With the rapid rate of increase in the incidence of arthritis, a condition characterized by chronic pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints, the current market is soaring with treatments and medications for relieving arthritic joint pains. However, researchers have reported that these conventional drugs can only bring instant relief by treating the symptoms, without targeting the underlying cause.
Moreover, these drugs can cause many adverse effects like gastrointestinal bleeding, heart stroke, liver and kidney damage, etc., that in some cases may out weight their benefits. Hence, a holistic approach encompassing a whole lifestyle change and the incorporation of complementary therapies like the use dietary supplements can bring maximum relief from joint pains.
Supplements to Relieve Arthritic Joint Pains
Even if you have started including foods rich in anti-inflammatory agents and anti-oxidants in your diet for treating arthritis, you can ask your doctor to recommend supplements suitable to treat the severity of your condition, in order to obtain a more effective and a faster relief from joint aches. A few such supplements have been listed below.
Devil’s claw is an ancient, African herb that has been shown to have maximum potential for alleviating joint pains, within a short span of 10 days. Its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects have been compared to ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), without eliciting any adverse effects caused most commonly by medications used for treating arthritis. Its active compound called harpagoside, aids in relieving joint pains due to inflammation and reduces the levels of uric acid in the joints, whose accumulation leads to a condition called gout.
A study published in 2002 showed that a daily intake of 60 mg of devil’s claw significantly improved mobility, joint pain and flexibility in 50-70% of its participants and hence, devil’s claw has been approved by German Commission E for treating joint aches in patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee, lower back and hip areas. However, the use of devil’s claw is contra-indicated for pregnant women, people who have gallstones or ulcers and patients who are on blood-thinning and diabetic medications.
Vitamins are crucially important for boosting the immune system, promoting growth and repair of joints and for eliminating harmful free radicals from the body, that are all partly responsible for relieving the arthritic joint pains. A daily intake of vitamin B complex, especially about 3grams of vitamin B-3 helps in re-generating new cells for promoting repair of the joint lining and cartilage that gets damaged over a period of time, due to the prolonged inflammation of the joints.
Vitamin A, C and E act as potent anti-oxidants to prevent the accumulation of toxic free radicals that promote inflammation of the joints. Vitamin D aids in increasing bone density and in protecting the cartilage from damage by increasing the rate of absorption of calcium and phosphorous, required for maintaining bone health. However, an over dosage of vitamins can lead to insomnia, nausea, headaches, etc., making it mandatory for you to seek medical advice before taking them on a daily basis.
Well, one of the most common drugs used for treating arthritic joint pains is aspirin, which is originally extracted from the barks of the willow tree. It is composed of salicylic acid or salicin, a compound known for its remarkable anti-inflammatory potential. The use of willow bark dates back to the time of Hippocrates, when it was advised to chew the bark of willow tree to reduce headaches and body pains related to fever.
A study published in 2001 reported that a daily dose of 240 milligrams of salicin significantly relieved moderate to severe joint pains in arthritic patients. The use of willow bark or “herbal aspirin” helps you in overcoming gastrointestinal disorders, which is one of the most prominent side effects of aspirin. However, consult a naturopathic physician to find out the correct dosage and the suitability of this remedy for treating your condition, since an over dosage of salicin has been shown to cause kidney damage.
Being one of the richest source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are commonly referred to as omega-3-fatty acids, fish oil serves as one the best supplements for combating the redness, swelling and inflammation of arthritic joints that is responsible for joint pains.
In addition to blocking the synthesis and accumulation of exogenous mediators of inflammation and pain like prostaglandins and histamines in the body, EPA also helps to promote blood circulation, thus reducing the stiffness of the joints. Studies have shown that the long-term use of fish oil (6 grams a day for 4 months) can reduce morning stiffness and joint tenderness by enhancing the effects of NSAIDs and by even eliminating the need of NSAIDs in some.
Ideally, two servings of 3 ounce of fish per week have been recommended for treating arthritic joint pains. Since, food alone cannot supply you with adequate amounts of fish oil, a dosage of 2.6 grams of fish oil supplement, twice a day, in the form of chewable tablets, capsules or liquid has been used for reducing inflammation and swelling associated with joint aches. However, ensure that you buy these supplements from brands that follow safe and good manufacturing practices, without loading the fish oil with mercury that can cause severe adverse effects.
Bromelain are a set of proteolytic enzymes found in pineapple, which break the chemical bonds between proteins. They are known for their ability to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation of joints in arthritic patients. They also increase the flexibility of joints by healing repetitive strain injuries. Available in the form of capsules and tablets, a daily dosage of 500 – 2000 mg of bromelain has been recommended three times a day between meals. However, an over dosage of bromelain can cause diarrhea and interfere with anti-coagulants like warfarin.
Even though, the aforementioned supplements can be used to make up for the dietary deficiencies and prevent the joints from deteriorating any further, bear in mind that these supplements come in very high dosages and hence, consulting your doctor before taking them is advisable to avoid experiencing their adverse effects through their interactions with the drugs that have been prescribed for treating your joint pains.
A few side effects immediately after you start taking these supplements may be an indication of the body trying to adjust to the intake of these new supplements. However, if you experience serious side effects like lower back pains, insomnia, shortness of breath, etc., for a prolonged period of time, you should consult your doctor and get the dosage re-adjusted or discontinue the supplement as soon as possible.