Joint pain isn’t something you expect to have before the age of 30. Joints are meant to last a lifetime, and for most people, they do! But for others, joints wear out and start to ache. There is debate about the wear and tear effect on joints because while it may seem obvious that athletic individuals suffer more, that isn’t actually the case.
Many people who routinely exercised in their life, or played professional sports (or were professional dancers) don’t have a lick of pain as they age. So it’s not entirely true that if you use your joints a lot, they will hurt. That said, old injuries can give rise to pain later on in life. Like Sam, I think of him here. He played as a quarterback on the football team, but now in his late 50s, he has a bum knee! He’s nursing it along.
This is very common among people who had injuries in their twenties that they thought had totally healed. They may come back to bite you. Over 50 million people have arthritis today, and conventional medicine’s answer is a pill. The type of pill varies with the type of pain, and your age. Today’s article is useful to those of you who want to augment your medication with something natural, or to those who want to avoid medication altogether. Whether you can do that is between you and your doctor.
Osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid Autoimmune – The Main Difference
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in people and often involves the wearing away of the cartilage that tops the bones in all of your joints. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is a common condition where the immune system launches an attack upon its own joints, beginning with the lining of joints. They are treated differently.
Both conditions will impact your daily life and minimize what you can do. For example, buttoning shirts, bending over, walking upstairs, and holding things may be impacted by both disorders.
As for which is more painful, that is subjective and very personal. In both conditions, joints are affected. With rheumatoid arthritis, the condition is a full body (versus with OA where it could just be your wrist), so this condition is likely to be more of a full-body experience and more painful in the long run and requires a variety of medications.
How Come People with Arthritis Know When It’s Going to Rain?
People who have bad knees often know if it’s going to rain or not. A bad knee may or may not be from having osteoarthritis (OA), it could be from an injury, or birth defect.
There is one explanation, and that’s because the barometric pressure goes down (before it rains), and the tendons, muscles (or even scar tissue) will expand and contract – creating pain and inflammation in a joint. This is how many people know the weather is changing! There is a WebMD article you can read entitled, Does Weather Affect Joint Pain.
Changes in barometric pressure may make your tendons, muscles, and any scar tissue expands and contract, and that can create pain in joints affected by arthritis. Low temperatures can also make the fluid inside joints thicker, so they feel stiffer.
Why Do People With Arthritis Want to Live in Florida?
Cold temperatures make the fluid inside your joints a little more viscous (thicker) so your joint feels stiffer. Heat is better than ice that’s why people like to live in Arizona, southern Texas, or Florida… because it’s very hot! The humidity and heat combined together create a ‘moist heat’ situation which feels really good on tired, achy joints. Contrast that with acute injuries where ice packs are better, and usually indicated for the first 24 – 48 hours.
Non-weight-bearing exercise is considered better for people with osteoarthritis, things like yoga, taking a walk, or pilates. Jogging or lifting weights would be bad for this condition.
What Are You Doing to Make it Hurt?
The latest studies on osteoarthritis suggest that people who are above their healthy BMI might be making their pain worse. There is an article posted by the Arthritis Foundation about this very topic. They mention that having just 10 extra pounds on you can cause exponentially more pressure on your knees, somewhere between 15 to 50 pounds of pressure on your knees!
The Problem with Prescribed Analgesics
Doctors often prescribe drugs – that’s the fastest way to help a person! One pill and you’re good for a few hours! But today, I’d prefer to help you find natural alternatives to medications because the latter comes with intolerable side effects. Conventional prescribed and over-the-counter drugs can work quickly – that much is true- but you can’t stay on them forever. They cause many of the following problems, and I know this because I’m a pharmacist!
They are either:
3. Dangerous for your heart
4. Bad for people with high blood pressure
5. Awful for your stomach and esophagus (think ulcer)
Prevalence and Statistics for Arthritis
Although we see young people get osteoarthritis, it is typically more of an older person’s condition. This is because there is more wear and tear on the joints and a longer time frame where inflammatory foods have weakened the bones and ability to absorb nutrients.
Who gets affected most? Usually women. And about 43% of people are over age 65. Almost 90 % of people above age 45 have some degree of pain in a joint somewhere in their body.
In the United States, 24% of all adults (which equates to 58.5 million people) have arthritis. It is a leading cause of disability, with medical care costs (and lost earnings) totaling over $303 billion! You can read more stats at the CDC Arthritis website.
