Arthritis is described as inflammation of the joint. It is estimated that approximately 22% or 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis in some form: Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis (1), with that number expected to rise to 26% by 2040.
If you are over 40 you probably have some type of osteoarthritis pain. Osteoarthritis pain is often described as deep joint pain associated with swelling and lack of range of motion. Usually during and after activity. While arthritis is very common, the causes of arthritis are still puzzling to researchers, due to the many types of arthritis. According to the Arthritis foundation there are numerous forms of arthritis: Degenerative Arthritis (osteoarthritis), inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid and psoriatic), infectious arthritis, and metabolic arthritis (gout). (2
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the body starts attacking the joints of the body, particularly the synovial membrane, which creates synovial fluid; the fluid that lubricates your joints; ultimately causing chronic pain, loss of mobility, and deformity. (3) It is extremely important for early medical intervention regarding RA, as symptoms can progress quickly and drastically affect quality of life.
If not dealt with, arthritis pain has the potential to take you away from the activities you love, cost you a lot of money, and severely affect your quality of life.
While there are many options out there for treating arthritis, we all should feel lucky that natural remedies for arthritis pain exist. The science is out there. You just have to do some research and use the information that you find. You shouldn’t have to relegate yourself to daily steroid use or medication just to feel good.
Unless you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, (which you really need medical intervention), feeling good shouldn’t have to come with risk factors associated with traditional medical treatment of arthritis pain. There are options. Let’s discover how we can control our pain without putting our health at risk.
You have many options when treating arthritis pain:
Natural/Alternative (First resort)
- Alternative therapies (massage, chiropractic, saunas, hot tubs, cold therapies)
- Marijuana (Medical prescriptions, recreational use, and CBD extract
- Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (Aspirin, Aleve (Naproxen), Motrin (ibuprofen))
- Over the counter pain reliever (Acetaminophen)
- Prescription (NSAIDS)
- Steroids (Prednisone)
When it comes to arthritis pain, there are many natural supplements that are available to the arthritis sufferer. It’s important to note that A LOT of supplement products are lightly researched and that results are anecdotal in nature. It’s always wise to research products you may be thinking about using. Make sure to talk to your doctor or nutritional consultant to find out if using certain products are safe to use. Everything has contraindications. Do your homework.
Personally, I’ve been experimenting with using supplements for my chronic knee and shoulder arthritis. Right now I’m using the following supplements based on my research and recommendations from my functional medicine doctor. It’s not magic, but very effective.
Some common supplements used for arthritis pain
Glucosamine– Thought to help with preserving cartilage, glucosamine is a natural substance produced by your body. During the aging process the natural occurring levels start to diminish. Therefore, it is thought that supplementation can aid in keeping these natural levels high. It comes in two forms, hydrochloride and sulfate. Studies have shown that sulfate version is effective in preserving cartilage in mild to moderate forms of arthritis. (5) Common recommended dosages are 500mg/ day. If you have a shellfish allergy, check with your doctor to see if Glucosamine is safe for you to take.
Boswellia– Also called Indian Frankincense has been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory substance. It works by inhibiting the creation of Leukotrienes (chemicals involved in asthmatic and allergic reactions and act to sustain inflammatory reactions (6). Dosages for Boswellia differ from product to product. 300-400mg 3 times per day is recommended by the Arthritis Foundation for OsteoArthritis, but remember, its important to follow the manufacturers guidelines as Boswellia products differ.
Turmeric– Often recognized by its yellow color. Turmeric is an awesome natural anti-Inflammatory substance that is commonly found in mustard, and used in making Indian curries. It is recognized as an inflammatory cytokine and enzyme blocker. Turmeric is regularly taken either in grated root form, or in a supplement (pill) form. According to the Arthritis Foundation Recommended dosages for osteoarthritis use is 400-600mg 3 times per day, with ground or grated root form at 0.5- 3.0g/day.
Ginger- Who doesn’t love ginger snaps, ginger ale, and my favorite Ginger Beer? Do you known that that delicious treat you’re eating can help with your arthritis pain. Ginger is a powerhouse Anti-Inflammatory substance that has been shown to inhibit leukotrienes and possibly shut down inflammatory genes, with some studies showing it to be possibly more effective than ibuprofen. Ginger is also known as a remedy for nausea and upset stomach. It has a recommended dose of 2g split up 3-4 times daily.
A delicious Ginger and Turmeric concoction is Golden milk. Here’s the recipe that I follow:
Canned coconut milk – 1can
Grated Ginger – 1/2 TBS ( I like the ginger taste)
Grated Turmeric- 1/2 tsp
Pepper corns – 5-6
Healthy squeeze of honey- 1TBS
Cinnamon – 1/4tsp
Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
Then enjoy in your favorite mug before you go to bed. Yummy!
