Painful And Stiff Joints

There are over 200 joints in the human body. No wonder, we experience pain and/or stiffness in some of these joints at some points in our lives.

While the joints give us the ability to bend, lift, and rotate many parts of our bodies, they also protect the bones forming a joint from the friction and impact that result from many of our activities.

Painful joints are quite common.

However, injuries, infections, overuse or improper use of our joints, and lack of movement result in acute, and often chronic pain as the ligaments, joint capsule, or cartilage covering the ends of the bones start to stiffen, dry out, or become distorted. Moreover, tendons that cross these joints cause friction and decreased joint space as they shorten due to chronic muscle tension.

Thus just living life provides many opportunities for joint injuries, or degeneration from wear and tear.

Synovial joints, no matter how painful, need movement.

Most of the joints affected are synovial joints that produce synovial fluid in their joint capsules to lubricate the joint, thus reducing friction and wear and tear on the cartilage covering the ends of the bones.

Movement of the joints stimulates the production of synovial fluid.  Conversely, lack of movement or exercise reduces the amount of fluid production.  Hence. a sedentary lifestyle promotes dry joints, thus reducing the body’s natural protection from wear and tear of the joints.

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout can cause great pain and thus present a real challenge to keep moving the joints.  However, a lack of movement exacerbates the problem as described above.

Below are some of the more common activities that may cause painful joints.

Infections of the joints can occur with trauma, initial skin infections that spread to the ligaments, tendons, and joints, as well infections further away from the joint but brought to the joint via the blood supply.

Excessive wear-and-tear of the joints is usually caused by repetitive stress to the joints as in sports, dance, hobbies, and heavy physical labor at work.

Osteoarthritis of the vertebral (facet) joints is not an unusual occurrence, especially in people who subjected their bodies to repetitive stress injuries as children or teenagers.  Gymnastics and dance come to mind.

Sports and dance:  rotator cuff injuries, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, ACL injuries common to football, soccer, or skiing, and falls during dancing especially when lifts are involved are all common causes of joint pain and stiffness.

Playing musical instruments, doing needle work, or other arts & crafts requiring the repetitive use of the hands and fingers can over time result in pain and stiffness of the smaller joints.

Heavy agricultural and construction work can expose the body (and thus all joints) to excessive vibrations and pressure, as well as industrial accidents.

Dehydration and nutritional deficiencies may lead to dry and stiff ligaments and tendons, as well as hardened, dry fascia, the thin filmy tissue that envelops and holds together all structures of the body down to the cellular level, including the joints.  Thus, dehydration and poor nutrition may contribute to chronic joint pain and stiffness.

Normal, everyday movements, such as reaching for an object, bending over, or tripping can cause tearing of the connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, fascia) surrounding the joint, causing joint pain and stiffness.  The connective tissue has lost its resilience to adjust to expected and unexpected movements of the body.

Poor posture leads to weak muscles and excess strain on the joints, especially the joints between the vertebrae.  Neck, shoulder, and back pain are the result.

But life is to be lived and enjoyed!

As you can see, the causes of painful joints are numerous.  Yet there’s much that we can do to avoid future joint pain and stiffness, or recover from the same.  Take care of your body so that you may enjoy life to the fullest.  Pain and stiffness are real “Kill Joys”.

  • Consult a naturopathic doctor for nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic advice.
  • Move your body — stretching, walking, swimming, social dancing, Yoga, Tai Chi, QiGong, etc.
  • Watch your posture to keep the muscles of the spine strong and healthy.
  • Get plenty of rest for night time repair of the body.
  • Eat nutritious food to keep all tissues, including the joints and connective tissue, healthy and reslilient.
  • Watch out for sources of repetitive stress at work, sports, or while pursuing hobbies.

Energetic Unwinding of the Spine, Joints, and Muscles combines acupressure with craniosacral therapy and soft tissue work.  It’s particularly effective in helping to restore mobility and function to the joints.

If you suspect infection (fever, heat, redness, swelling), gout (painful great toe), rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis, please immediately consult a physician for evaluation and treatment. 

Until the next natural healing perspective blog…

To Your Health