Natural Joint Pain Remedies
What Causes Joint Pain?
There are three main causes of joint paint: inflammation (arthritis is the most well-known version), injuries and aging, and insufficient activity. There are effective natural remedies for all three of these causes of joint pain. Combining these natural joint pain cures will not only help you move through the world easier, but also make you healthier in general.
Joint Pain from Inflammation
Arthritis causes millions of people to live with agonizing pain and discomfort every day. The root cause of arthritis is inflammation. And inflammation is so serious that many health experts now believe that it is the root cause of almost all disease.
How do you protect yourself from an enemy with so many faces, one that can take an enormous toll on your health?
Inflammation is your body’s first line of defense against infections. You’ve seen inflammation firsthand. Remember the last time you cut your finger? The swollen, red area around the cut is inflammation at work, fighting off potentially dangerous bacteria and other invaders.
In small doses, inflammation is a lifesaver. In simple cases, inflammation solves a problem and goes away, as it should. But what if it lingers?
Chronic, whole-body inflammation is an all-too-common condition these days. Instead of a red, swollen fingertip, your entire body simmers quietly, like a slow cooker, as inflammation damages cells and tissue.
But this type of inflammation is invisible. You aren’t aware of the damage it’s doing until you’re diagnosed with a terrible disease or your joints flame up.
Joint Pain from Aging and Injury
The other main cause of joint pain is structural damage. Cartilage is the rubbery tissue that covers the ends of your bones. It acts much like a shock absorber, preventing your bones from grinding against each other. Joint cartilage is made of mostly water and chondrocytes.
Chondrocytes are specialized cells that produce collagen and elastin fibers (which give cartilage its strength and structural integrity), and proteoglycans (proteins involved in keeping the joints lubricated and nourished).
As we age, our chondrocytes don’t function as efficiently. As a result, old or damaged cartilage breaks down faster than it can be replaced with fresh, new cartilage. (Injuries and excess weight also put a tremendous amount of stress on cartilage, causing quick deterioration as well.) With less of this spongy cushioning between the joints, bones press against each other and pain follows.
Joints need additional substances to maintain the cartilage, proteoglycans to draw water into the joint and hold it there, and collagen, a protein that keeps the proteoglycans where they belong.
Joint Pain from Not Moving
When your muscles are inactive for long stretches, what happens is not pretty. Metabolism slows, muscles weaken, the body’s response to insulin falters, free-radical damage increases, and the important functions required for cell repair slow down. We can’t see any of this, of course, but it is happening. Eventually, changes like these lead to heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other health complications.
Here’s one quick example: An eight-year-long study of more than 240,000 healthy adults found that those who spent seven hours a day watching television were among those most likely to die prematurely, even if they exercised an hour each day. Not surprisingly, those who watched the least amount of TV (less than an hour a day) had the lowest risk of dying. Time spent watching television is simply a marker for sedentary behavior, so it’s reasonable to assume that any kind of prolonged sitting — whether you’re watching TV, reading, talking on the phone, or working at the computer — is equally damaging to health.
The problems with conventional joint pain treatment
Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen—the most popular of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—are so widely available that we don’t think of them as dangerous drugs. But they are. And the side effects of over-the-counter and prescription painkillers are not pretty. Every year, complications from NSAIDs send thousands of people to the hospital. Even worse, approximately 6,000 people die from these drugs annually. They are especially dangerous for anyone who drinks alcohol, because the combination of painkillers and alcohol can cause serious liver damage.
And studies show that the risk of dying from any cause is almost 90 percent higher among people using opioids than for individuals using NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for pain relief.
With some of these medications, only two pills–yes, just two!–could cause a fatal overdose, or land you in the emergency room, along with half a million other patients every year.
And fatalities aren’t the only downside.
Patients on opioids are nearly five times more likely to break a hip, wrist, arm, or pelvis when compared to those on ibuprofen, according to a recent study of nearly 13,000 arthritis sufferers.
Sadly, that’s not all. The same study found that patients taking opioids were more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as those using NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, for pain relief.
In addition, these drugs depress your immune system, making you vulnerable to all sorts of infections.
Surgery, also, should be thought of as a last resort. Surgery always comes with risk. Potentially fatal infection is a big one. And the chance of having complications is higher if you also have diabetes or a history of heart trouble.
That’s why it’s important, before any surgery, to ask how high your personal risk is. And you have to weigh that against the benefit.
When it comes to joint replacement surgery, the risk is usually higher than the reward can justify.
That’s because about 95% of the cases I see can be solved without surgery. In fact, off the top of my head, I can only recall one patient who truly needed surgery.
There’s also the fact that, though we don’t think of it this way, joint replacement is a temporary fix. Most replacement joints have a shelf-life of around 20 years—but sometimes much less. If you’re having surgery at 59, you’re most likely going to have to go through the whole process again, at a more advanced age.
I recommend you use these natural joint pain remedies instead.
Natural Joint Pain Remedies
Natural Joint Pain Supplements
Curcumin: top joint supplement
Curcumin fixes joint pain and inflammation. Several studies have shown that curcumin works as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) when it comes to easing the nagging joint pain that so many people experience as they grow older. It’s the best natural anti-inflammatory that I know. I recommend taking 500 milligrams of a high bioavailability curcumin to everyone. Take it up to three times daily if you need more support.
