A Natural Way to Relieve Joint Pain and Inflammation

Instead of masking your symptoms with painkillers, try these all-natural remedies

Couple on Golf CourseThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

Imagine what would your life would be like without joint pain. If throbbing, aching joints never made you think twice about doing the activities you used to enjoy? Imagine being able to play 18 holes of golf effortlessly or sit through a movie without getting stiff. Or how about being able to get out of bed in the morning without feeling those creaks and pops, ready to take on the day?

Many people seem to accept as fate that they will become less active as they get older. They unwittingly believe that it’s “normal” to be plagued by stiffness, soreness and pain as you age.

If you believe that, then you’re likely to suffer unnecessarily, because there are simple, natural joint pain remedies that your doctor might not be telling you about that are effective and safe.

Staying Active is the Fountain of Youth

First things first: Nothing does more for your quality of life and longevity than staying active as you age. Unfortunately, however, most people really slow down as they age, as a result of believing that aches and pains are a normal part of the aging process, and quite simply, bad advice from their doctors.

Despite what your doctor may tell you, there’s an underlying cause for joint pain that may have nothing to do with your age. More on that later. First, it’s important to understand that the conventional pharmaceutical approach to joint pain is basically just a Band-Aid fix.

Myth: Exercise Makes Joint Pain Worse

If you’re suffering from any kind of joint pain, the commonly held belief is that additional “wear and tear” will make it worse. But the problem with this idea is that it doesn’t take into account the body’s inherent ability to repair damage, and that physical activity actually stimulates this repair. The fact is, inactivity is known to weaken muscles and decrease joint flexibility.[1]

Yet, strangely, if you go to your doctor complaining of joint pain, you’ll probably be told to “rest up.” The truth is that low-impact exercise, such as walking or biking, is highly beneficial to your joints because it increases circulation, which in turn enhances your body’s natural ability to heal joint tissue and protect it from further damage. Studies have confirmed that not only does moderate exercise not damage joints, it may actually make them stronger.[2] [3]

But what if the pain is too great to consider being active? We’ll get into some natural remedies for joint pain that can safely begin to heal your joints so that you can start exercising slowly, but first we need to bust some more myths.

Myth: Painkillers Are a Safe, Long-Term Solution for Pain

At their doctor’s suggestion, many people take over-the-counter pain medications like aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen day after day, under the assumption that it’s perfectly safe to do so. You can blame this at least in part on those fancy pharmaceutical ads that make it seem like this pills are side effect free. But this is far from the truth. What those ads won’t tell you is that these pills have serious negative health consequences when taken for long periods of time.

For example, astounding research shows that the long-term use of ibuprofen may actually damage your joints over time, since one way it reduces pain is by suppressing the natural healing process.[4] The pills also have other serious side effects including liver and kidney damage, stomach bleeding, ulcers and increased heart attack and stroke risk.

And you may recall the tragedy that unfolded with the FDA-approved prescription painkiller Vioxx, which claimed as many as 55,000 lives (and possibly up to 100,000) before the FDA banned it.[5]

Despite what your doctor might tell you, you don’t have to stop exercising and take painkilling medications just to maintain an acceptable quality of life as you get older. And any way you slice it, taking painkillers long-term, even over-the-counter ones like ibuprofen, is not safe.

Myth: Natural Joint Pain Remedies Don’t Work

Here’s a funny thing about doctors. Recent surveys show that the majority of them take supplements on a daily basis, but many balk at the notion of recommending them to their patients. But when it comes to managing joint pain, the fact is that thousands of scientific studies prove that natural products do work — oftentimes better than prescription drugs.

What’s more, properly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs are thought to kill approximately 100,000 people each year, while not one person has died as a result of taking dietary supplements in the past several years.[6]

Is Your Joint Supplement Out-of-Date?

The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin has become the most widely used natural remedy for joint pain — and for a good reason. Hundreds of studies have shown that it’s safe, helps to protect and rebuild cartilage, and is effective in some degree for a large portion of joint pain sufferers.[7]

That being said, the research on joint health has taken major steps forward since glucosamine and chondroitin were first popularized in the 1980s.

One of the major discoveries in recent years is that supplementing with hyaluronic acid (also known as HA) can revitalize synovial fluid, a thick gel-like substance that surrounds cartilage, acting as a lubricant and shock absorber.[8]

Nowadays, a number of popular joint support formulas contain some combination of glucosamine, chondroitin and HA. However, while important, these three ingredients don’t address what many leading experts now believe to be the root cause of 90 percent of joint pain problems.

Most Supplements Fail to Address Chronic Inflammation

Temporary inflammation is a normal part of your body’s natural healing process. But when inflammation becomes chronic, the health consequences can be dire. Unfortunately, as a combined result of exposure to toxins, consumption of processed foods and other factors, many people unknowingly suffer from “invisible” chronic low-grade inflammation. It is now thought that this is one of the leading causes of joint pain and discomfort throughout your body.

The problem with most joint support supplements is that their ingredients are designed to only focus on the joints themselves and don’t have any ingredients that fight the inflammation that is causing the pain. If you don’t address the larger system-wide issue, then you’re only fixing a small part of a bigger problem.

That’s why the best joint support supplements out there are packed with natural inflammation fighters to ensure both immediate and long-lasting relief for your entire body, not just specific areas.

5 Inflammation-Fighters Missing From Most Supplements

Fascinating new research shows that there are a number of powerful but perfectly safe herbs that work amazingly well at beating back chronic low-grade inflammation and healing your whole body with amazing effectiveness.

