Nearly 50 percent of older adults over the age of 65 suffer from doctor-diagnosed arthritis and struggle with joint pain as a result. Many of these older adults believe that joint pain is something they’re doomed to experience for the rest of their life, but that definitely doesn’t have to be the case.
There are lots of things that older adults can do to improve their joint mobility and minimize pain. Some of the best strategies are explained below.
Regular exercise is crucial for older adults who want to remain mobile and independent.
Exercise can seem like a daunting task for older adults, though, especially if they’ve gone years or even decades without much movement. But there are lots of low-impact exercises that older adults can ease into to start reaping the benefits of exercise, including swimming, cycling, resistance training, and walking.
Resistance training is especially beneficial for older adults with arthritis and joint pain. It helps improve mobility and strengthens the muscles to allow them to better support the joints.
Walking also offers older adults easy and accessible physical activity. Even older adults who can’t walk independently should still try to get out for a stroll at least once a day — there’s nothing wrong with using walkers or rollators that are easy to manoeuvre — with patience and consistency, they may soon find that they’re able to walk unassisted.
Stretching is great for improving mobility and flexibility, both of which can help relieve joint pain and improve range of motion.
There are many yoga and stretching classes out there that are designed to accommodate older adults, even older adults who are in wheelchairs. It’s also easy to find stretching videos online that are easy to follow along with.
Stretching at any time of day is a good idea, but many older adults find it to be especially beneficial either in the morning or at the end of the day. Stretching in the morning can help get the blood flowing to improve pain and range of motion and stretching before bed can help older adults wind down and get into a deeper sleep, faster.
Get Better Sleep
Speaking of sleep, research shows that getting quality sleep is also key to reducing joint pain. This is because, when your body is in a deep sleep, it can begin repairing damage that occurred throughout the day. Poor sleep (as well as no sleep at all) is a stressor on the body and those who don’t sleep well tend to have higher levels of inflammation than those who do.
Many older adults struggle with poor sleep, especially those who suffer from arthritis. Some tips for improving sleep quality and, in turn, minimizing pain include:
- Establishing a relaxing night-time routine that includes calming activities like stretching or meditation
- Sticking to a schedule and going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
- Turning off electronics at least a couple hours before bedtime
- Keeping the bedroom dark and cool
- Using earplugs, fans, or white noise machines to block outside noise
In some cases, sleeping pills can be helpful for older adults who have a hard time sleeping. But it’s best to use these as a last resort and with caution; they can cause dizziness and other unpleasant side effects in older adults.
Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet
Many people are surprised to learn that diet plays a major role in joint health. But, upon closer inspection, it makes sense.
Joint pain is often triggered by inflammation, and the foods you consume on a daily basis can either contribute to or reduce inflammation. So, eating a healthy, balanced diet can work wonders for those with joint pain.
The best anti-inflammatory foods are those that are rich in compounds like antioxidants, collagen, and omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods to include in a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet include:
- Antioxidant-rich fruits like apples, pineapple, avocado, papaya, and berries
- Spices like ginger and turmeric
- Leafy greens like kale and spinach
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Red bell peppers
- Bone broth
- Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
There are also some foods that should be avoided, including foods that are highly processed, full of sugar, or that contain omega-6 fatty acids. The following are good examples of such foods:
- Processed vegetable oils (corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, etc.)
- Wheat and other refined grains
- Processed meat
- Foods that contain MSG (processed soups, salad dressings, etc.)
Try Alternative Therapies
In addition to conventional treatments like prescription medication and physical therapy, there are several alternative therapies that can also be beneficial to people who struggle with arthritis and joint pain.
Some of the most studied alternative therapies include:
- Chiropractic care
- Aromatherapy and essential oil treatments (peppermint and Boswellia oil are some of the best options)
These alternative treatments can be used independently or in conjunction with traditional treatment options. Because they’re all natural, there’s no need to worry about them interfering with prescription drugs or other therapies.
Joint pain and inflammation — whether they’re caused by arthritis or another condition — are not a normal part of the aging process, and, from regular exercise to alternative therapies, there are lots of things that older adults can do to keep it at bay.
It’s important for older adults to understand that they have options — they definitely do not need to accept their pain as a permanent fixture in their lives.