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Pinpoint (and Fix!) Your Joint Pain Problems

Feeling a little creaky in your neck, shoulders, knees, and toes? Oh no! Experts share how your everyday habits cause joint pain -- and how to fix it fast.

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Karen Pearson
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Sarah Kehoe
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Sara Forrest
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Why Your Hips, Knees, and Feet Hurt

Bummer news for fit women: According to Hector Lopez, MD, CSCS, FAAPMR, chief medical officer and principal of the Center for Applied Health Sciences, active women who run and exercise regularly are six to eight times more likely than similarly active men to suffer an ACL or ligament injury. Why? The angle of a woman's pelvis puts her knee in a position that can place an abnormal amount of strain on the ligaments in her leg. This may also be the reason women suffer from knee tendinitis more than men do.

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How to Fix Hip, Knee, and Foot Pain

So what's a runner girl to do? Tighten your butt, seriously! "Doing exercises like lunges and squats isn't just for aesthetic reasons, it can really help protect you from a knee injury," Dr. Lopez says. In addition, Mitchell K. Freedman, DO, director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia and associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, recommends stretching in the morning, especially if you've taken up a new cardio class or workout. This will help prevent plantar fasciitis and shin splints.

9 Exercises to Shape, Tighten, and Tone Your Butt

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Why Your Back Hurts

Though you may not feel the effects of sitting all day until your thirties, Dr. Lopez warns that "office athletes" are prone to lower back pain, even if they have perfect posture. "The real secret to preventing back pain is to avoid maintaining any one position in general for too long," he says. "Even perfect posture all day long can cause tissue creep, which is essentially what happens to a rubber band when you keep it in on position for too long. It loses its structure."

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How to Fix Back Pain

Every 20 minutes, stand up to stretch and change your position, says Dr. Lopez. And no matter how you prefer to sit at your desk, avoid rounding your lower back. "Your spine is the most vulnerable when you are in that flexed position."

Another thing Dr. Lopez says to keep in mind: In the mornings, your spine discs are fully hydrated from being in an unloaded position all night. This makes them act as little sponges, rich with fluid and therefore bulging out way more than they do the rest of the day. If you are prone to back pain, give yourself a good morning stretch, and be careful when bending down to tie your shoes, or launching into that series of box jumps at your early morning CrossFit class.

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Why Your Neck and Shoulders Hurt

If your neck and shoulder muscles constantly ache, take a look at how your computer and desk are set up. "I see an awful lot of people with desk jobs who have neck pain," says Dr. Freedman. "This is usually due to how they're positioned at their desk and if they're on the phone a lot, without a headset."

Dr. Lopez adds that if steps aren't taken to fix your 9-to-5 posture, there can be some serious consequences. "Eventually women can lose the ability to bring their shoulders into a retracted position (which is when you pinch your shoulder blades together)." Yikes!

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How to Fix Neck and Shoulder Pain

In order to counter the posture you hold for a majority of the day, Dr. Lopez recommends this stretch: Bring your elbows down to your side, toward your back pockets, and hold for 10 seconds; your shoulders feel stretched while your shoulder blades are in a pinched position. Do this several times throughout the day so that when you leave work and use your upper body muscles (like lifting your kids or tossing groceries into the car), you won't be as vulnerable to injury.

For serious kinks, Dr. Freedman recommends several treatment options. First, you can ask an occupational therapist to examine your work space, which means measuring and adjusting your desk and chair so that your body's distance from the mouse and keyboard doesn't put too much pressure on your arms and upper body. In addition, he recommends yoga to increase flexibility of the upper body, as well as acupuncture to help with relieving any neck and shoulder tightness caused by stress.

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The Trick to Preventing Aches and Pains

Some good news: You can get a head start on nixing those annoying little aches before they become something bigger. As with most things, it starts with a healthy diet. "Maintaining a healthy body weight and lower body fat levels does great things for inflammation," Dr. Lopez says. On top of eating better, he also recommends a safe dietary supplement you can pick up at most vitamin stores. BioCell Collagen is a cartilage support product that keeps your joints, skin, and connective tissue healthy.

Originally posted on FitnessMagazine.com, September 2013.

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