These herbs have been used in traditional medicine around the world for thousands of years. But it’s not just anecdotes and folklore. Breakthrough scientific studies are proving that these ancient remedies can be safer and more effective than modern medicine.

Five herbal inflammation-fighters have consistently stood out from all the rest: boswellia, curcumin, ginger, tart cherry and bromelain.

Boswellia: The Ancient Herbal Solution to Joint Pain

Hundreds of years ago in India, when people complained of aching joints and muscles, Ayurvedic healers prescribed an extract made from the unique bark of the Boswellia tree.

Today, we know much more about this ancient herbal remedy and the compound, called Boswellia serrata, has been proven to be a powerful inflammation fighter capable of providing fast, long-lasting relief.

In a landmark study conducted at UC Davis, boswellia was shown to ease knee pain and stiffness within just seven days.[9] And in a breakthrough study from 2010, researchers found that boswellia inhibits the production of key inflammatory molecules, which helps to prevent the breakdown of cartilage.[10]

Curcumin and Ginger: The Amazing Healing Spices

The great land of India has gifted us with a few powerful all-around inflammation fighters. Curcumin, a compound found in the curry spice turmeric, has been proven to inhibit the synthesis of inflammatory substances throughout the body, decreasing pain and stiffness while at the same time enhancing immunity and even protecting the brain against cognitive decline.[11]

Ginger is another powerful spice that has many of the same benefits as curcumin and demonstrates remarkable anti-inflammatory properties.[12] [13]

Pineapples and Cherries: Fruits That Fight Inflammation

Interestingly, pineapple has been used for centuries to reduce pain and inflammation. It turns out that an enzyme found in pineapples called bromelain has scientifically proven medicinal benefits. Studies have shown that bromelain reduces swelling, bruising, healing time and pain.[14] [15]

Cherries also contain unique anti-inflammatory antioxidant compounds that specifically target muscle tissue, making cherry extract an important component of any joint healing strategy. According to researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, cherry extract may be a safer way to treat muscle pain and inflammation than over-the-counter pain relievers.[16]

Sulfur: The Last Piece in the Inflammation Puzzle

In addition to these five herbal inflammation fighters, many people have had incredible success using a natural form of sulfur, called MSM, to beat back inflammation and increase joint flexibility.

Sulfur is critical to the health of your joints, yet most of us are actually deficient in it because it’s become largely removed in our food supply due to soil depletion. MSM works to soothe joints by making cartilage cells pliable, which ensures that harmful substances flow out and nutrients flow in, which speeds up the regeneration of the cartilage that cushions your joints.

In fact, a recent clinical trial showed without a doubt that MSM provided significant reductions in knee pain and back pain.[17]

So, in review, the best natural remedies for joint pain and inflammation are:

  1. Glucosamine
  2. Chondroitin
  3. Hyaluronic acid
  4. Boswellia
  5. Curcumin
  6. Ginger
  7. Tart cherry
  8. Bromelain
  9. MSM

All of these can be found in your local natural health store or online. Or, if you’re interested in an all-in-one supplement that contains each of these ingredients, you can simply click here.

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[1] Sokka T et al. Physical inactivity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: Data from twenty-one countries in a cross-sectional, international study. Arthr Care Res. 2008: 59(1): 42–50.

[2] Helmick C et al. Estimates of the Prevalence of Arthritis and Other Rheumatic conditions in the United States. Arthr Rheum. 2007:57(2): 15-25.

[3] Wilcox S et al. Perceived exercise barriers, enablers, and benefits among exercising and nonexercising adults with arthritis: Results from a qualitative study. Arthr Care Res. 2006;55(4): 616-627.

[4] Mastbergen SC et al. Differential direct effects of cyclo-oxygenase-1/2 inhibition on proteoglycan turnover of human osteoarthritic cartilage: an in vitro study. Arthr Res Ther. 2005;8(1): doi:10.1186/ar1846.

[5] Dr. David Graham. Testimony to the Senate Finance Committee. 18 Nov 2004. Accessed 16 Jan 2012.

[6] http://www.aapcc.org/dnn/NPDSPoisonData/NPDSAnnualReports.aspx

[7] McAlindon TE et al. Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Treatment of Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Quality Assessment and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2000;283(11): 1469-75.

[8] Goa KL and Benfield P. Hyaluronic acid. A review of its pharmacology and use as a surgical aid in ophthalmology, and its therapeutic potential in joint disease and wound healing. Drugs. 1994 Mar;47(3): 536-66.

[9] Sengupta K et al. A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study of the efficacy and safety of 5-Loxin for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Res Ther. 2008;10(4): R85.

[10] Blain EJ et al. Boswellia frereana (frankincense) suppresses cytokine-induced matrix metalloproteinase expression and production of pro-inflammatory molecules in articular cartilage. Phytother Res. 2010 Jun; 24(6): 905-12.

[11] Belcaro G et al. Product-evaluation registry of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, for the complementary management of osteoarthritis. Panminerva Med. 2010 Jun; 52(2 Suppl 1): 55-62.

[12] Srivastava KC and Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and rheumatic disorders. Med Hypotheses. 1989 May; 29(1): 25-8.

[13] Srivastava KC and Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Med Hypotheses. 1992 Dec; 39(4): 342-48.

[14] Walker AF et al. Bromelain reduces mild acute knee pain and improves well-being in a dose-dependent fashion in an open study of otherwise healthy adults. Phytomedicine. 2002; 9(8): 681-6.

[15] Brien S et al. Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2004 Dec; 1(3): 251-7.

[16] http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/news_events/news/2010/2010-07-07-tart-cherry-juice-r.cfm

[17] Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2006 Mar; 14(3): 286-94.

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