What is Joint Pain?
Joint pain is a common problem with many possible causes, but it is usually a result of injuries or arthritis. Knee pain is the most common pain, followed by shoulder and hip. Joint pain can affect any part of your body – right from your ankles to feet, back and hands and as your grow older, joint pain becomes increasingly common.
The pain can go away in weeks (acute pain) or last for months (chronic pain), but in either case, a swelling in the joints can affect your daily routine. However, it can be managed with medication, physiotherapy, or any other alternative treatment. Here, we have highlighted the symptoms associated with joint pain, reasons why you get arthritis, simple remedies that can help you lead a healthy life, and Health Total’s pain management plan.
Symptoms Associated with Joint Pain
Joint pain can be aggravated by motion, pressure, or weight-bearing resistant with activity. Some symptoms are:
- Joint redness
- Joint swelling
When To See a Doctor
Joint pain is rarely an emergency, so it can be treated at home. But if the pain is accompanied by redness and swelling, head to your doctor. Also, if the pain is due to an injury and is accompanied by joint deformity, visit your doctor. Moreover, it’s time to lose weight.
Surprising Reasons You’re in Pain
Often, the blame for our pain rests on the simple choices we make in our life. Here are few examples of pain trigger that will surprise you.
Sandals: They provide poor arch support, leading to pain in the feet, ankles, and knees. Solution: If you’re someone who walks a lot, opt for running shoes.
Smartphones: Do you surf, text or play a lot of games on your smartphone? If yes, this is what causes pain in your thumb. Doctors say cases of arthritis at the base of the thumb in the youth has shot up, possibly due to texting. Solution: Call instead of sending a text message.
Wallet: This can be a real pain in the buttocks, leading to pain in the leg. A fat wallet can also hurt the spine and put it slightly out of alignment, causing muscle tension [Ref]. Solution: Remove your wallet before sitting.
Driving: Many people set their car seats at the wrong angle. If the seat is reclined, you can slouch forward to grip the steering wheel. This pulls your head away from the headrest and causes neck pain. Solution: Put your car seat in an upright position that supports your head and lower back.
Skipping meals: This causes your blood sugar to dip, but you can manage blood sugar easily by following a healthy diet plan. Solution: Eat nutritious food regularly.
Lifting with the back: Another major source of back pain is lifting the wrong way. Most of us curve the back forward to grab an object, then straighten the back as we lift. This forces the back muscles to take the brunt of the burden. Solution: To lift properly, bend the knees and hips until you are squatting.
Your workstation: A poorly positioned chair can cause you to slouch forward, straining the back and neck. A monitor that’s too low or too high will also strain the neck. Solution: Position your chair so that you are sitting straight with your feet on the floor. Use a cushion to support the lower back if needed.
Supplements for Joint Pain/Arthritis
Joint pain increases with age and there are times when it worsens in the presence of co-morbidities [Ref]. While there are many drugs that can reduce the pain, they cannot be consumed for a long time. This is where supplements come into play. Some of the best supplements to treat joint pain are:
SAM-e: S-adenosyl-methionine is a co-enzyme for the production of body tissue. It acts as a pain reliever and has anti-inflammatory properties. This coenzyme helps repair the joints and reduces inflammation. It also reduces muscle stiffness, muscle pain, and fatigue.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the wear and tear of the joints. These fatty acids prevent the enzymes called collagenases from damaging the joints, help reduce inflammation and strengthen the tendons. However, there are certain foods that cause inflammation and hence you should avoid them.
Glucosamine: This is one of the best supplements for knee joints. Glucosamine helps rebuild the bones and prevents cartilage wear and tear. It also prevents inflammation of the joints and adjoining muscles.
Chondroitin Sulfate: This is used with glucosamine as it helps build the cartilage. If chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine are taken in conjunction with supplements, the pain may be abated and the joints may become stronger.
Calcium: Calcium is essential for the production of bones and teeth. Calcium is helpful in reducing joint pain and is one of the best supplements for knee joints. These healthy recipes are an excellent source of calcium.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an anti-oxidizing agent that helps protect connective tissues such as the ligaments, tendons, and skin, not to mention the bones and joints. Vitamin C helps make collagen which is important for the flexibility of muscles and blood vessels.
Best Foods for Joint Pain
Although there is no specific diet cure for arthritis and joint pain, certain foods are known for fighting inflammation, strengthening bones and boosting the immune system.
Flaxseeds: For vegetarians, this is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Fish: Fish is packed with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, hence at least 3 to 4 ounces of fish twice a week is recommended.
Extra virgin olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with heart-healthy fats, as well as oleocanthal, which has properties similar to anti-inflammatory drugs. Avocado and Safflower oils too have shown cholesterol-lowering properties.
Oranges: Not just an immune-booster, oranges have also shown to help with joint pain. The best way to eat is to leave the white “fuzzy stuff” on the oranges when peeling, and always use a whole orange when making smoothies.
Dairy products and leafy vegetables: Low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are packed with calcium and Vitamin D, both known for increasing bone strength. However, if dairy doesn’t suit your digestive system, aim for other calcium and Vitamin D-rich foods like leafy vegetables.
Nuts: Nuts are rich in protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin E. They are heart-healthy and beneficial for weight loss. Try walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds.
