Do you know one in three adults suffer from some kind of joint pain every month? Joint pain can be the result of many different conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, strains, sprains, and injuries.
While knee pain is the most common kind of joint pain, your hip, shoulders, ankles, neck, and back can also be affected by this pain. In some cases the pain is mild and while in other cases it can be debilitating.
While there are several painkillers like aspirin that can ease the pain in your joints, you can also opt for natural remedies.
Natural remedies like dietary changes, salt baths, exercise, and essential oils offer a safe and powerful way to ease the pain and heal the joints.
Also, unlike painkillers, which can cause side effects, natural remedies provide additional benefits to the health.
What causes joint pain?
Joints are that part of the body where the bones meet. The joints provide support, and they help you move. Any damage to the joints in the form of disease or injury can lead to joint pain.
Arthritis is amongst the most common causes of joint pain. The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs in cases where there is a breakdown in cartilage, as cartilage acts as a shock absorber and cushion for the joints. Osteoarthritis is common in adults over 40, and it affects joints like knees, hips, hands, and wrists.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in cases where the immune system of the body attacks the membrane that lines the joints and causes fluid build up in the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects around 1.5 million Americans and is more common in men than women.
Bursitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs called bursae that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles near the joints. Bursitis commonly affects the shoulder, elbow and hip joints.
When bursitis affects the knee it is called the ‘housemaid’s knee,’ and when it affects the elbow, it is called the ‘tennis elbow.’
Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system targets its tissues and organs. Lupus can affect joints, skin, kidneys, heart, brain, and lungs. Almost 94 percent of the people with lupus experience joint pain.
A gout is a form of arthritis that occurs in people with high levels of uric acid in their blood. This uric acid can form crystals in joint spaces like the big toe, ankle or knee and can cause severe joint pain.
Joint pain can also be caused by –
- Overuse due to repetitive movements
- Infectious diseases like mumps, influenza, and hepatitis
- Tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon)
- An injury
- Breakdown of cartilage in the kneecap
- Infection of the bone
Commonly affected joints
Joint pain affects millions of people. Some of the more commonly affected joints are –
Knee: These joints are the largest in the body and are more vulnerable to injury and arthritis.
Back and neck: Arthritis or muscle stress can cause pain in these joints. The spine, which runs from the back of the neck to the lower back, can become stiff and painful. Poor posture can cause pain in these joints.
Hips: Hips have ball and socket joints that can move in all directions. Arthritis and osteoporosis can cause stiffness, pain and even fracture of this joint.
Shoulder: The shoulder joint is prone to injury and arthritis.
Foot, heal and toe: These joints bear the brunt of the weight of the body. Impact related injuries are common in these joints. They are also affected by arthritis.
When to see the doctor
You must make an appointment with a doctor if your joint pain is severe and is accompanied by –
- Unexplained weight loss
- Inability to do daily activities
- Hot and significantly swollen joint
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or burning sensation
Evaluation and conventional treatment
When you visit the doctor, he will first try to evaluate if the pain is caused by a disorder or the joints or a systemic illness. He may also ask for an X-ray to identify arthritis-related joint damage.
They may also perform a blood test to screen for autoimmune disorders. A sedimentation rate rest may also be done to measure the level of inflammation in the body.
In most cases, the doctors recommend lifestyle changes like exercising, physical therapy and weight loss to reduce the symptoms.
If the joint pain is due to an injury, your doctor may prescribe a painkiller like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.
In the case of chronic joint pain, the doctor may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. In some rare cases, the doctor may also prescribe an antidepressant or anti-epileptic drugs to block painful signal and to stop muscle spasms.
While these medications help reduce pain, they can also cause side effects like indigestion, gastrointestinal bleeding, loss of bone mineral density and even addiction to painkillers.
Natural remedies, on the other hand, are much safer for long term use.
Natural remedies for joint pain
A sedentary lifestyle can make the muscles stiff and can lead to joint pain. Exercise can help slow down the progress of osteoarthritis, a common cause of joint pain.
Physical activity helps to improve the health of the cartilage tissue. Regular exercise helps strengthens and stretches the joints and muscles, it improves circulation and reduces pain.
