As I reach a riper age, sometimes on these cool damp mornings I am reminded of the words of the late songwriter/poet, Leonard Cohen, “I ache in the places where I used to play”.
Maybe it’s the change in light or the cold, damp settling in my bones. Maybe it’s the lack of vitamin D from the sun, or the tendency to reach for comfort foods and hot beverages like coffee. Or maybe I’m apt to stay in bed a little longer or move a little less or drink less water but this is the time of year when I notice that things hurt a little bit more.
So, besides acupuncture, here is what I do when my joints hurt.
Clean up my diet. For me, coffee aggravates joint pain. I often will notice a reduction in my pain after a week. For my husband, its peanut butter. Other common inflammatory foods are corn, nightshades (Peppers, tomatoes, eggplant), white sugar, wheat, milk. I’ve had a few patients find that chicken or eggs will increase their pain.
Foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory are a great thing to add to the diet and some of them are warming like ginger and curries, so they are nice in the coolness of Autumn. Most people know about tart cherry juice which contains many anti-inflammatory nutrients and can reduce uric acid. It is an old wives’ remedy for gout. But did you know it also contains melatonin and may help you sleep? Sleep is important for reducing inflammation and repairing microdamage that occurs during the activities of the day.
Drink more water. It flushes toxins and lubricates the joints. Synovial fluid acts as a cushion between the joints to reduce friction and wear and tear. Water increases the synovial fluid.
One of my favorite things to do on a cold creaky day is to get into an Epsom salt bath. The key is to make sure you’ve got enough Epsom salts in there. At least 2 cups, but if you are really achy and sore, use 3-4 cups. Epsom salts are made of magnesium sulfate. Magnesium relaxes the muscles, eases stress, and reduces pain. It is truly ancient medicine.
Finally, I love to do yoga. Especially if my back is bothering me. Simple poses like the cat/cow, downward dog, forward fold and happy baby will help ease a backache and make me feel calmer and looser all over. There are several online videos if you want some guidance. I’ve picked up yoga DVDs from the local library as well. And of course, there are many local classes where you can get more individualized support.
So, as Leonard Cohen sings to me about gray hair and joint pain in The Tower Of Song, I stretch to the music and breathe, then go get in a warm Epsom Salt bath and feel grateful for these simple acts that often are all I need to do to ease my creaky joints.
By Dr. Jennifer Means, ND, LAc