Eliminate Arthritis-Related Joint Pain With These Natural Solutions
Arthritis is considered to be the most common joint disorder in the world, with around half of all adults over 65 suffering from the condition. Some of the most common prescription medications are anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and paracetamol. However, these medications can come with a range of different potential side effects, including raised blood pressure, ulcers or digestive upsets.
It’s little wonder, then, that a recent survey found over 40% of us with arthritis are actively experimenting with alternative or complementary treatments. If you’d like to ease your joint pain in a more natural manner then here are the more exciting options out there…
Why Does Arthritis Cause Joint Pain?
While there are a number of different recognized forms of arthritis, two of these account for the vast majority of cases. They are known as “rheumatoid arthritis” and “osteoarthritis”. The ways in which they operate are slightly different.
Osteoarthritis is believed to be the more common of the two. The ends of bones – where they meet at a joint – are coated in a substance known as cartilage. This cartilage ensures that the bones don’t directly rub against one another, and supports smooth joint movement. Sadly, over time this cartilage can start to wear thin. When this happens, the bones can come into contact with one another. This can lead to discomfort and inflammation that further worsens the problem.
Rheumatoid arthritis is considered to be an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system starts to attack the joints. Once again, inflammation occurs as a result of this attack, leading to swelling and pain.
As we can see, there are a number of different ways in which arthritis treatments can provide assistance. Some of the more effective modes of action involve:
- Reducing the inflammation experienced in joints
- Controlling the transmission of pain signals from joints to the brain
- Minimizing the natural breakdown of joint cartilage
Now let’s look at some of the more popular natural options that are believed to do just this…
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in hot chilli peppers that gives them their fiery flavor. As well as adding punch to recipes, however, there is growing evidence that capsaicin can help to alleviate joint-related pain. It is believed to work by reducing the transmission of pain from the affected joint to the brain.
The benefits of capsaicin have been tested in laboratory settings. One such study provided arthritis sufferers with a very weak capsaicin cream and asked them to apply it four times daily. The experts found that 80% of volunteers reported reduced pain within a period of two weeks, with average reductions in pain of between 33% and 57% depending on the severity of their condition. The scientists involved concluded that “capsaicin cream is a safe and effective treatment for arthritis”.
Unlike some of the options here the most beneficial way to use capsaicin seems to be in a topical cream that is rubbed onto the affected joints. While some people experience a gentle burning sensation initially, this normally eases quickly and is followed by reduced joint pain.
Devil’s Claw may sound pretty scary, but it has long been used as a treatment for sore joints in its native Southern Africa. It is believed to derive its name from the appearance of its seed pods, which are covered in sharp black spines said to resemble claws.
A German farmer, settling in the area, noticed that the local indigenous peoples used it to alleviate various types of pain, including that experienced with arthritis, and subsequently began to export it to Europe.
Today, while less well-known than many of the other treatments outlined here, it is still popular in many parts of the world. Indeed, the German Food and Drug Administration has since approved Devil’s Claw for the treatment of both acid reflux and skeletal conditions.
The inflammation responsible for much of the pain arthritis sufferers experience is controlled by a substance known as “arachidonic acid”. In essence, arachidonic acid can be thought of as a “signaling molecule” that controls and encourages inflammation around the body. Devil’s Claw is believed to work by blocking the creation of arachidonic acid, therefore meaning there is less inflammation in the body.
Glucosamine is possibly the best-known remedy for joint-related discomfort. This is not by accident. Scientists studying how this naturally-occurring compound functions have found evidence that as well as simply relieving pain, it may also help to prevent the breakdown of joint tissue that causes osteoarthritis in the first place.
Other studies looking at the development of osteoarthritis have noted that as cartilage begins to waste away, so the gap between joints begins to narrow. As this happens, bones are ever more likely to rub, leading to joint stiffness and pain. This “joint space narrowing” has therefore become a critical measure of how quickly osteoarthritis develops.
