Updated: Mar 3, 2019
Has anyone ever told you it’s tough getting older? Well, it is. There’s this thing called joint pain that many of us suffer from, it comes in many forms and can be annoying at best and debilitating at worst. It might start early or late, but it will eventually come. It may sneak up on you, it may manifest because you moved wrong, but pain, stiffness and soreness happen, to everyone.
Whether it’s a nagging knee pain, a neck pain or a lower back, joint pain is common and affects adults of all ages, from athletic to sedentary. Knee pain alone affects around 25% of adults, limiting mobility and impairing quality of life. Low back pain is even more common, affecting 8 out of 10 Americans.
Joint pain is also a concern to many people, especially if it indicates the onset of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. It is estimated that about 23% of all adults aged 45 to 64 years old, and nearly 50% of those over 65 in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Arthritis is considered the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
There are, of course medications for your pain. Over the counter products include a group of medications called NSAIDs or non-specific anti-inflammatory drugs. The problems with NSAID’s are the side effects. Liver toxicity from acetaminophen for instance is the number cause of acute liver failure in the US. If that’s not bad enough, other side effects include allergic reactions, difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips and tongue, numbness and tingling and weight gain.
The question is then, are there better ways to combat pain that do not include the possibility of an extended hospital stay and getting on the liver donor list?
To understand this issue, we have to first understand where joint pain comes from. That said, it is generally accepted that pain comes from inflammation, which also happens to be the root cause of most diseases too. Now before we run out and start taking those NSAID’s, let’s understand also that inflammation is an effect, not a cause. In other words, something had to precede the inflammation. That means that getting rid of the inflammation is only part of the battle.
In this blog, I am going to cover some of the root causes of inflammation and joint pain; that said, pain is something your body uses to tell you something is wrong. So, if you have pain, get it checked out by a competent professional before you try treating it yourself.
Joint pain can be caused by many factors, certainly age is a factor. If you are over 40, you may already have noticed yourself getting stiffer. That’s because of a tissue called collagen. Interestingly, the collagen builds up in the connective tissue but breaks down in your joints. Clearly more than half of the issues are due to inactivity; however, arthritic changes, loss of bone materials, and old injuries can take their toll.
Other factors that influence joint pain include smoking and autoimmune disorders. When it comes to smoking (and vaping), there is an obvious issue with dehydration and inflammation that cannot be ignored. Fact is, smokers appear to have more joint pain than non-smokers.
Autoimmune disorders are in a class by themselves because of their gut-based, disease influence. We learn more every year, but the facts are becoming clearer as we understand more about the leaky gut syndrome and its influence on fibromyalgia, arthritis, Hashimoto’s and Chron’s and colitis disease. Again, these are inflammation-based disorders, and they are treatable.
The good news is that no matter what is causing your joint pain, there is a wide range of ways you can lower the inflammation levels behind it, and that’s the crux of this blog.
1. Chiropractic Alignment.
Some people believe in chiropractic as a first resource, others a last. While it is well understood that chiropractic addresses back and spine issues, fewer people understand that joint pain can come from any mechanical disorders of the muscles or bones.
If your joints are moving incorrectly or an imbalance of your muscles exists, this can result in improper joint tracking, joint wear, or inefficient and painful movement. These disorders can be assessed and treated through Chiropractic. Improperly moving joints have an additional issue on the neurological level.
When you feel pain in your joints, it is caused by nociceptors being activated. In order to sense movement and pressure, your body has receptors called mechanoreceptors. These two receptors are inversely related and input of one can "quiet" the other. Have you ever noticed that you rub your forearm when you are in pain? By stimulating mechanoreceptors you override nociceptors. Here is where fixed or "stuck" joints can cause an issue. If your joints aren't moving, mechanoreceptors are not activated and nociceptors become your dominant sensation.
Inactivity as seen in a fixed joint can make things worse when inflammation sets in. Inflammation can result in the secretion of histamine, serotonin, and prostaglandins all of which up-regulate nociceptors making them more sensitive. If you have inactivity and joint inflammation, it can make movements hurt you that would never have hurt you without inflammation.
Three main sources of joint pain can come from joint dysfunction, nerve pressure, and muscular imbalances. While these three aren't the only causes of joint pain (such as disease), a Chiropractor is uniquely trained to assess all three of these common causes of joint pain at the same time
When it comes to joint pain, our first step should be to seek chiropractic help. The chiropractic physician seeks to assess your pain from a muscular and a structural component, rather than recommending pain masking medication. Important to understand also; a chiropractor is trained to evaluate, diagnose and get you to the best resource for your treatment, medical or chiropractic.
2. Maintaining A Healthy Weight
Being overweight does more than just overload your joints. Studies find that for every one pound of fat gained there are 4 pounds of pressure produced over the joints, especially the lower back and knees. That means that just 10 pounds of extra padding can place 40 pounds of extra (and constant) force on a joint, increasing the chances of arthritic change and joint replacement. The connection between being overweight and having joint pain is incontrovertible. Studies show that adults over 18 years of age who are overweight or obese are up to 15% more likely to report doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
The good news, shedding even just a few pounds can ease pain, prevent future inflammation and possibly curb the need for future joint replacement.
