Maintaining the health of our musculoskeletal system is essential to sustaining a healthy, happy life. The musculoskeletal system comprises bones (the skeleton), muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissues. Together they support our organs, protect us from injury and give us the structure to move.
When the musculoskeletal system is out of balance, issues may arise, especially over the long term. If these issues aren’t addressed, they pose a threat to our quality of life by limiting movement, causing pain, and creating emotional stress associated with the change in our health.¹
Root Causes of Musculoskeletal Pain
There is a myriad of root conditions that can cause issues in the musculoskeletal system. They range from hundreds of injury types to chronic, diagnosable conditions. Pain often arises when these root conditions cause postural imbalances, weak and tight muscles, and weak connective tissues.²
The most common issues are:
- Osteoarthritis – age-related and overuse joint deterioration, most commonly diagnosed in adults over 50. Osteoarthritis can develop in any joint in the body and is caused by a breakdown of cartilage.
- Osteoporosis – causes bones to become weaker and increases the risk of fractures. Most adults begin to see a decrease in bone mass after age 30. However, factors such as a family history of osteoporosis, low calcium intake, extremely low caloric intake over time, excessive alcohol consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to developing osteoporosis.
- Injuries – sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations, and chronic overuse issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome and back pain from sitting all day.
- Fibromyalgia – a disorder with musculoskeletal pain felt throughout the body. Fibromyalgia is often described as dull, achy pain due to stiffness and tenderness in the muscles and connective tissues. Fibromyalgia is usually caused by a life-altering or physically and psychologically traumatic event, or it can develop over time.4
How to Support Your Musculoskeletal System
Investing in your musculoskeletal health is pretty straightforward. A holistic approach to lifestyle habits such as eating a nutrient-dense diet, drinking plenty of water, being physically active, sleeping well, and managing stress sets the foundation for a healthy musculoskeletal system. This approach becomes increasingly important if you are experiencing musculoskeletal imbalance and/or pain.
The following modalities are designed to support your musculoskeletal health. Evidence shows that they can be helpful in helping a healthy inflammatory response, promoting healthy circulation, and restoring functional movement and flexibility.³
- Nutrition – Focus on a whole food diet rich in lean meats, fish, seafood, eggs, whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds, healthy fats (i.e., olive oil), and plenty of color-rich fruits and vegetables. Limit your intake of processed foods, sugar, and alcohol. Vegans can risk not getting enough calcium, as many sources are animal-based. Natural sources of plant-based calcium include beans, lentils, legumes, almonds, brazil nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, amaranth, teff, seaweed, and blackstrap molasses, and fortified food and drinks, such as fortified oat milk and orange juice.
- Supplementation – Fish oil, krill oil, curcumin/turmeric, ginger, glucosamine, collagen, chondroitin, MSM, Boswellia serrata extract, and devil’s claw may help support healthy joint function and support a healthy inflammatory response.*
- Mindfulness and Meditation – Chronic pain sufferers often experience emotional and psychological distress due to physical pain. Studies show that emotional and psychological distress and stress play a part in the continuation of chronic pain. It becomes a vicious cycle. A practice of mindfulness and meditation can help mitigate this.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture may help promote blood flow, help support a healthy inflammatory response and support regular muscle relaxation.
- Chiropractic – Chiropractic manipulation of muscle, bone, or the spine, hydrotherapy techniques, pulsed electromagnetic frequency (PEMF), photobiomodulation, and strengthening exercises.
- Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi – Incorporate a gentle practice on the body while strengthening muscles and increasing mobility.5
We Can Help
When you have musculoskeletal issues, taking the reins and taking charge of your wellbeing is essential. A functional medicine practitioner can help uncover any underlying imbalances that may contribute to and provide you with a whole-body preventive approach to your physical health and help bring a sense of balance to your body.
Book an appointment with me, and together we will get to the root of the problem and develop a plan so you can start living a healthier, more vital life.
Dr Matt le Roux
1. Arendt-Nielsen, L., Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, C., & Graven-Nielsen, T. (2011). Fundamental Aspects of Musculoskeletal Pain: From Acute to Chronic Pain. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 19(4), 186–193
2. McSwan, J., Gudin, J., Song, X. J., Grinberg Plapler, P., Betteridge, N. J., Kechemir, H., Igracki-Turudic, I., & Pickering, G. (2021). Self-Healing: A Concept for Musculoskeletal Body Pain Management – Scientific Evidence and Mode of Action. Journal of pain research, 14, 2943–2958. https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S321037
3. Myers, S., & Vigar, V.(2019). The State of the Evidence for Whole-System, Multi-Modality Naturopathic Medicine: A Systematic Scoping Review DOI: 10.1089/acm.2018.0340
4. Jahan, F., Nanji, K., Qidwai, W., & Qasim, R. (2012). Fibromyalgia syndrome: an overview of pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management. Oman medical journal, 27(3), 192–195. https://doi.org/10.5001/omj.2012.44
5. Lewis, R., Gómez Álvarez, C. B., Rayman, M., Lanham-New, S., Woolf, A., & Mobasheri, A. (2019). Strategies for Optimising Musculoskeletal Health in the 21ST Century. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 20(1), 164. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-019-2510-7