Low impact exercises like walking, water aerobics, cycling, swimming, and yoga are beneficial for people with joint pain. You can consult with a doctor and wear a brace around your painful joint as you start with your exercise routine.
2. Weight loss
According to a 2005 study on overweight and obese adults published in Arthritis and Rheumatism, losing one pound of weight results in four pounds of pressure reduced from the knees.
When we carry extra weight, it puts excessive pressure on the joints. For people suffering from osteoporosis or bone disorders, excessive weight can accelerate degeneration.
According to a 2010 study from the University of Paris which was published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease, weight loss can lower inflammation, improve function, and lessen pain in the body.
Experts recommend that you must lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight to see improved symptoms of joint pain in the body.
3. Soak in Epsom salt
Epsom salts can work wonders for joint pain, muscle aches, and inflammation. When you add Epsom salts into your bath water, it breaks down into magnesium and sulfate.
When you soak in this bathwater, these are then absorbed into the body through the skin and help reduce inflammation.
Add around two cups of these salts to warm bath water and soak in this water for at least 20 minutes. You can also add half a cup of Epsom salt to a bowl of warm water and soak your painful joint in it or use it in a compress and apply it directly to the skin.
4. Heat therapy
Heat helps to relax muscles, and it can also lubricate joints. Heat can relax stiff, tense and sore muscles. Heat therapy also stimulates blood flow and improves circulation, which helps in increasing the range of motion and reduces stiffness in joints.
You can use heat therapy devices like heating pads, heat packs, hand towel soaked in hot water, hot water bottle or a warm water soak for heat therapy.
Make sure the temperature is not too high, or you can put your skin at risk for burns. Do not apply heat to skin that is cut or injured. Never use heat for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
5. Cold therapy
When joint pain causes a sensation of burning, you can cool it off by applying an ice pack to help numb the pain.
Cold treatment is beneficial in reducing inflammation, which is one of the leading causes of arthritis-related joint pain and stiffness. Placing a cold pack of a swollen joint helps bring down the swelling and reduces the pain.
You can use a cold pack, a bag of ice or a packet of frozen vegetables for cold therapy. Use a cotton cloth or towel between the skin and the ice pack to prevent irritation.
If you notice your skin becoming numb, red or blotchy, remove the pack immediately. Do not apply the pack for longer than 20 minutes. If you have circulatory problems, you should not use ice packs.
6. Dietary changes
Although there is no magic food to help you ease the pain, there is growing evidence to show that certain foods and spices can help fight inflammation and relieve joint pain. Add these foods to your diet to reduce joint pain –
Cruciferous vegetables: Vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage contain sulforaphane which helps slow down cartilage damage.
Fatty fish: Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, to reduce inflammation. You can also take omega-3 supplements.
Garlic: Garlic contains a compound known as diallyl disulfide which may help ease the symptoms of diseases like arthritis.
Tart cherries: Tart cherries contain anthocyanins which help provide relief from symptoms of arthritis.
Turmeric: Turmeric contains a beneficial compound called curcumin, which helps in the management of chronic inflammation-related joint diseases.
Vitamin C: Foods rich in vitamin C like kiwi, strawberries, oranges, and pineapple help slow down the progress of osteoarthritis.
Collagen is a nutritional supplement that is rich in amino acids that play an essential role in the growth and repair of the cartilage of the joints, and it also has anti-inflammatory effects.
Beef, chicken, fish and eggshell membranes are some of some of the best dietary sources of collagen. You can also take collagen in the form of supplements like collagen protein powder.
8. Essential oils
Essential oils are very effective in reducing g the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis-like swelling, inflammation, stiffness, and pain.
Some of the best essential oils for reducing joint pain include eucalyptus oil, Frankincense oil, lavender oil, primrose oil, ginger, basil, and turmeric essential oils.
You can use these oils by adding a few drops to hot water and inhaling the steam, mixing them in bath oil or using them in diffusers. You can also dilute them and massage them on painful joints.
Join pain is common problems that are known to affect one in three adults. When it is caused by conditions like arthritis or due to sports injuries, joint pain can make even the most mundane daily activities painful.
However, instead of opting for painkillers, you should opt for natural remedies to lower inflammation and ease the pain.