3. Whole Body Vibration
Though it might feel counterintuitive at first, including cardiovascular and resistance exercise training in your routine is one of the best steps you can take to improve your joint health.
Studies not only show that strength training decreases your chance of heart attacks but studies also show that strength training produces something called a myokine which actually trumps cytokines the peptides that are at the root of inflammation.
Whole body vibration is unique insofar as it provides a vibrating platform that produces force over three planes. What this does is force more muscle to get involved in motion. While the vibrating forces encourage smaller postural and stabilizing muscles to activate, it also encourages the main muscle to recruit about 30% more fibers into the activity. This produces a far better muscle activation period and thus a shorter workout.
It does much more than just recruit more muscle however; whole body vibration relaxes muscle spasm, encourages greater muscle lubrication (hyaluronic acid) and joint synovium while also reducing the perception of pain.
If you want more information, read more on our website page "Whole Body Vibration" here.
4. Take Magnesium
Research has shown that magnesium can be an effective treatment for muscular pain. Magnesium simply helps a muscle spasm to relax. Not just any magnesium however, magnesium glycinate and threonate are the most bioavailable forms.
But how does magnesium help with nerve pain? The thinking is that pain is an excessive stimulation of a brain chemical (transmitter) called NMDA. Few medications can lower NMDA, all of which have major side effects including addiction. Turns out that magnesium glycinate, and especially magnesium threonate calms the NMDA. This may be the reason that it helps with migraines too!
Magnesium also prevents chronic inflammation, another reason why it helps reduce pain.
5. Switch to an Anti-inflammatory Diet.
It may sound too simple, but the fact of the matter is that food bourne allergies cause a significant issue with joint pain and disease. Keeping this in mind, it is a relatively simple thing to switch to a diet that eliminates sugars, sweeteners and processed foods. Since we understand that the main cause of joint pain is inflammation, then the remedy is to control that inflammation. The best way to do this is to eliminate foods that cause allergy reactions or cause inflammation. Essentially, you are treating a leaky gut.
The first thing most people think about is to eliminate gluten and dairy. It’s true they have inflammatory properties and are most often linked to issues. However, let’s not forget that other foods such as the night shades and the FODMAPS can also cause significant allergy reactions and inflammation, as well as hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils, deli meats and fried foods.
Usually an anti-inflammatory diet will take you back to basic eating then add new foods into the mix by category to allow you the ability to check these foods against your pain.
Keep in mind that it takes a while to control the inflammation (up to 9-12 months). It is not an overnight thing. You can begin by eating plenty of foods that fight inflammation naturally such as organic berries, most fruits and all vegetables, as well as herbs and spices including garlic, green tea, ginger, rosemary, and holy basil. I have linked lots of options for you to try in this blog.
It is interesting that studies do find that eliminating inflammatory foods from your diet can help control IBS and Chron’s and colitis!
6. Consider Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
Finally, let’s talk about the array of supplements that are available on the market. Let’s begin by trying to buy only supplements made and tested in the US. Companies that produce their supplements in the US are required to get their product 3rd party tested to show that their ingredients are actually in the product. The same cannot be said about many supplements from foreign countries.
When it comes to supplements no one supplement will likely do the job. Yes, supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin are good for joints, but only if you also combine them with anti-inflammatory supplements. That’s right neither glucosamine or chondroitin have anti-inflammatory properties. That said, you should add a Boswellia Extract to your glucosamine for better protection. Actually, you could forgo the Glucosamine and chondroitin and go straight to the Boswellia, it’s a better product.
Add to this turmeric. When combined with Boswellia it is a really good anti-inflammatory product. Studies find that the anti-pain and anti-inflammation properties of turmeric are actually similar to ibuprofen, only without the liver damage or the heart toxicity.
Another product is the omega-3 fatty acids or EPA/DHA. You find these fats in wild caught salmon, sardines, mackerel and also grass-fed beef. If you are looking for a good supplement you want one that is not farmed, and which has been tested for heavy metals, such as mercury. Studies find that fish oil supplements reduce joint pain and tenderness. Other studies use low omega-3 levels as an indicator of your inflammation levels.
Digestive enzymes are also helpful to digest the protein your body needs to repair your damaged body. Some of the digestive enzymes such as bromelain are well known anti-inflammatories, others are not as well known, but they definitely help.
Finally, vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for osteoarthritis and osteomelitis. So, supplementing with vitamin D, along with vitamin K2 has been shown to reduce pain and stiffness in those with knee osteoarthritis symptoms.
Vitamin D, along with vitamin K2, helps you absorb calcium, which is essential for building strong bones. Wild caught fish and sunlight are great sources of vitamin D.