It’s interesting that, in this so-called information age, myths, rumors, and misinformation abounds, even with something as common as joint pain. Joint pain can be the result of several causes, including injury, inflammation, osteoarthritis, STD’s, and auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Spotting the Symptoms
Severe joint pain affects more than 15 million Americans each year. Learning how to spot the symptoms of joint pain can help you get a handle on things before you fall into this category. Common symptoms of joint pain include:
- Feeling warm to the touch
- Locking of the joint
- Loss of range of motion
- Limping or favoring one part of the body
As a chiropractor for musculoskeletal pain relief, painful joints are a common complaint at my clinic, but it’s surprising the myths that people repeat about their joint pain, regardless of the causation for their pain.
Let’s set the record straight and dispel the top 5 myths about joint pain many people believe are true.
Myth #1-Rain or Bad Weather Makes Joint Pain Worse
This is perhaps one of the oldest myths around, but it isn’t actually true. Doctors do not receive more complaints about joint pain before or during bad weather than other times of the year. There have also been numerous scientific studies done trying to see if there was a link between weather, a drop in the air pressure, or anything that would account for this myth, but to date, nothing has been found.
Perhaps the only possible explanation for this rumor to continue is that colder temperatures do make joints hurt more as the cold makes the joints less flexible. Humidity might also affect our joints since it does influence the expansion and contraction of the tissues in the joint.
Myth #2-You Need Heat for Joint Pain, Not Ice
While this makes sense on the outside, especially when you consider what we discussed in myth #1, that cold temperatures make joints more painful, this myth is only partially true.
When joints are inflamed or are painful in the evenings after a day of activity, ice can help to relieve pain, swelling, and ease inflammation. When joints are stiff, especially in the mornings, or the temperatures are lower, heat will help to relax the muscles and loosen joints that have become stiff and painful.
Myth #3-If You Have Joint Pain, You Have Arthritis
As mentioned above, joint pain can come from a variety of problems and doesn’t always mean arthritis. Injuries, whether old or new, can cause joint pain, tendonitis, bursitis, inflammation, and auto-immune diseases cause joint pain.
Joint pain should be properly diagnosed before assuming that it is simply arthritis. While it’s true that osteoarthritis after 50 is one of the leading causes of joint pain, it isn’t the only one. Including the causes mentioned above, joint pain can also be caused by gout, osteoporosis, bone cancer, fibromyalgia, infections, even common sprains or strains from overwork or repetitive motions can lead to joint pain.
Myth #4-Rum-Soaked Raisins, Agave Leaves Soaked in Alcohol, etc. Are a Cure for Arthritis
First, there is no cure for any form of arthritis. You can manage symptoms, perhaps even delay the advancement of some forms of arthritis by losing weight or making other lifestyle changes, but there is no cure.
Many people visit their doctors and chiropractors only after their folk remedy has failed to provide them with relief. If someone finds pain relief by using some of the above methods, even if only through the placebo effect, then keep using it! Just realize that relief from symptoms is not a cure.
Myth #5-Eating Nightshade Vegetables Stops or Cures Arthritis
This is like myth #4 and is also not true. An age-old folk remedy says that consuming more nightshade vegetables, such as eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, and okra can cure arthritis.
Once more, there is no cure for arthritis. However, this isn’t to say that dietary changes cannot help to reduce joint pain, including pain caused by arthritis.
Reduce Joint Pain Via Dietary Changes & Anti-inflammatory Supplements
Inflammation is one of the root causes of joint pain, as well as the driver behind other diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Modern day diets tend to increase chronic inflammation in the body. Patients who eat more foods and/or supplements that have anti-inflammatory agents have less pain than those who eat the standard American diet.
By making better dietary choices, we can avoid and limit chronic inflammation in the body.
Foods That Cause Inflammation
It’s no surprise that the same foods that cause inflammation are the unhealthy foods your mother and doctor have probably warned you about, such as :
- Refined Carbs, including white bread, cookies, bagels, cookies, and baked goods
- Fried Foods, such as French fries, fried meats, and deep fried anything
- Margarine, shortening, and lard
- Sodas or other sugar filled drinks, including fruit drinks
- Processed Meat, like hot dogs, bacon, and sausage
- Red Meat, including steak and hamburgers
Foods That Fight Inflammation
Almost all natural and healthy foods fight inflammation, but there are a few that deserve a special mention. Include plenty of the following in your diet to beat inflammation:
- Olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
- Nuts, especially walnuts and almonds
- Fatty fish, such as sardines, tuna, salmon, and mackerel
- Green leafy vegetables, including collard greens, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard
- Fruits, including cherries, oranges, grapefruit, and all type of berries, especially blueberries
For Those Who Can’t Eat the Anti-Inflammatory Diet
There are a variety of reasons why people can’t eat some or a great many of the anti-inflammatory foods including allergies, digestive problems, or a plain dislike of some of the foods. Others find it difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables to reap the benefits of this diet.
Other people have severe and chronic inflammation issues that need more help than diet alone can provide. For these patients, I have recommended anti-inflammatory supplements. In my practice, I have seen tremendous results from the regular use of these supplements, in addition to the removal of inflammation causing foods, and regular chiropractic care.
Top 5 Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
While there are a great many herbal and natural supplements to fight inflammation, I often recommend the following because of their effectiveness.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the curry spice turmeric. This ancient herb used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years has been studied perhaps more than any other herb for its powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. The average recommended dose is 2 grams per day. Since you probably couldn’t eat enough curry sauce to get that amount each day, supplements make this super anti-inflammatory spice easy to consume.
2. Fish Oil
Unless you love fish so much that you plan to eat it more than 3 times a week, fish oil supplements are recommended. This omega-3 based oil has been shown in studies to benefit the brain, the heart, and every single joint in the body, as well as relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
While magnesium can be found in many foods, such as nuts, whole grains, and cabbage, most American’s are woefully deficient. This is most likely because humans have a difficult time absorbing this mineral from the foods we eat. While you can take supplements orally, magnesium is better absorbed through the skin. I recommend dissolving 2 cups of Epsom salt in a warm bath and soaking two or more times per week. Epsom salt isn’t salt at all, but magnesium flakes.
This is another powerful anti-inflammatory that has also been shown in studies to help stop problems which begin in the brain, such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. In another study done at the University of Miami, ginger was found to be just as powerful at stopping inflammation as many NSAIDs. While ginger comes in many forms, capsules appear to provide more benefits than other methods, such as teas or tinctures.
5. Green Tea
While other kinds of tea, such as black or white teas, have their benefit, there is little to match the powerful and unique catechins in green tea. Not only does this type of tea fight inflammation, studies show that it boosts the T cells in your immune system to fight against infections, both viral and bacterial. You need to drink at least 5 cups of green tea to reap the full benefits, which is why many people take green tea supplements.
There is no single answer to stopping joint pain, especially if it does stem from arthritis. Speak to your chiropractor and/or doctor about taking steps to help prevent joint pain.