It is possible to reduce, or, in some cases, prevent the joint stiffness, tightness and pain that tend to creep up during menopause and the post-menopausal years. This depends on a few factors; nutrition, motivation, regularity, type and degree of physical activity, hormonal levels and, to a certain degree, genetics.
Those of us who have difficulty stretching may tend to develop muscle pulls while more flexible people may have more of a predisposition for joint injury. So, it’s important to engage in preventive care to protect your joints and prevent further damage to injured joints through safe, effective lifestyle approaches such as proper nutritional support, regular, moderate exercise, weight loss to decrease pressure on the joints, postural improvement and avoidance of excessive repetitive motions.
Acupuncture and massage therapy is a natural way to alleviate joint pain and stiffness. Herbs with anti inflammatory properties and supplements, such as, Glucosamine Condroitin Sulfate with MSM, Vitamin D and Antioxidants are safe, natural ways to support structural and functional joint integrity when recommended by an experienced health professional.
We know, by experience, that when we are sedentary our flexibility diminishes. Activities such as tai chi and daily stretching help maintain flexibility. If you are recovering from an injury or surgery it’s important to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine. Be sure to practice with caution. It is best to stretch after 30 minutes of your favorite cardiovascular exercise.
Here are some of my favorite stretches to maintain suppleness in the pelvis and lower back.
[You’ll have better sex too!] These stretches may be done while sitting or lying down on the floor on top of a clean towel or mat. Move slowly and exhale as you move into the stretch. Keep your maximum stretch position steady without forcing yourself beyond your limits. Follow with an inhalation, then exhale as you release again into the stretch. Each stretch may be done daily, 5 repetitions in a row and held for about 15 seconds each time.
- Inner thigh stretch: Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together. Hold your feet in place by gently grasping your ankles. Maintain a vertically erect, but not stiff, posture. Bring your upper body forward and let your knees relax toward the floor while keeping your buttocks planted to the floor. Breathe while hold this position for about 15 seconds Then, slowly return to your vertically erect posture. Relax, then, bring your feet a little closer toward your body and repeat the stretch. Variation: With the soles still together, bring your feet slightly forward and repeat the same stretch routine above.
- Butt/outer thigh stretch [great for low back and hip pain and sciatica]: Begin by laying flat on your back on the floor with your arms relaxed at your sides. Bend both knees until both feet rest flat on the floor. Cross your right foot over your left knee. Gently grasp your right heel and right knee and pull your lower leg toward you while keeping your back relaxed, flat on the floor. Relax and breathe while in this position for about 15 seconds. Then, relax and breathe as you tilt [in this position] a couple of degrees to the right, then, a couple of degrees to the left. Repeat to the other side with your left foot over your right knee.
- Seated hamstring stretch: Sit on a pillow or folded blanket with both legs extended in front of you on the floor. Keep your knees relaxed, not rigid. Bend forward from your hips and reach forward with both arms while keeping your buttocks planted in place. Reach toward your toes. If possible, gently grasp your ankles or tops of your lower legs [whichever is more comfortable] and pull forward gently as you breathe into the stretch. Then, release.
- Hip flexor stretch: Begin standing with both feet together in a parallel position. While maintaining a vertically erect posture, lower yourself to the ground in a kneeling position, with your left knee on the ground so your left foot is behind you and your right leg is in front of you with your right foot flat on the floor. Drop your body weight vertically down into the ground until you feel a stretch through the front of your left hip. [Do not bring your right knee forward over the toes.] Relax and breathe into the stretch. Return to a standing position. Repeat stretch on the other side.