Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
These remedies team up to ease joint pain and inflammation
Joint pain and inflammation don’t just inflict arthritis sufferers. Athletes and exercise enthusiasts, especially runners and strength trainers, can experience joint aches and pains as well, which can develop into arthritis with time. When joints are ailing, there’s a tendency to look for one thing we can take or do to remedy the situation. However, relief often comes from a therapeutic combination.
For example, study of 36 people between the ages of 42 and 73, with osteoarthritis in the knee or hip, found that glucosamine supplements combined with walking brought significant relief from pain and improved joint function. Each person took 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate daily for 6 weeks and then, while continuing to take the supplement, began a walking program. In this study, published in Arthritis Research and Therapy, 3,000 steps (measured with a pedometer), or approximately 30 minutes of walking, three times per week, produced considerable improvement.
In addition to long-standing joint formulas found on supplement shelves, research shows that there is synergy among these remedies:
Fish Oil and Glucosamine: Fish oil reduces inflammation while glucosamine helps to rebuild cartilage. A study of 177 people with osteoarthritis in the hip or knee, published in Advances in Therapy, found that together, these two supplements provided significant relief of pain and stiffness for 27 percent more participants than glucosamine alone. On a daily basis, participants took 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate plus slightly less than 0.5 grams of fish oil, containing 200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).
Earlier research found that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can prevent and relieve rheumatoid arthritis by inhibiting inflammation that causes pain and deforms joints. The ability of fish oil to counteract rheumatic conditions was first documented in a British medical journal in the 1700s and in more recent years, research supporting such benefits has been published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology and other scientific journals.
MSM and Vitamin K: MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane) is a popular pain reliever. It protects cartilage by reducing damaging inflammation and has been shown to reduce osteoarthritis symptoms in research published in Clinical Drug Investigation and other journals. Lab and animal research has also shown that MSM protects cartilage and other tissue surrounding joints from degradation.
Vitamin K prevents bone loss by helping calcium to be utilized and is necessary for maintaining healthy bone. Vitamin K can be found combined with MSM in formulas to protect both cartilage and bones.
Shea Nut Extract: An age-old remedy used in traditional African medicine, shea nut oil has been concentrated with today’s technology. The shea nut, which is actually a seed of the shea plant, contains an oil high in triterpenes, nature’s precursors to steroids our bodies can produce to fight inflammation. Unlike steroids in drugs, natural triterpenes relieve pain without side effects.
The anti-inflammatory action of a shea supplement addresses different aspects of cartilage than glucosamine and chondroitin, and can work synergistically with these.
In a study of 89 people with osteoarthritis in the knee or hip, published in Phytotherapy Research, shea nut extract significantly reduced several different types of inflammation that damages both cartilage and bone. In another study, published in the Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain, the supplement reduced muscle tenderness after intense hand exercises.
Ingredients in Formulas
On the supplement shelf, these are some of the ingredients found in joint formulas. All are available in capsules and most are also in skin creams, lotions, or ointments that can be rubbed on painful areas. Nutrients have to build up internally to produce a noticeable, ongoing benefit, while topical creams can provide faster, short-term relief.
Glucosamine: Stimulates growth of cartilage and slows its breakdown.
Chondroitin: Stimulates cartilage growth and production of joint (synovial) fluid that absorbs shock and lubricates the joint.
Celadrin: A proprietary form of fatty acids, it works on cell membranes to control inflammation and relieve pain.
MSM, SAM-e and Herbal Formulas: Fight and prevent inflammation and relieve pain.
Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs): A natural vegetable extract from avocados and soy beans, ASUs relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Vitamin D Not Just for Bone Health
Chronic joint, muscle, or bone pain? You may be deficient in vitamin D. “Doctors are just starting to understand that nonspecific muscle and bone pain can be caused by low vitamin D levels,” says Gil Porat, MD, an internist in Colorado Springs, Colo. “More and more research is linking vitamin D deficiency with chronic pains.” Porat recommends getting a simple blood test to measure your vitamin D level. Suffering from fibromyalgia? Again, vitamin D may come to the rescue. “Fibromyalgia patients have had remarkable improvements after being treated for low vitamin D levels,” says Porat. Still newer research suggests that vitamin D may also help ease chronic back pain. A typical dosage is 1,000 IU to 5,000 IU daily, but you can safely take up to 10,000 IU daily. For higher dosages, speak with a health care practitioner.