Numerous studies have found that glucosamine may help to reduce the rate of joint space narrowing seen in arthritis patients, and in some cases may even halt it entirely. For example, an article published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society provided 414 volunteers suffering from arthritis with a daily supplement of glucosamine sulfate. After three full years these same individuals were assessed for signs of joint space narrowing. Impressively, the experts reported that “participants in the glucosamine sulfate group showed no joint space narrowing, whereas participants in the placebo group experienced a narrowing”.
Interestingly, the pain-controlling ability of glucosamine has been found to be similar to drugs like ibuprofen, while offering far fewer side effects. For example, one analysis that provided either ibuprofen or glucosamine to 200 patients found that 35% of individuals taking ibuprofen reported “adverse events” while this same figure was just 6% for the glucosamine group.
Another aspect in glucosamine’s favor over the other remedies outlined here is just how well studied it is. While Devil’s Claw, for example, seems to have some potential, long-term studies have yet to prove the safety of continued use. This is quite different in glucosamine, however, where decades of research have highlighted its safety profile.
As a final note, the popularity of glucosamine has meant there are dozens of different varieties and strengths on the market, in contrast to many of the other options outlined here. Selecting the right supplement for you isn’t always easy, therefore, and you’re advised to do appropriate research to decide on the most effective solution for your needs.
Fish oils are rich in omega 3 oils. The aforementioned arachidonic acid is actually an omega 6 oil, and it is believed that the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 oils has a major impact on the appearance of inflammation. In other words, arthritis-related joint pain can be reduced either by consuming fewer omega 6 fatty acids, or by increasing the volume of omega 3s.
One experiment aimed to assess the impact of daily supplementation with omega 3 and omega 6 oils. Patients were either given a fish oil supplement (omega 3) or a corn oil supplement (omega 6). After eight weeks of treatment, while the omega 6 group saw no improvement, the scientists reported that the individuals taking fish oils saw a range of improvements including measures of joint tenderness, duration of morning stiffness and doctor-assessed joint pain. Impressively, these positive results continued on even once supplementation had ceased.
Indeed, so potent are the results of consuming fish oils for some arthritis sufferers that they’ve actually been able to reduce their use of more traditional painkillers. A study from the University of Dundee in the UK provided 97 patients with either a daily dose of cod liver oil or an air-filled placebo capsule. After twelve weeks of treatment both groups were encouraged to try and reduce their use of their prescribed anti-inflammatory painkillers.
The scientists then asked each participant to report back on whether or not they had experienced enough benefit to reduce their use of traditional painkillers. The results showed that 39% of those using cod liver oil were able to reduce their use of painkillers by 30% or more, while this figure sat at just 10% for the placebo group.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice we call turmeric. In recent months curcumin seems to have featured ever more prominently in mainstream media, but what do scientists think that it actually does?
Let’s go back to the concept of inflammation for a moment, because we know that if inflammation declines then so should the joint pain you feel. The thing to understand is that inflammation doesn’t just arise at random; there are a whole host of elements in the body that are involved in the appearance of inflammation.
Some of the most important of these are the range of “signaling” substances that tell the body to mount an attack. Enter curcumin, which scientific studies have found to help reduce the body’s production of these signaling substances.
Pleasantly, bearing in mind the minimal investment of time and money into researching many traditional remedies, tests have been carried out to assess the safety margin of supplementing with curcumin. One study, for example, provided participants with an astonishing 8000mg of curcumin per day over an extended period of three months. Even then, no indication of toxicity or over-reaction was experienced. Scientists investigating this and other studies have since concluded that “curcumin has been demonstrated to be safe”.
As we have seen, there are a host of natural remedies that have demonstrated positive impacts on the symptoms of arthritis and joint pain. Many of these have been scrutinized not just by normal consumers but also in scientific studies, and have led to some impressive results.
While we are different, and so you may find that one of these remedies works better for you than others, there does seem to be a growing list of options worth considering. So don’t suffer in silence when it comes to joint pain; instead experiment with some of the options outlined above and there’s every hope that you’ll enjoy a new lease of life soon enough.