Of all your body's vital systems, the musculoskeletal system is one that you depend on greatly to perform even the most basic daily movements and functions.
Your musculoskeletal system is made up of your muscles, bones, cartilage, joints, ligaments and tendons which support and bind the tissues and vital organs of your body.
When these components are strong, healthy and nourished, your physical body feels good. On the other hand, when any of these parts become weak or inflamed, it usually shows up as niggling or even debilitating pain in the muscles, joints or back.
Your musculoskeletal system is designed to support stability, strength and movement of your physical frame.
Your body relies on this vital system for the most menial tasks, like getting out of bed, driving a car and gardening, to more vigorous activities like rigorous exercise.
A certain amount of degeneration of the bones, joints and muscles can occur over time, however by following some basic practices, you can keep your body supple, agile and strong, and greatly reduce the risk of musculoskeletal diseases like chronic back pain, arthritis, osteoporosis and more.
Here we share with you the most common causes of muscle and joint pain and offer some handy tips and suggestions to help you get back on track.
What Causes Muscular Pain?
Innocuous muscular conditions like cramps, are typically caused from muscular fatigue, inadequate stretching and dehydration from a lack of salt and minerals (electrolytes) in the blood stream.
There's good and bad muscle pain and it's important to understand the difference.
Muscular pain resulting from quality exercise, is typically a 'good' pain that is your body's natural process of repairing broken muscle tissue to make it stronger and more flexible.
Provided that you don't over do it, rehydrate adequately, eat enough salt to replace the depleted minerals and fuel your muscles with a good, healthy diet, your body should bounce back stronger and without pain.
If the pain is incessant, rather than a response to physical activity, it could be a sign that there are lifestyle issues that need to be addressed that are the more likely cause of this type of pain.
What Causes Joint & Back Pain?
Joint pain and swelling can form due to overexertion, injuries that haven't properly healed, and/or a lack of nutrients required by the musculoskeletal system to perform its highest function.
To avoid joint pain it's important to not overdo a particular exercise, to avoid lifting excessively heavy items, to be very conscious of good form when you exercise, and maintaining a strong, healthy posture throughout your life.
There's a saying among the chiropractic community, that says that, "You're only as young as the flexibility of your spine", so it's important to preserve this vital structure if you want to be healthy and mobile in your golden years.
Here are our nine tips to help support a strong musculoskeletal system, so that you can feel stronger, more confident, agile and pain-free...and even help to avoid ongoing muscle, joint and back pain for good.
1. Support your recovery
When you experience intense back or muscle pain, give yourself a day or two of complete rest; this means no heavy exercising or standing for long hours on your feet.
Experiment with remedial massage and hot salt baths to soothe tired muscles and stimulate circulation.
These two suggestions alone are incredible healing practices, that can make a big difference when it comes to naturally treating and relieving muscle, joint and back pain.
Ask your masseuse to add a few drops of an essential oil, such as Frankincense, Geranium or Aroma Touch blend to their massage oil to help penetrate, nourish and soothe your muscles.
Add a few drops of Lavender to your hot bath with Epsom Salts and Magnesium Flakes to remineralise and soften aching muscles and joints.
Also, our proprietary handcrafted muscle relief oil and balm products, Golden ReLeaf Oil and our Healing Chrysm Balm have a very effective, proven track record when applied topically to the site of body pain.
2. Check Your Mattress & Posture
Mattresses are only designed to last 8 to 10 years, and most people are using mattresses that are well past their use-by date.
This is often one of the 'hidden' causes of ongoing back, neck and muscle pain, so it's a good idea to examine your mattress and upgrading it if you have constant back pain symptoms and if your mattress is beyond it's expiry date.
Choose a medium-firm mattress to give your body the support it needs and try sleeping flat on your back with a pillow under your knees to take the pressure off of your spine.
Your posture could also be causing you muscle, joint and back pain. Therefore, it's a good idea to consider how often you're sitting at a desk each day, to stand and stretch often, and to make a concerted effort to keep your neck and spine aligned when you are sitting to give your lower back support.
Stand up straight, say every 30 minutes, and place your arms out stretched by your side and circle them around one way for about 10-15 seconds, then circle them in a reverse motion for the same amount of time. Lightly bend and touch your toes, allowing your hamstrings to stretch, then gently roll up and stand tall with your spine straight. Do this a few times before you sit back down.
Try to get outside and walk for 10-15 minutes at least once throughout the day and have a light stretch as well. This keeps your muscles loose and the blood flowing throughout your body.
Ensure your joints are protected by using ergonomic keyboards and mice, and keep your screen level with your eyes so you’re not straining your neck. These small changes can add up to huge improvements over time, and less wear and tear overall on your body.
3. Ease Back Into Exercise
Once you start to feel better, you’ll want to ease back into gentle exercise.
You definitely shouldn’t quit exercising altogether (even if it is what caused you pain), but you should be smart about the types of exercises you choose, particularly if you're susceptible to or recovering from injury.
Maintain brisk walking for 30-45 minutes per day and add some form of low-impact exercise such as like yoga, pilates, cycling, swimming to your weekly routine.
