Joint pain can slow us down or stop us cold. It occurs when chronic inflammation wears down joints and other tissues, resulting in pain and stiffness. That inflammation can be the result of poor food choices, a lack of physical activity, chronic stress, and weight gain, along with the increasing amount of toxins in our environment.
But solutions are at our fingertips. “It all starts with diet and exercise,” says Isaac Eliaz, MD, “the two main prescriptions for nearly every chronic condition.”
You can start on the road to relief by making improvements in these three areas:
1. At the dinner table
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for reducing inflammation. Fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines are among the best sources of EPA and DHA, while flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts are excellent plant sources of ALA.
Consider spicing up your fish dishes with turmeric or ginger, which contain anti-inflammatory compounds. Other bone- and joint-healthy foods include dark green, leafy vegetables (think chard, spinach, kale); almonds and other nuts; and whole grains.
2. On the exercise path
Exercising with sore joints may be difficult at first, but studies show that the more you move, the easier it will become. Low-impact activities such as biking, swimming, walking, yoga, and t’ai chi provide strengthening and can reduce stiffness and pain. Weight-bearing exercises can increase bone density to help prevent osteoporosis, but go easy at first because overdoing it can damage joints.
3. In the supplement aisle
Certain supplements help reduce joint pain and strengthen connective tissues. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are among the best known in this category. A recent study of 1,120 people with knee osteoarthritis found that taking combined glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate once or three times daily provided clinically significant pain relief.
In addition to omega 3s, another helpful supplement is vitamin D3, which aids in calcium absorption and helps provide protection against osteoporosis.
Homeopathic options include Bryonia, Rhus tox, Belladonna, and Arnica. These are sold in various forms, including topical solutions.
“Arthritis: Overview,” University of Maryland Medical Center, www.umm.edu, 2/14/11
“Combined Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate, Once or Three Times Daily, Provides Clinically Relevant Analgesia in Knee Osteoarthritis” by J.R. Provenza et al., Clin Rheumatol, 8/3/14
The Complete Homeopathic Resource for Common Illnesses by Dennis Chernin, MD, MPH ($29.95, North Atlantic, 2006)