Curcumin Fixes Joint Pain and Inflammation

an older woman's doctor examines her elbow
June 26, 2014 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Joint pain is one of the most common complaints I hear about from my patients. In fact, some estimates state that one-third of all adults experience joint pain every month. The areas most affected are the neck, knees, hips, shoulder, and ankles. It can also occur in the joints of the fingers and toes, and even the back.

There are many causes of joint pain, but the most common is arthritis. With age, the cartilage around a joint can wear away, causing bones to grind together. In addition, the ligaments and tendons that hold joints together tend to become stiffer, all of which lead to pain and discomfort. Other factors include autoimmune disorders, a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, or overuse due to repetitive movements.

Conventional doctors, most commonly, will prescribe either prescription or over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or painkillers. You probably know about and have used over-the-counter options like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve), and these are perfectly acceptable options for acute pain. For chronic pain, though, they are not the best option as they are linked with gastrointestinal problems (ulcers, gastritis, stomach bleeding, ulcerative colitis), kidney disease, liver damage, and even heart disease.

In severe cases, you may even be referred for joint replacement surgery. Nearly one million joint replacement operations are performed in the U.S. every year—to the tune of $35,000-40,000 per procedure!

The problem with joint replacement, though, is that it’s not foolproof. Infection, dislocation, loosening of the joint, and mechanical failures can occur. Patients usually need physical therapy and pain medication too—and there’s really no assurance that you’ll ever be able to return to “normal” after surgery—which is tough to stomach when you’ve shelled out that much money in hopes of totally freeing yourself from joint problems!

Curcumin Relieves Joint Pain

If you’d rather avoid drugs and don’t want to even entertain the idea of joint replacement surgery (and who could blame you?), there’s a wonderful solution that’s not only completely natural but also safer than any drug. It’s curcumin.

You probably are familiar with the spice turmeric, used for centuries in Asia both as a medicine and an ingredient in flavorful curries. Curcumin is a compound found in turmeric, and it’s what gives this colorful spice its fantastic health benefits.

I use it in my clinic daily and I recommend curcumin for a whole host of conditions and ailments, but most notably for joint pain. And most, if not all of my patients experience significant relief by using it.

A great example is my patient, “Caroline,” who came to me with sore, swollen joints, fatigue, tender muscles, and fluid retention. Her knees were so painful that she had trouble just walking across a room.

Caroline fell into the conventional medicine trap of taking anti-inflammatory drugs for a long time. But after her friend ended up hospitalized due to complications from the very same drug, Caroline was spurred into action, determined to find a better, more natural way to alleviate her joint pain and inflammation.

Caroline was open to giving curcumin a try. After taking 500 mg of a highly bioavailable form of curcumin three times a day, Caroline called to say she no longer needed to take the prescription pain relievers.

Caroline’s story is not an isolated case. Thousands of my patients have gotten real relief after taking curcumin in favor of traditional painkillers. Some find relief within days, while for others it can take several weeks—so be patient. Most of the time, joint pain doesn’t arise overnight…so we can’t expect it to disappear overnight.

But just look at the research!

How Curcumin Alleviates Joint Pain

Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory benefits stem, in part, from its ability to inhibit the activation of inflammatory compounds like COX-2. This is the exact same compound targeted by the popular prescription anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib, or Celebrex.1

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The Drug-Free Joint Cure

In one study, a total of 185 patients with osteoarthritis took 1,500 mg of curcumin, while 160 took 1,200 mg of ibuprofen daily, for four weeks total. Both groups exhibited similar improvements in pain, stiffness, and joint function—but of course, curcumin’s long-term side effect profile is much, much safer.2

Another study found similar results. A total of 107 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee received either 800 mg per day of ibuprofen or 2 g of curcumin daily for six weeks. Once again, the curcumin was just as effective as the ibuprofen.3

Even more impressive, some research indicates that curcumin can slow and even stop the progression of pain-related diseases like arthritis. In a study of mice with arthritis, topical use of curcumin not only reduced painful inflammation but also slowed the loss and erosion of connective tissue and cartilage and decreased the expression of pro-inflammatory compounds.4

What Else Can Curcumin Treat?

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory actions, curcumin can treat more than joint pain. Research has been conducted into its effects on heart disease, diabetes/metabolic syndrome, obesity, various types of cancer, neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, and other pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.4

All of these conditions have chronic, systemic inflammation as their root cause. By knocking out the inflammation, you can naturally treat a lot of these problems.

Make Curcumin Work for You

Whether you want to try curcumin to relieve joint pain or prevent or treat some other inflammatory condition, there is an important thing you need to know.

For how spectacular curcumin is, it does have one major downside. Oral supplements have notoriously low bioavailability. This term simply refers to the degree to which a nutrient can be absorbed and used by your body. The higher the bioavailability, the better. It means more of the nutrient enters your bloodstream to work its magic.

Bioavailability will always be an issue with oral curcumin supplements (which is why in my clinic I regularly give patients curcumin intravenously). But, there are a couple of different standardized forms of curcumin that are much more bioavailable than other brands of curcumin. Meriva is one option, and Cavamax W8 is another good choice.

By choosing higher quality brands that contain one of these formulations, more of the compound is absorbed by the body, delivering benefits faster and far more efficiently. A good starting dose is 500 mg two to three times per day.

 

References

  1. Csaki C, Mobasheri A, Shakibaei M. Synergistic chondroprotective effects of curcumin and resveratrol in human articular chondrocytes: inhibition of IL-1beta-induced NF-kappaB-mediated inflammation and apoptosisArthritis Res Ther2009;11(6):R165.
  2. Kuptniratsaikul V, et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter studyClin Interv Aging. 2014;9:451–458.
  3. Kuptniratsaikul V, et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):891-7.
  4. Zang Z, et al. Curcumin slows osteoarthritis progression and relieves osteoarthritis-associated pain symptoms in a post-traumatic osteoarthritis mouse model. Arthritis Res Ther. 2016;18:128.

 

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