Rebuilding Joint Health After Addiction
Rebuilding your joint health after addiction can be a tricky thing. Joint health, like most other areas of wellbeing, is greatly impacted by lifestyle factors. Your diet, your activity levels and, of course, your alcohol or drug consumption all play a part.
These factors can bring about joint concerns where there might not have been any to begin with. They can worsen already existing concerns. Alcohol and drugs can also interact with certain medications you might need for your joint health. It can mitigate or negating them, or even causing harm.
If you’re walking the path of addiction recovery, it is always best to do so under close medical supervision. Your doctor will be able to keep an eye on your joint health, if it is of concern. They will be able to monitor any medications you are taking. Rebuilding your joint health after addiction will always be easier with a well-qualified team around you.
Substance misuse and joint health after addiction
The substances we take – whether illicit or not – can have a great impact on our joints. For example, low to moderate amounts of alcohol can aggravate pre-existing joint concerns. This will only usually get worse as alcohol intake increases.
Alcohol abuse can affect your joint health in myriad, complex ways. It will always be dependent on your own lifestyle habits, physical health, and genetic history. Often, a reaction to alcohol can trigger reactions within the body that can cause pain. Alternatively, the lack of healthy living that often goes hand in hand with addiction and the neglect that accompanies it can compound any proclivity towards joint pain.
You may find that you need to begin paying attention to joint health after addiction.
How joint health can be impaired after addiction:
Your overall health
Substance abuse will generally weaken anybody’s health. This will make it hard for them to care for themselves properly, to manage injuries or medical conditions. It can make it hard to overcome injuries that in others might not be so severe.
Aggravating joint pain
Joint pain can often be accompanied or caused by inflammation and swelling. In certain cases, this can be made worse by substance abuse. For instance, alcohol may exacerbate many joint related conditions such as gout, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, lupus, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and various musculoskeletal conditions.
Immune health and joint health after addiction
Long term substance abuse can also weaken the body’s immune system, making it far harder for it to protect and heal itself. This could make it far harder for somebody with joint concerns to combat them. It can slow the healing process in acute injuries, whilst worsening the symptoms of chronic conditions and causing joint health after addiction to be poor.
Trips, bumps, and falls are all more common in those who are suffering from addiction, as proprioception and balance are impaired. As above, it is also harder to maintain physical health and fitness through addiction – you are unlikely to be making many trips to the gym or yoga studio!
These lifestyle factors can greatly increase your risk of developing joint concerns, as well as a whole host of other injuries, making joint health after addiction something to focus on.
Overcoming joint pain: rebuilding joint health after addiction
Overcoming addiction can present you with a unique, positive chance to take control of your physical health, including your joint health. The positive steps involved in rebuilding your life – and in rebuilding yourself – can work wonders. They can help you to manage or even overcome joint pain and can free you up to build muscle and bone mass through exercise and healthy eating.
Firstly, medical intervention may very well be necessary if you’re rebuilding joint health after addiction. This will vary per person, per medical condition, and with the nature of a person’s addiction. Therefore, it’s always best to try to find a specialist who deals with addiction more generally, and your addiction in particular, when seeking any kind of medical help.
A specialist will be able to help you to reduce and manage pain whilst hopefully rebuilding your joint health. This should be integrated into your broader recovery plan.
Some people will be able to fully recover their physicality after addiction. Others, perhaps most, won’t. It will likely be a matter of degrees of recovery, though with specialist help you should be able to build up a functional level of physical health which will enable you to live the life you want.
Exercise and the pursuit of an active lifestyle can be vital in recovery from addiction. It can be central to rebuilding your joint health after addiction. Arthritis, an umbrella term which encompasses many joint conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can respond incredibly well to appropriate physical exercise, for instance.
Exercise will increase strength and flexibility, help to combat the fatigue often associated with recovery and pain, and will increase the flow of blood and synovial fluid to your joints, thus easing pain. It will also boost your mood, which can be sorely needed through your path of recovery.