As for triggering foods, I’d say a diet high in carbohydrates, soda pop, refined sugar, candy bars, and lots of sweets are going to weaken your bones as well as your immune system. So these types of foods will exacerbate osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis. A diet high in protein and minerals, and natural B vitamins will be your best bet!
The Best Medication Category for Joint Pain
NSAIDs – This is a blockbuster category of medications that includes ibuprofen and naproxen. These medications are fast-acting and can alleviate pain for 4-6 hours, sometimes longer. ⚠️ They cannot be taken safely by elderly people who are prone to ulcers and perforations.
If you take these medications, please do so under the supervision of your practitioner(s) and also read THIS ARTICLE which explains how NSAIDs impact your homocysteine, and what you can do. If you have heart disease, taking an NSAID or a COX-2 inhibitor like Celebrex may not be right for you. Please ask your physician before taking this long-term
7 Powerful Ways to Relieve Joint Pain Fast
Perhaps the best-known dietary supplement for arthritis is glucosamine or chondroitin. These are two different compounds and both are very bulky and too large to get into the cells that are hungry for more “cushion.” Since these can cause a lot of flatulence and do not readily absorb into the chondrocytes, let’s talk about other supplements that could help you.
If you like something here, even though it’s over-the-counter and sold in natural health food stores, I suggest you ask your doctor if it’s right for your individual circumstance. And now let’s look at supplements that support joint health, and work!
1. Curcumin -Found in Turmeric- is Terrific for Joint Pain
Books have been written on the topic of curcumin and pain relief! Most people think it is just curcumin that works, but we’ve seen in recent research that there is more than one thing (ie curcumin), there are THREE curcuminoids that do great work!
Only the best supplements will contain these three special curcuminoids because they are very expensive (but worth it). If you’re taking a dietary supplement for joints, with just one thing it “curcumin,” then you are missing out! I put this very ingredient in my joint support SUPPLEMENT for a good reason.
You can learn more about C3 Curcumin Complex by CLICKING HERE.
A published 2021 study in the British Medical Journal Open Sport and Exercise Medicine concluded, “Compared with placebo, there appears to be a benefit of turmeric on knee OA pain and function. Based on a small number of studies the effects are similar to that of NSAIDs. Variables such as optimal dosing, frequency and formulation remain unclear at this time.”
2. MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) Supports Joint Pain
provides the body with natural, healing sulfur. This is one component necessary for healthy joints. MSM is sold in health food stores because it is an extremely common ingredient that supports joint health, and it cleans the body up. Sometimes people get scared to take MSM because they don’t understand that it is NOT a sulfa pill. Sulfur is the third most common and abundant element in your beautiful human body!
It is found in great amounts in your nails, your hair and your skin. Your body requires sulfur to make collagen.
MSM is an abbreviation for Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane and it has nothing to do with a sulfa allergy. Sulfa refers to a drug, and sulfa-containing pills are prescription drugs. Sulfa drugs are usually hard to swallow which means you can easily choke on them, or aspirate them if you have a hard time swallowing pills.
⚠️ Please be careful with sulfa drugs. This reminds me of an article I wrote that might interest you entitled, Causes and Solutions for Dysphagia. For clarity, I want to reiterate that sulfa drugs are not at all related to sulfur supplements like MSM. This popular dietary ingredient/supplement is sold worldwide, and even comes in a powder! It does NOT contain any sulfa. It’s used commonly for arthritic pain and detoxification of the body. The human body has sulfur in it by the way.
MSM is in many stand-alone supplements, but it works better when combined with other anti-inflammatory ingredients. I put some MSM in my best-selling Joint Script with Curcumin, which is a remarkable joint support supplement.* It’s also available on AMAZON if you prefer to shop there.
What if you live near a hot spring? Many people fly around the world to destinations that have beautiful hot springs. The reason is that the moist heat feels amazing, and also, the natural sulfur content is high. You absorb it through your skin and it helps your joints. The smell is a little funky (like rotten eggs) but it’s not that bad if you can get used to it. The benefits outweigh the stench.
If you’d like to read about a natural method of absorbing sulfur, read my hot springs article entitled, Detox Your Body with Hot Springs in a Pill.
3. Ginger is for Joint Pain Too, Not Just Nausea*
Most famous for its ability to help with nausea, this is a powerful ingredient in reducing joint pain. It isn’t great on its own, it seems to work more synergistically with other compounds on this list. Like Boswellia, ginger is a 5-LOX inhibitor. That means it works similarly to medications at the pharmacy. I put this into Joint Script.
