with a Naturopathic Doctor can help identify the cause to treat your pain at the source.

Originally written for Healthy Directions magazine.

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