Pain Relief

What Are the Best Natural Remedies for Joint Pain?

By Justin Fowler-Lindner

Joint pain can limit mobility and seriously affect your quality of life. Recurring knee pain, for example, can haunt you no matter how many ibuprofens (Advils) you take.

The good news is that you have several natural remedies for joint pain at your disposal, including:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)
  • Ditch the sugar
  • Cut back on caffeine
  • Topical CBD (cannabidiol)
  • Exercise and weight loss

These treatments are generally side-effect free, unlike over-the-counter painkillers which can damage the gut lining and (ironically) promote long-term inflammation. 

Let’s take a closer look at the best natural remedies for joint pain:

What Causes Joint Pain?

According to the Arthritis Foundation, at least 54 million adults have some type of arthritis, not to mention the 300,000 children with rheumatic conditions.

In people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system attacks the cells and can cause severe joint pain. People with osteoarthritis, on the other hand, experience stiff, painful joints due to natural wear and tear. Of course, if you hurt yourself, acute joint pain can happen at any time.

5 Natural Remedies for Joint Pain

Joint inflammation and swelling can be beneficial for short periods of time following injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can lead to poor circulation, limited mobility, and poor quality of life. In any event, the following natural joint pain remedies should help make life a little easier:

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most powerful natural remedies for inflammation, and studies show that they can be especially effective at reducing joint pain. But before we dive into the literature, here’s a quick primer on the different kinds of omega-3s and their sources:

  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): this long-chain fatty acid is found in fish, krill, and algae oil. It’s highly bioavailable, which is good because your body needs it in large quantities to manage inflammation and reduce joint pain. 
  • Docosahexaenoic (DHA): this long-chain fatty acid can be found with EPA in fish, krill, and algae oil, and it’s also highly bioavailable. However, the body has to convert at least some of it to EPA in order to maintain a balanced ratio. 
  • Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA): this fatty acid is found in plants like green, leafy vegetables, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, as well as walnut, canola, and soybean oils. It’s a short-chain omega-3, meaning the body has to convert it into EPA and DHA before it can be utilized. Aside from green, leafy vegetables, most foods that are high in ALA are also pro-inflammatory and should be avoided if you want to reduce joint pain.

Risk factors of not getting enough EPA and DHA include inflammation, joint and arthritis pain, heart disease, digestive disorders, and cognitive decline. In fact, when the Harvard School of Public Health released its list of the biggest risk factors for death, low omega-3 intake was number eight on the list.

Here’s what the medical literature has to say about omega-3s and joint pain:

  • For four months in 2004, 250 patients complaining of nonsurgical joint pain were treated with 1200 mg of omega-3s a day. Out of the 120 who turned in the questionnaire, 60 percent said that their overall pain was improved, eighty percent said they were satisfied with the improvement, and 59 percent stopped taking their NSAIDs (over-the-counter pain relievers) because they no longer needed them. 
  • In a 2016 study involving 60 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), patients were able to reduce their painkiller intake after just four weeks of daily omega-3 supplementation. 
  • In a 2011 study, patients were treated with a combination of fish oil and lemon verbena for nine weeks. Over the course of the study, patients in the test group reported a 78% decrease in joint pain and stiffness. 

2. Ditch the Sugar

Reducing joint pain starts with healing the body from the inside-out with diet and nutrition. Processed foods that contain trans fats and added sugars can destroy the gut lining and allow inflammatory agents to run rampant throughout the body.

Inflammation that enters the bloodstream can manifest in different ways depending on the individual, but the primary side effect is often muscle, bone, and joint pain. Chances are good that when you ditch the sugar, swelling and inflammation will decrease.

Sugar consumption also promotes the stress response and increases cortisol production, which only further deteriorates the gut lining.

To top it all off, high cortisol can lead to poor sleep quality by disrupting melatonin production. Because sleep is the time when the body repairs damage, it’s easy to see how a high-sugar diet can quickly cause joint pain and inflammation to spiral out of control.

3. Cut Back On Caffeine

Like sugar, caffeine stimulates stress hormone production, damages healthy gut bacteria, and promotes inflammation. If you have serious issues with joint pain, it’s best to eliminate caffeine altogether.

With that said, caffeine is a tough habit to break. At the very least, switching to green tea will cut back your caffeine intake and add potent anti-inflammatories to your diet.

Green tea, and other teas from the Camellia sinensis plant species, like oolong and black tea, are high in the amino acid L-theanine. This valuable nutrient supports production of the neurotransmitter GABA, reduces stress, and promotes sleep.

At the same time, green tea is packed with antioxidants to protect against joint damage and promote healing. However, green tea is most well-known for the catechin called EGCG: a powerful anti-inflammatory compound.

4. CBD

Topical CBD (cannabidiol) ointments are one of the best natural remedies for inflammation and musculoskeletal pain relief. This anti-inflammatory phytocannabinoid is found in hemp and cannabis plants and has a long list of potential therapeutic benefits, including pain relief.

It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system: a network of receptors that impacts the immune, digestive, and nervous systems. In fact, the endocannabinoid system may help regulate literally every system in the body.

Although clinical studies related directly to CBD and joint pain relief are few and far between, researchers agree that the current trials are promising.

  • According to the author of this 2017 report from the Department of Pharmacology, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, “The preclinical and human data that do exist indicate that the use of cannabis should be taken seriously as a potential treatment of joint pain.”
  • In a 2008 study published in the medical journal Arthritis Rheumatology, researchers demonstrated that the cannabinoid 1 (CB(1)) receptor can modulate the perception of joint pain in rats with osteoarthritis (OA). 
  • A 2016 study examined the effectiveness of transdermal CBD gel to reduce pain and inflammation in rodents. After four days of treatment, the rats displayed fewer behavioral indicators of pain.

Fortunately, there are already plenty of different types of CBD creams and balms available online:

  • Oils have the slickest feel and are usually mixed with other oils like coconut, olive, or hemp oil. They tend to take longer to sink into the skin and are ideal for massage. 
  • Balms and salves have a thick texture and typically contain beeswax. They’re best for applying repeatedly to a small surface area. 
  • Lotions and creams are the most versatile and are typically formulated with shea butter, aloe vera, and vitamin E. They’re ideal for applying to large areas. 

To experience the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD throughout the body, you can take it orally as an edible, sublingually as an oil, or smoke it with a vaporizer (although vaping comes with its downsides). However, topical ointments are the best way to get localized joint pain relief.

5. Exercise and Weight Loss

Joint pain is generally worse if you’re overweight and under-exercised. Unnecessary weight can put pressure on the outside of the knees, alter your body mechanics, and accelerate joint damage.

If the current state of your joints allows for it, high-intensity interval (HIIT) training is one of the most effective ways to promote fat-burning. At the same time, it builds muscle strength, and strong muscles can help to stabilize the joints and protect the body from further injury. HIIT leverages a combination of weight lifting and sprint exercises, and the best part is that it only takes 15 minutes to get all of the weight loss benefits.

If your joints are too tender to do HIIT, here are a few low-impact exercises to choose from:

  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical
  • Cycling
  • Speed walking
  • Water aerobics

In general, movement is the best medicine for stiff, achy joints. Although it may feel uncomfortable at first, movement ultimately reduces inflammation and promotes lubrication by increasing synovial fluid in the joints.

Following your workout, you might feel extra sore. In that case, consider applying CBD lotion directly to the joint. Another option is to apply hot and cold treatments by alternating between an ice pack and a heating pad. 

If joint pain persists for longer than a week or two, something more serious may be going on beneath the surface. Consult with a physician to confirm that your aren’t causing permanent damage with normal activities.

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