Exercise (Move it or lose it)
Movement is by far the easiest, cheapest, and one of the most effective way to combat arthritis pain. Movement, especially weight bearing movement gets the synovial membrane secreting synovial fluid, essentially lubricating your joints. This fluid allow your joints to glide freely over one another.
With arthritis, the joint surface has been damaged and the synovial membranes may be compromised, but exercise allows the membrane to still circulate the slippery fluid throughout the joint. Creating pain free movement.
Exercise also increases blood flow to the area, bring with it nutrients to the joint. Increased blood flow and nutrients will increase healing properties to the joint and cartilage.
Exercise will help flush out old and damaged cells through a process called autophagy.
Exercise can and will help you maintain your range of motion. Once you lose your range of motion, its very hard to regain it. Always do full range of motion exercises.
This is important for two reasons:
- You maintain strength through the whole range of motion
- You lubricate your joint through the whole range of motion
If you are member of a health club or gym, next time you go watch how many people do 1/2, or 1/4 squats. Essentially they are only maintaining their strength through that ROM. Have fun getting out of a low chair if all you are doing squatting a quarter way down. Half way up might be easy, but the bottom will be tough.
Finally, exercise causes the body to release chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins have analgesic and sedative properties and actually bind to receptor sites that are also targeted by pain medications. These feel good chemicals are produced in your brain and spinal cord and are stimulated by neurotransmitters that react to exercise. You’ve heard the term runners high? That euphoric feeling that you get after you spend some time with an elevated heart rate and energy expenditure. That’s your endorphins at work.
Exercising will also help you keep a normal weight, which is super important to keeping arthritis pain at bay.
Like I mentioned in my last blog post, exercise can be medicine. Check out my last post to see how you can easily make it part of your life.
Diet is another factor that requires attention to keep arthritis pain at bay. Having a sensible diet consisting of a variety of fruits vegetables, healthy fats, lean meats and fish, nuts, and whole grains; also known as the Mediterranean diet; has been championed by weight loss and arthritis experts for the last 30-40 years.
The benefits of the Mediterranean/Anti-Inflammatory diet
- Lower blood pressure
- Has anti-cancer properties
- Anti-Inflammatory properties
- Helps people maintain a healthy weight
- Heart Healthy
Maintaining normal/healthy body weight is vital for keeping arthritis pain at bay. Every extra pound on your body equates to 4 lbs of pressure exerted by gravity. If your joints are already compromised with arthritis, adding extra pain producing pressure isn’t a good idea. Stay as lean and muscular as you possibly can.
OK.. I known that this subject is taboo for some people, so let’s get the elephant out of the room. Marijuana and CBD work for chronic pain control. With the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana more people; who in the past would never tried or used the substance as a medical option; are now using it with great results. You don’t have to get high to reap the benefits of Marijuana and CBD.
Check out this website for all kinds of information on Marijuana, CBD, and THC.
Alternative therapies are also being investigated as pain control methods. Bodywork, Chiropractic, movement re-education, infrared saunas, and cold immersion techniques are all now being studied for their positive effects on chronic pain. In future blog posts we’ll investigate how these different therapies work for chronic pain reduction.
Go out and try it.
If your current way of treating your arthritis pain isn’t working for you, or the side effects from your medications are creating more problems for you, you should look to try some if not all the natural remedies listed above. Don’t be afraid to try something out of the box. Sure, you should check with your doctor first to make sure anything you do or decide to take won’t counteract anything you currently are taking, but to continue doing things that aren’t working is foolish.
Like I’ve mentioned before you have to become your own scientist and doctor. You have to heal yourself. Try to find something that works for you, that keeps you healthy without the side effects of medications. With the advent of the internet, the amount of resources available on natural remedies for arthritis pain has sky-rocketed. Just because you live in a remote part of the world, doesn’t mean that you can’t find information that can help you. You may even be able to have supplements, equipment, and food delivered to your door. (thanks Amazon 🙂 ). You just need to find what works for YOU.
5. Efficacy and Safety of Glucosamine SULFATE IN OSTEOARTHRITIS OF THE SPINE: A PLACEBO-CONTROLLED, RANDOMISED, DOUBLE-BLIND STUDY
K.K. Förster1, K. Schmid1, G. Giacovelli2, L.C. Rovati2 1Dept. of Clinical Research, Opfermann Arzneimittel, Wiehl; 2Dept. of Clinical Pharmacology, Rotta Research Lab., Monza (I), Germany
6. Leukotrienes, mast cells, and T cells: Arthritis Res Ther20035:288,Iain B McInnes