Living Well: Hypermobility and Chronic Joint Pain

A discussion came up in my fitness group the other night and while the discussion went south, the main question is worth going into a bit more.

Question: How to exercise with joint pain from hypermobility? And what kinds of foods are good for reducing inflammation and joint pain?

First of all, let’s get into what hypermobility is.


What is hypermobility?

Hypermobile joints are joints that are more flexible than other people’s joints. When these joints pop out of place, this may result in injury or cause pain – you might have Joint Hypermobility Syndrome – which is something I’ve had all my life.

My right knee used to pop out of joint all the time as a kid. I used to twist my right knee as a party trick until it really affected my physical ability to run, and just do normal kid things. It’s also why I went into music instead of sports.


Symptoms of Hypermobility

  • Pain or stiffness in joints or muscles
  • Chronic fatigue or general feeling of being unwell
  • Repeat joint injuries including sprains, strains and tears
  • Joints move or pop out of place or feel loose in general
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Thin or stretchy skin
  • Digestive problems

Unfortunately, hypermobility can be difficult to diagnose. The key for me was my knees popping out of place. The worst pain I ever felt was when my knee popped out and wouldn’t go back in place for a full five minutes.


Living with Hypermobility

Sadly, there is no cure for hypermobile joints. As people age and experience repeat injuries, they are at risk for early onset of osteoarthritis. Some people might even require knee or hip joint replacements. Joints become weaker over time with repetitive injuries and stress on the hips.

This is why joint care is so important early on. There are many things that can be done for joint care and things I’ve found helpful for my back and knees.

Did you know your spine can pop out of place? I found out the hard way in 2017. I had to go to the ER for what I thought was ovary pain. Turns out my spine was slightly misaligned. Two months of physio therapy and massage therapy did wonders for the pain.

I have over the years, found different things that work for me and chronic pain from the arthritis. I find that weather greatly impacts my overall joint health. Extreme cold weather makes my joints stiff and rain can make my knees ache.


Pain Management

I’ve tried many medications over the years. The only thing that works with pain from the PCOS and joint paint is Toradol – a drug available in Canada. But there are more treatments available for joint pain – treatments that don’t involve pushing pills down your throat.


RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation

For ankle or knee injuries like sprains and tears, the best thing a person can do is RICE. If you’re a runner, or enjoy high impact activities – take a day of rest when experiencing joint pain. Use a hold or cold compress – I like ice better – and elevate your leg using an exercise ball or wedge pillow.

A hot bath, sitting in the hot tub or steam room can help loosen up the joints and make them feel more relaxed. But some people like the feel of a cold compress or ice on their skin when experiencing pain.

If you feel like you’ve torn something or felt something inside “tear” or “rip” – sometimes you can hear it – go to your doctor immediately. Get an Xray. You might need an MRI. Tears can take a long time to heal and if not taken care of properly, can leave lasting damage.

Remember Connor McDavid’s injury at the end of last season? He tore one of his ligaments. He’s going to feel it later on in life.

My mom used to joke that I had another football injury whenever I wound up in the doctor’s office for a tear.


Physio and Massage Therapy

Physio therapy is important when it comes to loose joints. A trained PT can show you the proper exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home. For serious tears or sprains, you may need to go into a clinic for advanced PT. This can involve the use of muscle simulators (TENS units).

Resistance bands are great for treating your knees at home. I also find the exercise ball extremely helpful for back pain.

What really put my back into place in 2017, was a deep tissue massage. It hurt – but after a couple of appointments – my back pain was almost completely gone. I kept up with my daily exercises at home.

Here’s a video on sacroiliac joint paint which can come with hypermobile joints. I didn’t even know this was a thing until my spine popped out.


Keep moving

Exercise is the number one recommendation medical professionals will recommend when it comes to hypermobile joints. If you’re overweight or obese (like I am), then losing weight will help with some of the stress on your lower joints.

Exercise daily – walking, climb stairs, low impact cardio, go swimming, use a stationary cycle, or take an aquafit class.

Being in the water is great for joint pain and there are fitness classes (depending on where you) aimed towards seniors and those with limited mobility.

Improving strength, reducing weight and avoiding foods that cause inflammation can help in treating chronic pain from hypermobility.


Food and Nutrition

Some foods can cause joint inflammation. If you’re experiencing a “flare up” with joint pain, the last thing you want to do is eat foods that can worsen your pain.

Inflammation triggers

  • Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial trans fats (margarine for example)
  • Vegetable and seed oils – some oils are seen as healthy fats – use oils in moderation
  • Refined carbs – not all carbs are problematic.
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Processed meats

So, this probably leaves you shaking your head and wondering what you can eat during flare ups? I did some research to help you out with that.

Inflammation “fixers”

  • Tomatoes
  • Green leafy vegetables – kale, spinach, lettuce
  • Nuts – almonds, walnuts
  • Fatty fish (omega 6) – salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
  • Fruit – berries, cherries and oranges

Not only are these foods great for reducing and battling chronic pain and inflammation – but they are also helpful for weight loss, general health and fitness.

There are lots of beverages, herbs, spices and alternative medicines that can help reduce inflammation. Here is a very quick summary for you:

Beverages

  • Baking soda and water
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Chamomile (sleepy time) tea
  • Parsley and ginger green juice
  • Lemon and turmeric tonic
  • Curcumin
  • Bone broth
  • Fruit smoothies with berries
  • Cod liver oil

Alternative Treatments

I’ve surveyed my fitness groups over the last couple of years and other medical groups to ask what other types of treatments are available for chronic pain and inflammation. Here are some of their top suggestions.

  • Acupuncture
  • Cupping (ancient Chinese tradition)
  • CBD oil
  • Supplements and vitamins

Supplements and Vitamins

Before taking any supplements and vitamins, make sure to check with your primary care physician first. It is possible to overdose on supplements. Some medications may also interact with over the counter pills. The following are some suggestions that may help you with chronic joint pain and improving bone and joint health.

The average person without chronic pain can get away with a multi-vitamin. But for those of us who suffer from chronic pain, we sometimes need a little boost for our immune systems and joint health.

Please talk to your medical professional or pharmacist to find out what treatment is best for you.

Supplements

  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid
  • Curcumin
  • Fish Oil (Omega 6)
  • Ginger
  • Resveratrol
  • Spirulina

Vitamins

  • Vitamin D3
  • MSM
  • Turmeric
  • Omega 3
  • Ginger
  • Magnesium (bone health)
  • Calcium (bone health)

There are lots of things a person who is living with chronic pain and hypermobile joints can do for treatment. We live in a great age for technology and medicine. Experimental treatments such as acupuncture, holistic health and Chinese medicines like cupping – are still practiced in parts of the world. Hemp oil and CBD oils can be purchased over the web via sites like London Drugs and Amazon.

For exercising at home, you can pick up a stability ball, resistance bands and dumbbells just about anywhere – Walmart, Winners, and Amazon.

Unfortunately though, for some of us, a knee or hip replacement is more likely to be part of our future treatment. I’m dreading the day that comes for me and putting it off as long as possible.

Do you have hypermobility or other joint disorders? If so – I want to hear from you! Let’s connect – or you can leave a comment below.


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