This can be an intimidating thought if you have joint pain. After all, if your joints are hurting, the idea of going out for a run or lifting weights can seem ludicrous. In many instances, it will be. However, you can take whatever exercise suits you best, and whatever style of physical activity your health provider recommends.
Joint health after addiction - the shape of your activity
Physical activity at any level can be useful. If you choose the right kind, it can help your physical recovery, improving joint health after addiction, without placing any strain on them.
For arthritis, for example, your healthcare provider will likely recommend a few different types of exercise, whilst suggesting you refrain from others. Anything too impactful should be off the table, at least for the moment – running, boxing, team sports and so on will likely only aggravate your joints.
Rather, there are a few styles that you should actively seek out. These include the following:
Range of motion exercises
Range-of-motion (ROM) exercises can open up your joints, allowing for greater freedom of movement, whilst helping to get blood and synovial fluid into them. They can include simple movements like raising your arms, rolling your neck and shoulders, stretching out, and so on. They can also include more complex disciplines such as yoga practice, which is perfect for building greater ROM at your own pace.
Aerobic exercise should also form part of any fitness program. This will help with overall fitness, cardiovascular health, and endurance. Aerobic exercise will also help you to maintain a healthy weight, which will take a lot of pressure off your joints (many joint issues can be related to high levels of body fat weighing down on them).
You likely won’t want to be running or taking part in higher-intensity aerobics classes, of course. However, simple, easy things like walking and cycling can be great, as can low-impact exercise like swimming or aqua walking/aqua aerobics.
Try to perform low-intensity aerobic work every day, if possible. This could be something as simple as a half-hour walk. This may be too much for some people with joint pain. However, it’s a good target, and you should always feel free to go at your own pace, doing as much or little as you are able on any given day.
Moderate aerobic work, like swimming or cycling, can also be performed every day. However, it is also effective just two to three days per week, especially in conjunction with lighter work.
Now, I’m not asking you to go out and start deadlifting twice your body weight – far from it. However, strength and resistance training should form a part of any active lifestyle, especially in the pursuit of healthy joints. If you’re looking to rebuild your joint health after addiction, it’s well worth considering.
Resistance work can include weightlifting. However, any form of exercise that places resistance on the muscles will work well. For instance, swimming is a perfect, low-impact form of resistance training (it’s also a great cardiovascular exercise, as above, so you get two in one). Yoga, Pilates, and callisthenics all count – they all work your muscles hard through a wide range of movements.
Resistance training brings a few benefits.
Firstly, resistance training improves your mind-muscle connection, balance, and proprioception. All of which can suffer greatly during addiction. Improving these will reduce your risk of injury through falling, etc. Exercises like yoga and tai chi and particularly good in this regard.
Secondly, it will build up muscle, which may otherwise be atrophied through neglect during addiction. This muscle mass will help to support and protect your joints.
Finally, resistance training generally works joints through a large ROM, helping to commit to openness and fluidity in movement.
Try training 2-3 times per week, leaving a rest day between each session, especially in the early days.
A final note of caution as you focus on joint health after addiction
No physical activity is risk-free, especially for those suffering from poor joint health, and especially for those recovering from addiction. If you’re looking to rebuild your joint health after addiction, exercise is recommended. However, you should always consult your healthcare provider – hopefully a specialist – when you get into it, and if you have any concerns throughout your training.
Their help will keep you safe. It will also make sure that appropriate medical interventions go hand in hand with appropriate lifestyle and activity choices. Recovery in this regard is a very holistic approach, whose many diverse parts make up far more than their sum.
You can access unlimited professionally led yoga classes and exercise classes within our dedicated to addiction recovery Wellness Hub. These classes can help you to start rebuilding joint health within the comfort of your own home and at your own pace.
Author - James
Read more: How exercise can help with joint pain
- Alcohol and joint pain: https://vertavahealth.com/alcohol/joint-pain/
- Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971