Omega 3 essential fatty acids: natural supplement to lubricate joints
The standard American diet features an unhealthy ratio of inflammatory omega 6 essential fatty acids to anti-inflammatory omega 3 essential fatty acids. In a healthy diet, you’re looking at a 1:1 ratio, but many Americans have a 20:1 ratio, because of the large number of processed foods we eat and common cooking oils, like safflower and canola, that we use. I recommend everyone take 3 doses of 1000 mg of an omega-3 supplement every day. Not only will it help with your joint pain, it has important benefits for heart, brain, and emotional health.
UC-II: helps joint pain by naturally restoring cartilage
UC-II stands for undenatured type II collagen. Although UC-II is a relatively new kid on the pain-relief block, a series of recent studies show that it is more powerful than glucosamine and chondroitin for relief from arthritis pain, both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Perhaps most impressively, it actually helps build cartilage. UC-II also has an impressive safety profile. A standard dose is about 40 mg per day.
Other natural joint supplements
Vitamin D is another supplement that may be helpful in treating joint pain, but I do recommend that you have your vitamin D levels checked by your physician first to get a better idea of an appropriate dosage. If you are low on vitamin D, that deficiency could cause a wide range of health problems. So supplements, which are inexpensive, are highly recommended.
Capsaicin, a substance found in cayenne peppers, actually prevents nerve endings from transmitting pain signals. You use a lotion or cream directly on the painful area to block pain signals. The effect is temporary, but you can repeat applications as needed, as long as you follow the product instructions.
Boswellia (also known as Indian Frankincense) is an herbal extract that can alleviate inflammation related to arthritis. It also has been shown to improve pain and function within as little as five days of use.
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring sulfur compound and a component of connective tissue. Studies reveal that it can improve pain, mobility, and inflammation—with even stronger benefits if taken along with glucosamine.
Dietary changes for natural joint pain relief
Avoid joint pain by avoiding these foods
If you’re a fan of foods like tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes, I encourage you to keep a food/pain diary. These foods are members of the nightshade family, which includes tobacco and belladonna, among others. For some people, eating these plants seems to result in joint pain, so tracking what you eat and how it affects your joints may be helpful in making dietary changes.
Similarly, eating dairy products or gluten may also contribute to aching joints. Again, a food diary can help you pinpoint the source of your discomfort.
Pain and inflammation can also be part of an allergic reaction, so even if you’re triggered by something uncommon, a food diary can help you figure out what.
Foods to add for natural joint pain relief
Collagen is 80% water. Make sure you’re drinking enough. I recommend one ounce of water for every two pounds you weigh, so a 100 pound woman should drink 50 ounces of water daily.
Ginger is closely related to turmeric, the spice which is the source of curcumin. Adding ginger as a spice to meals and drinking it as an herbal tea may be a good idea.
Research indicates that green tea improves the cholesterol profile, reduces the risk of colon and prostate cancers, and helps with weight management. A recent study focusing on the green tea extract known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) shows that EGCG reduces pain-causing inflammation. However, the whole substance contains a host of beneficial compounds, so I recommend drinking 4-5 cups daily.
Fish and fatty seafood are a natural source of omega 3 oils. However, don’t eat it more than twice a week, because of potential mercury and nuclear contamination. And if you’re buying canned fish, make sure they’re packed in water or heart healthy olive oil, not omega 6 laden vegetable or soybean oil.
What you can do to naturally relieve joint pain
Exercise and movement
Weight-bearing exercise to strengthen the muscles around your problematic joints is highly recommended. Weights doesn’t have to mean going into a gym and shoving around fifty pound barbells. Adding a couple of ankle or wrist weights while you walk around the neighborhood, or doing exercises that use your own body for weight are good places to start. If you’re worried about falls, consider chair exercises or swimming in a pool. Many community pools also have exercise classes, where the water pressure acts as both a weight and a cushion.
Don’t forget to get up and move throughout the day. This can be as easy as taking a dance break while commercials are playing on the tv, or strolling around the hallway while you’re on a phone call. The idea is that after 20-30 minutes of sitting, you should get up and move around for five minutes. Walk down the hall, get a glass of water, do a few jumping jacks, whatever it takes to get the metabolism revved up a bit.
Massage and acupuncture
Therapeutic touch has a lot of benefits. In addition to directly treating the source of your pain, it also helps to reduce your stress levels. Stress can increase your sensitivity to pain, so this is a double-solution.
Extra weight increases pressure on your joints. In order to lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories. Start by eating more whole fruits and vegetables and less of everything else. When you’re ready to completely overhaul the way you prepare and eat food, look into a Mediterranean style diet, which is delicious and healthy. Lots of fruits and vegetables, some nuts and fish, and the occasional piece of red meat, cheese, or sugar-y dessert.
Natural relief for your joints
Most joint pain is caused by a combination of aging and injury, inflammation, and insufficient exercise. Use natural remedies to repair the damage caused by all three, and you are well on your way to thoughtlessly dancing, carelessly running, and joyfully walking anywhere you want.
Thrive in health and wellness.
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: June 4, 2017