Natural Solutions for Joint Pain: From subtle aches and stiffness when you first wake up in the morning to chronic conditions like osteoarthritis, joint pain can seriously disrupt your quality of life.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
More than fifteen million people report severe joint pain related to arthritis in the U.S., with 30.7 percent of adults aged 45 to 64 currently diagnosed.
Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to reach for over-the-counter medications for a quick fix instead of addressing underlying causes of joint pain. Pain relievers are not without side-effects and are simply a band-aid that can cover up the reason you have joint pain in the first place.
While there are multiple reasons why joint pain is so prevalent, addressing lifestyle, diet, and considering natural solutions is an essential first step for pain relief.
What causes joint pain in the body?
Regardless of the diagnosis, joint pain is related to inflammation. Inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, some modifiable, as you will learn below.
Inflammation is the body’s natural immune response to injury. It’s a way for your body to send out an SOS signal to the cells that help repair and restore damaged tissue or injuries.
However, with chronic joint pain, the inflammatory response doesn’t turn off because there is no resolution or repair. Your body keeps pumping out inflammatory mediators that can increase fluid, joint swelling, and even tissue damage. Addressing the reasons for inflammation may help calm this process down, resulting in less pain.
What lifestyle factors can influence joint pain?
Anything that increases inflammation in the body can impact joint pain, so addressing overall inflammation in the body as a root cause is essential.
- Refined seed oils. Fats and oils like canola, soy, and corn oil are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Unlike the anti-inflammatory benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids have pro-inflammatory effects on the body. Because vegetable oils are so prevalent in the American diet, many people have an unhealthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, which impacts the inflammatory response.
- Food sensitivities. While you may associate food sensitivities with gut symptoms, joint pain can be a sign as well. Food sensitivities can elicit an immune response in the body resulting in a release of the same chemical mediators that lead to inflammation and pain. Additionally, joint pain is a common complaint from people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Addressing food sensitivities can influence and improve joint pain.
- Poor diet. Lack of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other fiber sources can significantly impact the body’s ability to regulate inflammation. As mentioned above, processed oils can increase inflammation in the body, but so can foods high in sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods. Foods high in refined sugar can upregulate inflammation by impacting blood sugar balance—Oppositely, foods like fatty fish, cruciferous vegetables, and brightly colored berries all combat inflammation and free radical damage.
- Stress. Chronic stress means your body is in constant high gear, releasing chemical messengers that lead to inflammation.
- Overtraining. While we all know that physical activity is critical for a healthy lifestyle, overdoing it can put unnecessary wear and tear on your muscles and joints. Overtraining can increase inflammation in the body and even reduce your immune response.
Supplements for joint pain relief
While addressing the above lifestyle factors is critical to lower inflammation in the body, using natural supplements can be an option to reduce pain and address inflammation while avoiding medications with unwanted side effects.
Boswellia (commonly known as Frankincense) is a gum-extract that has been used in traditional medicine, especially Ayurveda. While many herbs have well-backed accounts of anecdotal evidence but lack published studies, Boswellia has published research for its anti-inflammatory benefits, especially arthritis and joint pain.
Compounds in Boswellia may reduce specific pro-inflammatory cytokines that influence osteoarthritis, improving symptoms of pain. One study found that supplemental Boswellia supported symptom improvement – including pain and physical function scores in as little as five days.
You may be more familiar with turmeric as a spice added to curries and soups, but the active compound curcumin is a well-known anti-inflammatory supplement. To improve intestinal absorption, you’ll often find supplements with curcumin with added black pepper or lipids. Curcumin may turn down the inflammatory response related to pain by altering the release of inflammatory mediators.
While curcumin shows promise for overall inflammation markers in the body, there is significant research to support its benefits, specifically for joint pain. A study conducted on adults with pain from osteoarthritis found that curcumin helped both physical symptoms of pain and clinical markers of inflammation over eight months. Another study found that supplemental curcumin reduced scores for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and CRP (a marker for general inflammation in the body). At the same time, the placebo group did not report improvements. Research also suggests that taking supplemental curcumin can reduce the use of NSAIDs for pain management.
Curcumin may also support a reduction in inflammatory markers related to exercise. A meta-analysis found that supplementation led to improvements in muscle soreness as well as markers of muscle damage.
NAC is an amino acid precursor for glutathione production in the body. Glutathione is known as a master antioxidant in the body, buffering free radical damage that leads to oxidative stress.
Because it’s unclear how well supplemental glutathione raises levels in the body, supplemental NAC is used to increase production and reduce oxidative stress. In animal studies, NAC supported reductions in joint damage related to oxidative stress. Scientists suggest that oxidative stress may play a role in osteoarthritis and joint damage by damaging cartilage. This was also examined in a human study where NAC effectively decreased cartilage breakdown markers while improving pain and functional movement.
Another study found that adults with rheumatoid arthritis who took twice daily NAC supplements had significantly reduced inflammation markers compared to baseline and increased antioxidant measurements.
Addressing joint pain naturally.
While the causes of joint pain stem from various root causes, reducing overall inflammation in the body is an essential first step.
Focusing on lifestyle factors, including diet, movement, and stress reduction, are critical for addressing joint pain and overall wellness.
Natural supplements like Boswellia, turmeric, and NAC can support your pain-reduction plan, helping you avoid medications with unwanted side effects while focusing on adopting these healthy lifestyle changes.
Healthy joints start with targeted nutrients. But most people don’t get the nourishment they need for strong, pain-free joints as they age. And with countless “joint formulas” at your local health food store, it’s difficult to choose a supplement that actually works.
The secret to a good joint formula is a multi-layered approach to support. Systemic Formulas JOT-Joint, Disc, Cartilage Support is designed to support healthy joint function, lubrication, mobility, and comfort. With key nutrients like type II collagen (the best type for joint and muscle pain), MSM, and chondroitin, JOT contains all the nutrients you need for healthy joint function PLUS more.
One herb, in particular, has been used for thousands of years to reduce inflammation and decrease pain. And you won’t find this herb in many store-bought formulas…
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Dr. Daniel Pompa. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Pompa and his associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Dr. Pompa encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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