Fighting Inflammation and Joint Pain Naturally
But inflammation and joint pain can occur at any age. And conditions such as arthritis and other inflammatory diseases can affect nearly a quarter of the US population—a number so prevalent that it’s the leading cause of work disability in the US, with lost wages and treatment costs reportedly totaling some $303.5 Billion.
Yet as debilitating as inflammation and joint pain can be, it can be successfully managed. While diet, exercise and a non-sedentary lifestyle can be excellent as preventative measures against inflammatory conditions, many Americans are also turning to natural solutions in addition to doctor-recommended treatments following a clinical diagnosis.
Are natural remedies for joint pain and inflammation right for you? To answer that, let’s review some of the causes of both.
What You Should Know About Inflammation and Joint Pain
Let’s start with a common myth first: age is the sole determining cause of inflammation and joint pain.
While joint pain and inflammation are more common in adults over the age of 65, findings from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have revealed that out of the 33 percent of US adults reporting any feeling of joint pain included over 20 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 and 41 percent of sufferers between the ages of 45 and 64.
While there are age-related factors to consider when evaluating joint inflammation, there’s an increasing body of evidence pointing to genetic susceptibility playing an important role in the diagnosis of common joint-related conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, gout and osteoporosis.
Nor should environmental causes for inflammatory conditions be dismissed as being minor, with smoking, alcohol, obesity and diet all being contributing factors in the development of inflammatory joint pain for many Americans. Equally important is the role that comorbidities including cardiovascular disease and obesity play in the development of inflammatory disorders.
The sad truth is that some 41 million Americans suffer from compromised autoimmunity, a chief cause behind joint inflammation and pain. While the severity of pain reported may vary drastically, it’s worth considering that between 2004 and 2011 that figure jumped from 11.5 to nearly 16 percent of the US population—suggesting that number may only be predicted to rise despite the plethora of prescription treatments currently available.
The Link Between Autoimmune Disease and Inflammation
One of the chief difficulties in distinguishing between inflammatory diseases and autoimmune disorders is the fact that they can frequently overlap, particularly when genetic disposition and a history of systemic attacks are factors.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a prominent example of a condition that is both an autoimmune and an autoinflammatory disorder. Autoimmune diseases are marked by a dysfunction in the immune system, with many forms resulting in antibodies actually fighting healthy immune cells instead of foreign bacteria and pathogens. In rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic conditions, antibodies target the synovium—a protective membrane responsible for joint support, resulting in chronic inflammation.
Unfortunately, many medications for rheumatic disorders can frequently wind up suppressing the immune system in order to alleviate the pain of inflammation. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may reduce the pain, swelling and burning sensations that mark severe rheumatic afflictions. However, the side effects of certain DMARDs can result in gastrointestinal conditions (including severe nausea, ulcers, and chronic diarrhea), greater susceptibility to bacterial, fungal and viral infections, liver damage, and a heightened risk of skin cancer.
While only your primary care physician can advise you on both the risks and benefits of DMARD therapy, many will agree that natural forms of treatments can be both a preventive measure as well as a supplement to prescription therapies in combating rheumatic disease.
Common Ways to Manage Joint Pain and Inflammation Naturally
Physical activityDid you know that just 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise a week can decrease your risk of a heart attack or cardiovascular disease by up to 25 percent? That’s the conclusion of a recent study published in the official journal of the AHA/ASA conducted over an extensive 20 year period.
The key word is moderate physical exercise. Individuals diagnosed with any sort of rheumatic or inflammatory condition should avoid highly intensive physical activity unless otherwise directed by a medical professional or certified exercise specialist. Low impact exercises such as walking, jogging or swimming are ideal starting points, with a time frame starting from just 5 to 10 minutes a day being gradually increased up to half an hour as you become more accustomed and comfortable.
DietAs a result of the dramatic increase in rheumatic diseases in the US over the past 15 years, more physicians have begun to note an overlap with prevalent comorbidities. And perhaps one of the most prevalent is obesity, a condition which has been noted in over 42 percent of the US population.
The link between obesity and joint pain has been well established. Yet a simple change in diet can reduce your susceptibility to both. Fatty fish which are high in omega-3s (including salmon, mackerel, trout and pollock) have been noted for their ability to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, while fruits rich in antioxidant polyphenols such as blueberries, pomegranate and strawberries also have a similar anti-inflammatory effect.
But dietary habits alone aren’t solely to blame for the rise of obesity in the US. An increasingly sedentary lifestyle, environmental factors, age and family history can all play decisive factors in both weight gain and joint inflammation. Yet there’s one culprit that’s rarely discussed: overmedication.
Prescription Medications: Pain Management or Pain Enabler?
39 percent of all hospital admissions in the US were the result of adverse effects from prescription medications in 2018, making it the single most common cause of emergency room visits.
Those are sobering statistics. And while many of those visits were the result of prescription medication abuse, few stop to consider the cumulative side effects of overreliance on common prescription therapies.
That’s largely because the benefits of prescription medications can frequently outweigh the harm caused by them. If given the choice of a life saving therapy, living with chronic joint pain is indeed a small sacrifice.
Yet there are common prescriptions which are known to cause inflammation in some cases. It has been reported that up to 14 percent of patients taking antibiotics containing fluoroquinolone such as Levoflaxacin indicate some form of joint or muscular pain. Fortunately, these symptoms typically decrease within several weeks after treatment is concluded. However, cholesterol medications containing statins have been associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, while recent research suggests there may be a correlation between blood pressure medication containing beta-blockers and osteoarthritis of the knee.
We’re not suggesting that you should halt prescription therapies simply on account of negative side effects. Only you and your physician can make that decision. What we are suggesting is that there are complementary therapies which can help alleviate chronic joint pain.
Not the least of which include natural dietary and health supplements.
Health Supplements: An Alternative to Managing Inflammation and Joint Pain?
Health and dietary supplements have garnered no small amount of attention recently. Unfortunately, sometimes it can be for all the wrong reasons.
It’s not uncommon for some unscrupulous manufacturers to overstate claims of the benefits of health supplements, touting them as a surefire cure for everything from the common cold to potentially life-threatening diseases. What consumers don’t realize is that supplements are simply that: a supplement to conventional forms of treatment.
Luckily, more and more consumers are beginning to realize that supplements work in conjunction with therapies prescribed by a medical professional, not as an alternative to them.
Supplements designed to treat joint pain are a perfect example. They’re not miracle cures, but there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests their efficacy. Studies have shown that supplements containing extracts of scutellaria baicalensis (commonly known as Chinese skullcap) and acacia catechu have been proven to alleviate joint discomfort and reduce stiffness and mobility by reducing proinflammatory molecules.
Both of these extracts have a long history as traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicinal treatments. But more recent research has indicated that supplements containing a high amount of omega-3s have more benefits than maintaining a healthy heart. A study conducted in 2022 concluded that omega-3 supplements high in natural eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) could very well help balance the low-grade inflammatory environment associated with osteoarthritis and the slow cartilage catabolism which results in joint pain and stiffness.
Are Supplements the Right Choice to Manage Joint Pain and Inflammation?
As with any change in your daily pain management regimen, consult with a physician prior to deciding whether or not to take a supplement. You could simply need a change in your diet and exercise. And it could very well be that some supplements could result in adverse effects.
But the wider the resources which are available to you, the greater the chance for you to make an informed decision. And making an informed decision can only help you to accommodate yourself to growing older more gracefully.
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