Focus on form rather than intensity and on strengthening your stabilising muscles like your core, abs and back to support your spine.
Secondly, one of the best exercises you can do to alleviate back pain at home is bent knee push-ups. Stretch when you rise and then doing 20 in the morning and 20 in the evening before bed.
Movement distributes nutrients into the disc space and soft tissues in the spine to keep the muscles, ligaments and joints healthy.
On the flip side, if you don't move enough you're going to stiffen and weaken your joint conditioning.
Generally, a back pain exercise or rehabilitation program should encompass a combination of stretching (particularly hamstring), stabilisation and low impact exercise.
Learn more in our blog Top Low Impact Exercises for Health & Wellness
4. Change Positions Frequently
If you’re suffering from joint pain, make sure to keep varying your activity. This is a subtle, but powerful way to learn how to reduce muscle, joint and back pain.
Most joint pain occurs after periods of inactivity, so regularly stand up and walk around, stretch, and move positions to avoid placing any stress on particular joints. As already mentioned, the key is to interrupt your posture by not sitting or staying still for too long in one spot.
5. Choose the Right Footwear
The importance of wearing proper footwear to prevent back, muscles, and joint pain can’t be understated.
It gives your body the support it needs to protect itself from shock and strain.
Choose shock-absorbent footwear as well as shoes with plenty of support to help your body walk and stand more comfortably.
6. Stretch & Warm Up
Regular stretching can help loosen up the muscles and joints so that you feel less stiff, especially if you work in an office job or spend a lot of time sitting.
You also need to ensure that before any physical activity that you take the time to stretch properly and warm up, to give your muscles, back and joints time to ease into it so that the exertion is less of a shock.
7. Consume Enough Water & Salt
Your muscles and joints need water to function optimally, and cramps are often a sign of dehydration or depletion of salt and minerals in the body.
For this reason, if you suffer from muscle or joint pain it's crucial to drink plenty of clean water each day and to ensure you're getting enough quality nature-made salt into your diet.
Salt is a natural electrolyte that your cells depend on to perform at their best AND salt also ionises into calcium in the body, meaning that it is a vital key to maintaining and restoring joint and bone strength.
Tip: To make your own electrolyte sports drink, simply add a teaspoon of pure celtic sea salt to 1 litre of pure water and the juice of a whole lemon or lime with a dash of raw honey if desired. Shake, chill and enjoy.
8. Maintain Healthy Weight
Your weight plays a surprising part in the healing of muscles, joints, and back pain. When you’re overweight, this can create inflammation in the body that can lead to joint pain. It also puts added pressure on your back and joints, causing pain and straining issues.
Add more RAW plant foods to your diet - salads, fruits, steamed vegetables, nuts and seeds and eliminate all processed, fatty foods and refined grains which are all very inflammatory.
By maintaining a healthy weight, you can ease the pressure that’s being put on your muscles, back, and joints, while also preventing painful inflammation throughout your body.
At snack time, choose fruit or dried fruit and raw nuts like brazil nuts, macadamias and almonds, or snack on Pulse Sacred Meal (available in our store online at tolmanselfcare.com store) to infuse your cells with an array of nutrients that will strengthen and keep you energised.
9. Eat More 'Super' Foods
Even though all whole foods from nature's table have incredible benefits, there are certain foods that have special super powers when it comes to alleviating joint and muscle pain, because they're known to reduce inflammation in the body.
Here's are some examples of specific foods you should definitely include in your diet if you suffer from muscle or joint pain, particularly because they're rich in potassium and magnesium - minerals with anti-inflammatory powers:
- Seasonal Fruits - Cherries, Avocados, Bananas, Citrus & Prunes
- Seasonal Vegetables - Celery, Leafy Greens, Cabbage and Potatoes
- Cold-Pressed Oils - Olive, Coconut, Flaxseed, Avocado and Macadamia
- Raw organic cacao to raw smoothies and hot drinks.
The nutrients in these foods help muscles stay supple and elastic and help you to avoid injury and pain.
Learn more in our blog Magnesium Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes & Remedies
The Main Takeaway
Studies show that 4 out of every 5 adults will experience some form of back pain in their life.
But most times, the severity of the back pain is not related to the extent of the physical damage. Meaning that a simple back strain can cause excruciating pain, making it difficult to even stand upright or walk, whilst a large herniated or degenerated disc can be almost painless.
It's no secret that movement is crucial for maintaining a strong, healthy functioning physical body, but excessive tension and overexertion can also contribute to injuries and degeneration. For this reason, it's important that you find a 'happy medium', particularly as you age, to avoid muscular degenerative dis-eases like fibromyalgia.
To treat back pain, for thousands of years modalities that embrace "The Healing Hands" have been revered because they involve human touch, which is one of the most innate healing tools that exists - for example, therapeutic massage, osteopathic and chiropractic treatments.
As we've described here, there are a number of self care tips and remedies you can follow. The key is to listen to your body and to make small adjustments to the way you manage the pain in a proactive way; and by doing this you will go a long way to keeping muscle and joint pain at bay.
Tolman Self Care.