The reality for many people is that their joints feel stiff and give them on-going pain. This can be especially true when they wake up in the morning and at this time of year when temperatures are lower. Lying down for several hours to sleep reduces fluid amounts. That can make moving joints more difficult first thing in the morning. Years of use can take their toll on joints, muscles, and bones, especially if they’ve not been well looked after.
Joint stiffness may be mild and only impact your mobility for a brief period of time each morning or after sitting for extended periods of time. Sometimes, the stiffness can also be more severe and impact your mobility.
In some cases, pain and inflammation accompany joint stiffness. This may make walking, standing, or putting weight on your joints painful. This is when drugs such as Ibuprofen can really help, but is it really a long term solution and what of the side-effects?
Not all stiff joints are the result of age. Many other conditions can cause stiff joints. These include arthritis, lupus, and bursitis. Lifestyle factors, including diet and weight, can also impact joint mobility.
In trying to overcome joint pain or indeed take better care of joints early, many people are looking to a broader range of options rather than those from the pharmacy or doctor. Here we take a look at 3 broad types of treatment:
Take a look through and then consider picking some from each group to form your total holistic approach to joint pain relief.
Glucosamine plays a vital role in building cartilage, and many people take it as a supplement to treat arthritis and osteoarthritis. It occurs naturally in the fluid around the joints, in animal bones, bone marrow, shellfish, and fungi.
Glucosamine, especially glucosamine sulfate, is extracted from the shells of shellfish to make dietary supplements.
Glucosamine is vital for building cartilage. Cartilage is a flexible, tough connective tissue found in several parts of the body. This firm, rubbery tissue functions as padding at the ends of long bones where they meet joints.
As we age, cartilage can become less flexible and can steadily break down. There is some evidence that glucosamine might slow this process.
Collagen helps maintain the integrity of your cartilage, which is the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints. As the amount of collagen in your body decreases as you get older, your risk of developing degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis increases. Using Collagen may help to repair cartilage.
Chondroitin is also a natural substance found in the body. It is believed to help draw water and nutrients into the cartilage, keeping it healthy and sponge-like. There is some evidence to suggest that both glucosamine and chondroitin are helpful in the treatment and management of some joint conditions.
Hyaluronic acid is well known for its skin benefits, especially alleviating dry skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and speeding up wound healing. It can also help relieve joint pain in people with osteoarthritis too.
Studies have found that bee venom blocks the production of pro-inflammatory substances, such as cytokines, tumor necrosis factor-2, and cyclooxygenase-2. Bee venom also acts to inhibit the formation of rheumatoid synovial cells, thereby reducing swelling, pain, and joint deformity.
Methylsulfonylmethane, more commonly known as MSM, is a popular supplement used in the treatment of joint pain. Studies have shown that MSM significantly reduces inflammation in your body. It also inhibits the breakdown of cartilage, a flexible tissue that protects the ends of your bones in joints
Certain herbs may have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by reducing pain in all forms of the disease. Please always talk to your doctor first to avoid possible side effects.
Aloe vera is one of the most commonly used herbs in alternative medicine. Known for its healing properties, it’s popular for treating small skin abrasions. You may already have a bottle of aloe vera gel in the medicine cabinet from a past sunburn. This same type of product may be applied topically to soothe aching joints.
Aloe vera is also available in whole form from the leaves of the plant. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) trusted source says that oral aloe vera can cause decreased blood sugar and gastrointestinal side effects, such as diarrhoea. Topical aloe vera, on the other hand, does not cause any side effects and should be safe to try for arthritis.
Boswellia, also called frankincense, is praised by alternative medicine practitioners for its anti-inflammatory capabilities. It’s derived from the gum of boswellia trees indigenous to India.
This herb is thought to work by blocking substances (leukotrienes) that attack healthy joints in autoimmune diseases such as RA. The NCCIHTrusted Source acknowledges promising evidence of boswellia in animal studies. But it notes a lack of human trials. Boswellia is available in tablet form and topical creams.
Cat’s claw is another anti-inflammatory herb that may reduce swelling in arthritis. This herb is from a tropical vine, and its usage dates back to Incan civilizations. Traditionally, cat’s claw is used to boost the immune system.
In recent years, the immunity powers of the herb have been tried in arthritis. The downside is that cat’s claw may overstimulate the immune system and make arthritis pain worse.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, a study showed cat’s claw can help with RA swelling. There’s however no proof that this herb can prevent further joint damage.
Like aloe vera, eucalyptus is widely available in Western markets. It’s used in oral medications, and topical oil extracts are used for a variety of conditions. Topical forms of eucalyptus leaves are used to treat arthritis pain.
