According to the Arthritis Foundation, an astonishing one in five people over the age of 18 suffers from arthritis in the United States. That’s over 50 million people dealing with joint pain on a daily basis. Little wonder then that so much time and money has been invested in recent years into the study of arthritic joint pain; both its causes and a range of treatments to help reduce joint pain.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the more exciting treatments, with a focus on pharmaceutical-free options. So, what does science tell us can help to reduce arthritic joint pain?
What Causes Arthritic Joint Pain?
There are many different types of arthritis, but the most common by far is known as “osteoarthritis”. To keep our joints working smoothly, the ends of our bones are typically covered with a protective sheath of cartilage. Over time, however, this cartilage can become worn. When this happens, joints may not move as smoothly as before. In more advanced cases the cartilage may wear out completely in places, permitting bone to rub. Unsurprisingly, this can result in debilitating pain.
Of course, the body tries to react to these changes. Inflammation is a common side-impact, but in many cases, this can actually worsen pain and lead to swelling. Inflammation is also implicated in rheumatoid arthritis, when the body’s immune system actually starts to attack the joints, leading to further pain.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, lots of treatments for arthritic joint pain target this inflammation, and a range of techniques have been found to improve the joint condition, stiffness, and range-of-movement.
Strategies for Reducing Joint Discomfort
While arthritis sounds (and is) rather unpleasant, the fact that we know so much about what actually happens in our joints means we are better-placed than ever before to help fight the affliction, so reducing the joint pain commonly experienced.
When you’re suffering from joint pain the most obvious course of action is rest. While there’s nothing wrong with putting your feet up from time to time, the evidence to date suggests that staying mobile may actually be one of the best ways to naturally alleviate joint discomfort.
In one scientific study, individuals suffering from arthritis of the knee underwent a supervised period of gentle exercise every day for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the experts found that the distance individuals could walk in 6 minutes increased by 13%, while pain had reduced by over 50%. Even more, interestingly, the participants were checked on a year later, and the scientists found that those individuals not exercising were four times more likely than those undertaking a regular exercise to need knee replacement surgery.
Another study addressed people suffering from pain in the neck. These individuals were willingly entered into a resistance training program designed to help strengthen the muscles, thus supporting the spine. The experts in question found that the program resulted in “significant reductions of neck and shoulder pain”.
It seems that any kind of exercise can be beneficial, whether that is weight lifting, cardio or even just gentle activities involving movements such as aqua aerobics, swimming or walking. The key is to find something that you enjoy doing and then stick with it. In time, the evidence suggests that you should benefit from reduced pain and improved range of movement in the affected joints.
Drink Green Tea
Green tea has become all the range of with health fanatics over the years, but there is a growing body of science to suggest there are good reasons for this.
Studies of how green tea affects arthritis point to a number of potential benefits. Firstly, there is evidence to suggest that green tea can help to fight inflammation, thus reducing many cases of arthritic joint pain. Perhaps rather more excitingly, studies also suggest that green tea may inhibit the enzymes believed to break down cartilage in the first place. These “chondroprotective effects” may help to slow cartilage damage, reducing the onset of joint discomfort in the first place.
Change Your Temperature
Joints seem to respond very positively to changes in temperature. Classically, individuals suffering from joint discomfort are told to use an ice pack to chill the affected area. Studies also suggest, however, that heat can be just as beneficial. In one study individuals were provided with knee bandages designed to retain heat, and the participants experienced significant improvements in pain levels as a result.
While the effects of heat or cold tend to be short-lived they can represent a practical and cost-effective treatment for short-term joint discomfort. Sitting in a hot bath, for example, may help to reduce the stiffness felt by many arthritis sufferers on waking.
Supplements are big business, with ever more of us relying on more natural substances to support or improve our health. While there is a range of dietary supplements that purport to help support healthy joints here are some of the more established options…
Cod Liver Oil
Fish oils are possibly the best-known supplement in the world and are used by thousands of people to help support healthy joints. Repeated studies have shown that omega 3 oils, and the polyunsaturated fatty acids they contain, can be very effective for reducing inflammation.
In one scientific experiment, 250 people complaining of neck or back pain were prescribed 1200mg of omega 3 fish oils per day. The participants were later surveyed for their experiences. The experts report that 80% of participants stated they were satisfied with their improvement, while 88% said they would continue taking the fish oil.
As one final point in their favor, fish oils are also believed to help reduce inflammation in the cardiovascular system, reducing the chances of atherosclerosis and so helping to support a healthy circulatory system.
Second only to fish oils, glucosamine has also gained a strong following among arthritis sufferers, but what does it actually do?
For one thing, the evidence seems to suggest that glucosamine can help to reduce the joint pain experienced by many sufferers. One study, for example, found that supplementing with glucosamine resulted in 20-25% improvements in pain. Whilst there will also be variation in how individuals respond to any treatment this does suggest that glucosamine may be beneficial for some sufferers.
Another study looked at the joint space narrowing that can occur as cartilage thins. 200 arthritic individuals were divided into two groups; the first was given a glucosamine sulphate supplement while the other half received a placebo. Three years later the experts then measured the reduction in joint space experienced by both groups. They found that while those on the placebo experienced a narrowing of the joints, the change in glucosamine patients was negligible. The experts concluded that glucosamine offers “long-term combined structure-modifying and symptom-modifying effects”.
At present, therefore, the evidence seems to suggest that glucosamine supplements have the potential to not just reduce the pain associated with arthritic joints but may also help to protect the joint cartilage itself.
Ginger may be best known as a culinary ingredient but it has also been used for years as a natural remedy for all sorts of health afflictions. Just one of these seems to be the reduction of joint pain.
In a study of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis sufferers, individuals were provided with a powdered ginger supplement to take each day. The experts found that over 75% of the participants experienced relief from joint swelling and pain.
In another test over 200 patients suffering from knee joint pain were provided with a ginger supplement. Not only did the participants experience reduced pain when standing or walking, but their use of other pain medications also naturally declined.
Ginger, it seems, has a growing body of evidence behind it to suggest its use in those of us suffering from sore or swollen joints.
As we have seen, scientists have been hard at work testing all manner of natural solutions to arthritic joint pain. While the verdict is still out on some experimental treatments, others look very hopeful indeed. While it is always advisable to consult your doctor before trialing any alternative remedies it seems there are more options than ever before.
This article was provided by Simply Supplements, who pride themselves on the wide range of different fish oil supplements they offer. Learn more here.