I’m a doctor and these are my top tips for pain-free joints

9 expert tips to help your achey joints

Joint pain

by Annabelle Lee |
Published on

Chartered Physiotherapist and Clinical Specialist Dr Esther Fox shares some simple daily practices can help banish aches and pains.

Does feeling achy when you get out of bed in the morning sound familiar to you? Or struggling to cope with back pain at the end of a long day? We can all suffer from aches and pains, but they shouldn’t be something you just have to put up with.

Luckily there are a few simple things you can do to ease them. With just some small tweaks, you can notice huge improvements in your mobility – and potentially live a pain-free life!

Speak to a specialist

It goes without saying that it’s important to speak to a professional to rule out that your pain is coming from something more serious, explains Chartered Physiotherapist Dr Esther Fox. “If you’re having pain, get it diagnosed and exclude anything significant such as tumours or fractures. Once you’ve ruled out that, you’re looking at musculoskeletal pain which usually gets better when you make the right changes.”

Visit a specialist

Get in your steps

Walking can help make your body stronger and less likely to suffer with aches and pains, it’s also a great weight-loss tool. If you need to, losing weight can ease the pressure on your joints and bones. Dr Fox says: “People always overlook walking as a great tool, but you use a lot of muscle groups and it gets your heart rate up. If you can do 20 minutes of walking twice a day, you’ll feel a whole lot better.”

Find movement that you love

Exercise is the key to making your body stronger and less likely to suffer with aches and pains, in fact Dr Fox’s ethos is “movement is medicine”, but she says it’s important to find something you can keep doing.

“I always say, ‘you’ve got to do what you want to do’. I love Pilates and I can do it in my home which suits me, but for other people it might be the gym, or swimming, or walking. It doesn’t matter what you do but you’ve got to find something that you can commit to doing three or four times a week. People underestimate how much you need to do to make a difference, you’ve got to really commit to it.”


Do strength exercises

As we age, our muscle mass reduces and Dr Fox says maintaining your muscle mass will improve your strength and mobility. For this, she recommends simple exercises you can easily fit into your life. “I do integrated stretching which is strengthening and stretching at the same time. Things like calf raises on a step are great for keeping calf strength and improving mobility of the ankle. Squats are great, each time you put the kettle on, do 30 mini squats while you wait and you will soon build that muscle. Just keep muscles working as much as you can.”

NHS guidelines state that you should be doing strength training at least twice a week, but that doesn’t have to mean lifting weights. “Strength training is anything that gets you stronger and uses your muscles. It could be lifting weights in the gym but it also could be gardening with all the digging involved.”

Fill up on fibre!

Eating plenty of whole foods will help boost your fibre intake and, crucially, reduce inflammation in the body. Dr Fox explains: “Inflammation comes from eating a lot of processed food, something that is so easy in this day and age, especially when we are busy. The more natural and more high fibre your diet is the better. There is little evidence to show most of us are deficient in protein, but a lot of us are deficient in fibre. We need to be filling up on vegetables.” Fibre is found in grains, beans, peas, lentils and fruit and vegetables.


Get good sleep

Sleep is a crucial time for healing so if you have suffered a knock or an injury, your body will repair while you sleep. Dr Fox says it’s vital you get the sleep you need. While this can vary from person to person, go with the amount that leaves you feeling rested the following day.

She explains: “Everyone will need varying levels of sleep, some people will survive very well on six hours and some people will need nine. Women biologically need more sleep than men. Sleep is crucial, because you heal when you sleep.”

Get up regularly

Aches can form from sitting in positions for too long, at your desk or in front of the TV for example. Dr Fox says: “There is no such thing as a bad posture, it’s a sustained posture that’s bad. I have got no problem with people slumping and watching Netflix, but get up regularly and move.” She suggests not sitting in the same position for more than an hour, and getting up and walking around as often as possible to keep your body moving.

Reduce your stress levels

Stress can worsen pain, but it can also cause pain. “I see a lot of emotional problems manifest as back pain,” says Dr Fox. “If you’ve ruled out anything more serious, exercise and stress management are the two big things for back pain. Since the pandemic I’ve seen huge amounts of stress in people, much more than before.” She recommends reducing your stress levels as much as you can. “I do a lot of mindfulness and breathing exercises in my Pilates classes.”


Consider Pilates

Exercise such as Pilates improves your strength, flexibility and balance – and often people find it eradicates their daily aches and pains too. Dr Fox, who is also a Pilates teacher, explains: “I have people in their 80s coming to my classes, and it has improved so many of their aches and pains including sciatic pain. Pilates is absolutely for all age groups and really helps with strengthening.” You can find free Pilates tutorials online, groups near you or try Dr Fox’s classes, visit estherfox.co.uk.

Meet the expert

Dr Esther Fox is a Chartered Physiotherapist and Clinical Specialist. She is also a Clinical Pilates expert and runs her own classes, book yours at estherfox.co.uk.

Annabelle Lee is a Lifestyle Editor at Bauer Media. She specialises in health, wellness and lifestyle celebrity content.

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