When you think of causes of joint pain, most people go immediately to age, too much exercise, injury and arthritis. However, did you know that these ten things can cause or increase your joint pain?
1. Anxiety. While there are many types, anxiety disorders share a general feature of excessive fear and as a result cause behavioral and functional disturbances. What you may not know is that joint pain is a complex symptom of anxiety. There are many reasons that people who have anxiety feel increased joint pain. Stress inflammation is one of the most common issues inside the body. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are molecules that can be released by many things, one being stress. When you have anxiety you experience long-term stress, and as a result your body continually produces these cytokine molecules. Inflammation caused by these molecules cause your joints to swell and ultimately leads to more pain in your movements.
2. Weather. If you suffer from chronic pain conditions, like arthritis, you may notice that when the pressure in the air changes you feel it in your joints in the form of stiffness or tightness. As the atmospheric pressure drops, tissues in the body may expand and cause more pressure on nerves that control pain signals. Atmospheric pressure drops when a storm system develops. This is why people often claim to be able to tell when a storm is coming because they feel pain in their joints. Another reason that weather affects your joints is that temperature changes can cause fluctuations in fluid levels, which can lessen the lubrication of the joints, therefore causing increased inflammation and pain. Lastly, when the weather gets warmer, you are more likely to become dehydrated. The joint cartilage in our bodies has a high water content so when your body loses fluid and is not replenished, dehydration can occur. Without that fluid in your joints, you are more susceptible to degeneration and damage of your joints.
3. Lack of Exercise. Staying active is one of the most important things you can do to combat joint pain and arthritis. I know it may sound counterintuitive, since moving often makes your joints hurt, why would you do it? Limiting your movements will weaken your muscles. So, by exercising you strengthen the muscles near your joints and increase your range of motion and flexibility.
4. Vitamin D Deficiency. A simple vitamin deficiency may be causing your joint pain. It can be difficult to reach your recommended vitamin D intake, especially if you don’t make an active effort to get outside or eat a balanced diet. Researchers say that the longer you are deficient in vitamin D, the worse your joint pain will get. Eventually, you can develop arthritis or bone problems. Just 10-20 minutes of natural sunlight may give you the Vitamin D you need. However, if you can’t get outside, other sources of vitamin D are foods such as salmon, mushrooms, tuna, and egg yolks. Supplements are also a great way to get your daily vitamin D intake.
5. Food Allergies. While food allergies are quite common in children and often inherited, in some cases you can develop allergic reactions toward a certain food later in life. Allergic reactions occur when your immune system overreacts towards a particular food. One of the symptoms of an allergic reaction is inflammation, which ultimately causes your joints to hurt.
6. Seasonal Allergies. Joint pain is unavoidable when allergies cause inflammation. During allergy season some people suffer from inflammation because your body is working hard to flush out the foreign allergens (pollen, dust, nuts, mold and bee venom). As a result, this inflammation causes pain in your joints. Your body is very fatigued from trying to fight off the allergens and this may cause your joint pain to feel worse. Coughing, sneezing, and wheezing may also cause you to suffer from muscle, joint and neck pain. Click here to learn about how to manage your seasonal allergies to avoid joint pain.
7. Smoking Cigarettes. By now, you know that smoking cigarettes causes many negative health benefits. Add joint pain to that list! Smoking is addictive because nicotine causes the body to release dopamine, which makes you feel good. It tricks the body into feeling less pain at first however, when that feeling wears off the pain is often worse. Cigarettes also affect the body’s circulatory system and inhibit nutrients from flowing to the muscles and joints. Since your muscles help to protect your joints, when they are not receiving the proper nutrients your joints are more susceptible to pain. Back pain and neck pain are also common in smokers because of the coughing symptom that many smokers experience.
8. Obesity. Obesity means that a person’s body weight is 20% higher than it should be, and they have a body mass index (BMI) over 30. Added weight puts more pressure on your joints. Each pound of weight that you gain adds 4 pounds of pressure to your knee joints. This is why obesity is such a major risk factor for the development of osteoarthritis and joint pain.
9. Alcohol. Alcohol forces your body to lose water and therefore dehydrates your ligament and tissues. Since your joints rely heavily on having sufficient fluids to move smoothly and function properly, insufficient fluids in your joints can cause agonizing pain. Drink in moderation to minimize dehydration and to allow your joints to function normally!
10. Depression. Depression is defined as sadness, not being interested in daily activities, weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, low energy levels, inability to concentrate, thoughts of worthlessness or excessive guilt, and recurrent ideas of death or suicide. Studies show that depression lowers your pain tolerance level and weakens a person’s ability to deal and cope with pain. Since people with depression are unable to deal with their joint pain, they are less likely to stick to their treatment regimens and maintain a healthy lifestyle. A 2016 study measured the CRP levels (a blood test marker for inflammation) of 10,036 people. Of those people who showed symptoms of depression, CRP levels were 31% higher than those with no depressive symptoms. So, there is a developing theory that inflammation may also be directly linked to depression.