Turmeric: It is rich in curcumin, a strong antioxidant that can decrease the number of inflammatory compounds in cartilage cells. Try adding it to rice, beans, salad dressing or curry dishes. For foods that one should avoid during arthritis, click here.
Types of Arthritis
There are more than 100 types of arthritis, but the most common ones are:
This type of degenerative arthritis is quite common; many people referring to “arthritis” mean just osteoarthritis. It’s the “wear and tear” that happens when your joints are overused. Symptoms:
- Morning stiffness for less than an hour
- Pain while walking
- Stiffness after resting
This type of arthritis is an auto-immune disorder where the immune system attacks the synovial fluid in the joints, leading to stiffness, pain, and sometimes deformities in the affected joints. Symptoms: They’re often more severe compared to osteoarthritis.
This is a condition where psoriasis of the skin is linked to joint inflammation. Psoriasis causes patchy, raised, red and white areas of inflamed skin with scales. This type of arthritis usually starts between ages 30 and 50. Symptoms: Swelling on fingers and toes. Sometimes it also affects the spine.
You can relieve acute joint pain with a few home remedies such as:
- Protect the joint with a brace or wrap.
- Rest the joint, avoiding any activities that cause pain.
- Compress the joint using an elastic wrap.
- Elevate the joint above the level of your heart.
- Apply ice or a package of frozen peas to your painful joint for 15 to 20 minutes a few times every day. This can relieve the pain.
- For muscle spasms around joints, try using a heating pad or wrap several times a day. There are other natural ways to manage joint pain symptoms.
Exercise for Joint Pain
Working out is crucial if you have arthritis, but knowing how much to exercise when you’re in pain is tricky. Here’s how to figure this out:
For mild to moderate pain in a specific joint area before workout
Start with some gentle, active range of motion movements and if you feel better, progress to some low-impact activity like walking.
If you have moderate to severe pain in a specific joint area before workout
Focus on a different area for a couple of days. For example, if you have pain in your knees, decrease the intensity of the leg workout. In case the pain becomes worse, stop the lower body moves and work on your upper body.
For moderate to severe pain during exercise
If you’re in a lot of pain while exercising, even if you’re not doing a joint-taxing workout, it may be a sign that you have inflammation in the joint or even joint damage that requires treatment.
If joint pain (not muscle pain) continues after exercise
Switch to a workout that puts less pressure on your joints.
In case of moderate to severe joint pain the day after you workout
Cut down on the intensity of your workout. If you still don’t find any change, switch to low-intensity exercises, for example, trading your elliptical workout for water aerobics.
Health Total’s Pain Management Plan
When you live with chronic pain, the only person who can know how much it hurts is you. Pain can be hard to describe because it’s both invisible and personal. However, silently bearing the pain can take a toll on your emotional health, at times leading to depression. Here is Health Total’s guide to deal with joint pain.
We recommend adding flaxseed (alsi), black til and nuts to your regular diet to ease the joint pain. Flaxseed has natural anti-inflammatory properties, which makes them beneficial for those suffering from arthritis. The omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed are used by the body to produce prostaglandins, which help reduce inflammation. You can use flaxseed in baking, cereals or salads, shakes and soups.
Black til or sesame seeds are packed with copper, which helps in reducing swelling and pain in the joints. Hence, black til is effective for knee osteoarthritis [Ref]. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help fight inflammation. Similarly, cashews are good for arthritis, thanks to their high copper and magnesium content. Know more about other nutrients that help during arthritis.
Besides this, increase intake of calcium, leafy vegetables, chana dal, soya and soya products as they are rich in proteins. Wheatgrass juice, mint and coriander juice and aloe vera juice are also good for the joints.
Herbal Formulation for Joint Pain
The symptoms of joint pain do affect our quality of life and despite taking medication, the pain can persist. Therefore to get relief, many people are seeking a natural approach by using herbal remedies. At Health Total, we too believe in going the natural way. Below are some herbs we use at Health Total to treat joint pain:
Shallaki (Boswellia serrata): There is evidence that the Ayurvedic herb Boswellia serrata, also called Indian frankincense, alleviates joint pain and inflammation. Boswellia blocks an enzyme (5-lipoxygenase) that plays a major role in the formation of chemicals called leukotrienes, which stimulate and perpetuate inflammation. Researchers have found that people with osteoarthritis who took Boswellia along with ashwagandha, turmeric, and zinc reported less joint pain and increased mobility and strength.
Guggulu: Guggulu of different kinds such as gokshuradi guggul, sihnad guggul, etc, help in reducing stiffness, pain and swelling in joints. This traditional herb also improves appetite and digestion.
Ginger: Also known as Zinziber Officinale, ginger works as an anti-inflammatory by interfering with an enzyme (cyclooxygenase) that produces inflammatory chemicals in the body. There is some data which shows that ginger has a moderately beneficial effect on OA (osteoarthritis) of the knee. Further research is needed to determine the extent of ginger’s effectiveness in treating OA.
Hadjod (Cissus Quadrangularis): This herb increases bone mineral density and increases the bone’s ability to withstand force. Hadjod also helps in relieving the pain and inflammation associated with fractures. It nourishes and strengthens cartilage and ligaments.
Shigru: It has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce pain and swelling in the joints. Shigru also improves blood circulation to the joints and is helpful for gout and cramps.
Thus, you can manage joint pain through a proper nutritional plan.