4. Boswellia Reduces Joint Pain*
Boswellia is also called frankincense. It reduces leukotrienes which are involved in a cascade that leads to profound inflammation, pain, breathing problems (ie asthma and allergies), and nerve pain. Boswellia stops your body from pouring out too many cytokines.
The specific beta constituent in Boswellia (called β-Boswellic acid) can down-regulate the synthesis of prostaglandins by inhibiting COX-1 enzyme. That’s what non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen do! But Boswellia extract is naturally-derived.
I put a substantial dose of boswellia into my patent-pending SUPPLEMENT for healthy joints, cartilage, tendons and bones.
5. Hyaluronic acid is Good for Joint Pain
Arthritic joints are deficient in natural hyaluronic acid, so over time, it leads to the cartilage becoming less squishy and pliable. The stiffer a joint is, the more likely there is pain and inflammation. Hyaluronic acid holds moisture like a sponge, so it makes things plum up (that’s why it’s used as a lip filler).
Hyaluronic acid may be injected into your joint, for example, your knee. The other name for this compound is “Sodium Hyaluronate” as you can see in the graphic I’ve posted here. It will not cure anything serious, like if you need a knee replacement… but for simpler problems, an injection of this can reduce swelling and pain for approximately 2 or 3 months.
Hyaluronic acid is more famous as a wrinkle filler and is the active ingredient in Restylane, Juvederm and others which are used to fill in facial wrinkles and plump lips. But hyaluronic acid can be absorbed when taken orally. It won’t plump your lips, but it might help with joint pain. Is that a surprise to you? It is to most people.
It’s hard to imagine that you can supplement with hyaluronic acid, but again, we have evidence to believe it is taken up through the gut and migrates to connective tissues where it helps keep things lubricated and flexible. That’s why I put some hyaluronic acid in my dietary supplement which is sold for joint health, called Joint Script.
6. Vitamin D Can Support Joint Problems
This natural product is synthesized in the human body after exposure to sunlight. But if you have either liver or kidney dysfunction, you may not be able to turn it into the proper type of Vitamin D. Your levels may be low. This is the time when your doctor may suggest some vitamin D for you. It is a fact that people who have low levels of vitamin D often have joint pain, and/or osteoporosis.
Vitamin D supplements may be an effective adjunctive supplement that you can take if you have chronic joint pain and it is particularly helpful for BOTH autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis, as well as osteoarthritis.
7. Topical Creams of CBD Help Relieve Joint Pain
Topical creams of CBD can be useful if you live in a state where these are easy to access, and sold without prescription. In Colorado where I live, people in pain can walk into shops and get these topical creams of CBD, and there is no psychoactive effect whatsoever. Nowadays, other states permit the sale of CBD as well!
To be clear, the creams I’m referring to are high CBD, low THC, and sold without prescription in many states. You rub them on your painful joints, like your ankle or your shoulder for example. It does not go all over!
Does coffee have an impact on joint health?
Yes, it does. The reason isn’t clear, but we know that osteoarthritis is associated with a progressive deterioration of the articular cartilage (which is required for healthy joints, lubrication, resistance, flexibility etc).
So caffeine in coffee leads to a depletion of magnesium, we know this. I’ve written about this in my Drug Mugger book, and many articles… caffeine is a strong drug mugger of magnesium (and other minerals). But those that are needed for healthy bones are often depleted by the drink, so because of this alone, I’d say to minimize caffeine consumption.
There is ample evidence to suggest it is not good for your joint tissues. You can read a STUDY from 2020 about this topic. It was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
Today you’ve learned about 7 natural ingredients that can help you with joint pain. One of those 6 is free, it’s vitamin D which you can get from the sun. Adjusting your diet to include more protein and fewer carbs will help.
Something I didn’t mention today is the category of opiate analgesics available by prescription which I did not cover in this particular article. An article about this requires more time and I would approach it with an air of gravity due to the serious potential for addiction and contamination.
It’s not my first choice for either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid, however, for severe disabilities, it could be useful. I’m all for pain relief, but this is lower on the list behind natural, simpler analgesics. Remember, doctors don’t want to prescribe these very much either, so if you start an opiate and it helps you (and it likely will), you may not be able to get another prescription again.
So please consider the 6 supplements above first, and speak to your physician for more lab testing, and other considerations that I’ve missed here. For example, sleep aids, gentle muscle relaxants, injectable peptides, and physical therapy may be helpful. A qualified physical therapist will be able to help you with the latter.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.