Exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. But, sometimes, exercise in the pursuit of health can cause pain from musculoskeletal overuse or injury.
In this article, Lauren Gasparini, DNP, a nurse practitioner with Garden State Pain Control, offers tips for avoiding joint pain and advice for seeking treatment when pain or injury does occur. A lifelong athlete with extensive nursing experience in orthopedics and neurology, Dr. Gasparini earned her doctoral degree in nursing practice from the Rutgers School of Nursing. A recent addition to the clinical staff of Garden State Pain & Orthopedics, she explains that she was drawn to the practice by its comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to patient care and by the opportunity to help people enjoy active, pain-free lives.
Q: Joint pain is a common complaint of active people. What advice do you have for avid athletes or “weekend warriors” to prevent joint pain?
A: Rest is just as important as exercise. A hard workout needs to be accompanied by adequate rest. It is essential to listen to your body. Good nutrition, adequate hydration, and following healthy habits generally all contribute to overall well-being, including healthy joints.
Q: What about people who lead a largely sedentary life who experience joint pain, either as a result of being inactive or when they try to increase their activity level? What guidance do you have for them?
A: Everyone needs to build movement into their day. That can be as simple as taking a daily walk. I always say, ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ Start with walks for 10 to 20 minutes, and increase the activity as your body tolerates it. If something hurts, stop doing it.
Q: Are there stretching routines or similar regimens that you recommend for the average person?
A: Daily stretching is vital to flexibility and can help prevent injury. It keeps your joints and muscles limber. Doing simple yoga stretches on the floor or using the wall to stretch your upper body, especially your back, promote health for both the mind and the body.
Q: At what point should a person experiencing joint pain see a healthcare professional?
A: People should seek help when – and preferably before – pain starts affecting their daily routines and their functionality. Consult an experienced healthcare professional promptly, so that the clinician can assess the issue and prevent it from worsening. We want to help long before pain becomes significant or severe.
Q: In your experience, what are some of the most common misconceptions people have about pain in the hip, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or other joints?
A: The biggest misconception is automatically attributing aches and pains to aging. That is not always the case. You never want to overlook pain, because if something hurts, there is a reason it hurt, and that reason needs to be identified and addressed.
Q: When a person sees you for joint pain, what does your evaluation entail?
A: The process starts with a full medical history. We talk about the issue he or she is experiencing, when it started, and whether something triggered it. Then we do a full physical examination, including assessing range of motion, stability, and the level of pain. If deemed necessary, we will order imaging. Then we develop a plan that could include physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, massage, and other noninvasive procedures.
Q: What types of treatment for joint pain do you offer at Garden State Pain Control?
A: Garden State Pain & Orthopedics truly is on the cutting edge of technology in pain medicine. The practice has assembled a team of highly trained physicians and other clinicians with expertise in managing diverse pain conditions and employing a wide variety of treatment modalities. Those treatment approaches include interventional pain techniques, minimally invasive surgeries, medical management, physical therapy, rehabilitation and behavioral therapy.
We can provide injections, such as steroids, that reduce inflammation, which is the root cause of a great deal of joint-related pain. These medications are very safe for short-term use. We can also prescribe anti-inflammatory creams, local numbing agents and other medicines. These therapies work well with all types of joint-related pain, including arthritis. We try to avoid opioids because of the risk of addiction.
Q: is the single most important thing you want people to know about preventing and managing joint pain?
A: Take good care of yourself. Exercise regularly, but don’t overdo it. Get advice from a trainer to develop an exercise plan that is right for you. And talk to your doctor or advanced practice provider if you have concerns. Remember: Listen to your body!
Founded in 1994 with the goal of providing compassionate and comprehensive pain management to people struggling with acute and chronic pain, Garden State Pain & Orthopedics has offices in Edison, Clifton, Hazlet, Paramus, and Jersey City. The practice’s pain medicine physicians, orthopedic and sports medicine physicians, interventional pain specialists, and advanced practice providers treat the full spectrum of pain-related conditions, drawing on a wide range of modalities to individualize care to optimal effect.
For more information, visit gardenstatepain.com.