The plant leaves contain tannins, which may be helpful in reducing swelling and the pain arthritis causes. Some users follow up with heat pads to maximize the effects of eucalyptus on swollen joints.
Be sure to test yourself for allergies before using topical eucalyptus. Put a small amount of the product on your forearm. If there is no reaction in 24 to 48 hours, it should be safe to use.
You may have ginger in your spice cabinet for cooking, but this herb is also a staple in many alternative medicine cabinets. The same compounds that give ginger its strong flavour also have anti-inflammatory properties.
The NCCIH says that early studies in reducing joint swelling with ginger in RA are promising. But more human trials are needed to better understand its action. In folk medicine and Chinese medicine, ginger is used to increase blood circulation, which brings heat and healing properties to the affected area. Research shows promise for the use of ginger in all types of arthritis.
Green tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world and has been used to reduce inflammation in the body. It’s possible that green tea can be used to treat arthritis inflammation in the form of beverages, tablets, or tinctures.
In a 2010 study, the NCCIH found that green tea might help people with osteoarthritis (OA) and RA. But many more studies are still needed to prove the potential benefits of green tea.
Thunder God Vine
Thunder god vine is one of the oldest herbs used in Chinese medicine. Extracts from skinned roots are known for suppressing an overactive immune system. This makes thunder god vine a possible alternative treatment for autoimmune diseases such as RA. It’s best to applydirectly to the skin in a topical form. Thunder god vine may work best along with conventional RA medications.
Use extreme caution with this herb, as it can be poisonous if extracts are derived from other areas of the vine.
Turmeric is a yellow powder made from the related flowering plant. It’s used in cooking to make curry. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Lab studies on rats have also found this herb may slow the progression of RA. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been used in folk medicine for years. Unlike other types of herbs, the NCCIH found turmeric may work best in fighting joint pain when taken orally.
Using willow bark is one of the oldest treatments for inflammation. In fact, people during Hippocrates’ time (fifth century B.C.) chewed on willow bark to help treat inflammatory conditions.
One study reported that the herb shows promise in relieving OA-related joint pain, particularly in the knees, back, hips, and neck. This treatment is taken orally, either by tea or tablet.
Getting the right dose is crucial. An overdose can cause rashes and other forms of inflammation. Do not use willow bark if you take blood thinners or are allergic to aspirin.
Your weight can make a big impact on the amount of pain you experience from arthritis. Extra weight puts more pressure on your joints, especially your knees, hips, and feet.
Reducing the stress on your joints by losing weight will improve your mobility, decrease pain, and prevent future damage to your joints.
Get more exercise
There are more benefits to exercise than just weight loss. Regular movement helps to maintain flexibility in your joints. Weight-bearing exercises such as running and walking can be damaging. Instead, try low-impact exercises such as water aerobics or swimming to flex your joints without adding further stress.
Use hot and cold therapy
Simple hot and cold treatments can make a world of difference when it comes to arthritis pain. Long, warm showers or baths — especially in the morning — help ease stiffness in your joints. Use an electric blanket or moist heating pad at night to keep your joints loose.
Cold treatments are best for relieving joint pain, swelling, and inflammation. Wrap a gel ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and apply it to painful joints for quick relief.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on your body. This is supposed to reroute energies and restore balance in your body. Acupuncture is the most researched complementary therapy and is recommended by the World Health Organization for treatment of over 100 different conditions.
It is thought that acupuncture has the ability to reduce arthritis pain.
Use meditation to cope with pain
Meditation and relaxation techniques may be able to help you reduce pain from arthritis by reducing stress and enabling you to cope with it better. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies have found that the practice of mindfulness meditation is helpful for some people with painful joints. Researchers also found that those with depression and arthritis benefited the most from meditation. When stress is reduced, inflammation and thus swelling and pain drop.
Include the right fatty acids in your diet
Everyone needs omega-3 fatty acids in their diet for optimum health. These fats also help your arthritis. Fish oil supplements, which are high in omega-3s, have been shown to reduce joint stiffness and pain.
Another fatty acid that can help is gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA. It’s found in the seeds of certain plants such as evening primrose, borage, hemp, and black currants. You can also buy the oils of the seeds as a supplement. However, be sure to check with your doctor before taking them.
Get a massage
According to the Arthritis Foundation, regular massaging of arthritic joints can help reduce pain and stiffness and improve your range of motion. Work with a physical therapist to learn self-massage, or schedule appointments with a massage therapist regularly.
As you can see, there are many different ways to treat joint pain and get some kind of respite. We suggest you work your way through the list but use a mix of both lifestyle and herbal remedies. To help you in your choices of herbal remedies, take a look at the abeeco range of joint care supplements which include well-researched ingredients such as collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, New Zealand bee venom, fish oil, MSM and hyaluronic acid.