Natural Joint Pain Remedies

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By Michael Harman; Licensed Acupuncturist at Whole Health Center- Highlands Ranch
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When you got out of bed this morning, did you have pain in your hips, knees, back, or another area in your body? Did you think it is no big deal, it has been going on for so long; or, it is just what happens after you have too many birthdays? Did you automatically reach for the bottle of Tylenol or Advil? Are you able to enjoy the same activities you did when you were younger?

As we experience pain and swelling in our joints, it is easy to feel like our bodies are wearing out or breaking down like an old car. Maybe we are developing the same arthritis that our parents or grandparents had, and there is nothing we can do about it because it is in our genes, right?

In my clinical experience, I have seen many things that lead to chronic joint pain.  More often than not, it is not old age; it is inflammation! And, the pain you are feeling is your body’s way of telling you that it is irritated and needs help.

Our bodies are not made of mechanical parts with built-in obsolescence like our cars. They are made of living cells that can strengthen and grow when fully nourished and used properly.  Yet most of us are better at making sure we have done oil changes and other scheduled car maintenance than we are at taking care of our bodies.

Common Causes of Joint Pain:

  • Arthritis – there are many forms of arthritic conditions.  Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis are the most common. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease causing inflammation in the synovial fluid surrounding the joint. It sets itself apart from other forms of arthritis with some telltale features like the general location in the hands or feet, a hot or warm feeling in the joint, stiffness for over 30 minutes in the morning, the same joint affected on both sides of the body, and pain that can last through the night. With this form of arthritis, most people notice the pain eases the more they use the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is closely tied to genetic factors that lead to an autoimmune problem. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, feels worse the more you exercise and as the day wears on. Also linked to inflammation, this type of arthritis is attributed to a break down in joint cartilage. It generally affects the hips, knees, spine, hands and feet, and develops as a wear-and-tear situation.
  • Tendonitis – inflammation in the tendon surrounding the joint tissue. For example, tennis or golfer’s elbow, and Achilles tendonitis.
  • Bursitis – inflammation in the bursa or joint capsule. This can be from trauma or overuse.
  • Infectious disease – rheumatic fever, mumps, chicken pox, hepatitis, and influenza can also cause pain in the joints. Lupus or SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) causes a soreness and inflammation of joints. If left undiagnosed and untreated Lupus can lead to problems more severe than pain. If pain is accompanied with a headache, tiredness, and a bull’s-eye rash, you could be affected by Lyme’s disease.
  • Gout – usually located in the lower extremities and big toe joint. This tends to be a temporary condition and is treated with dietary changes.
  • Obesity – creates added pressure on bones and muscles.  Leads to inactivity of the muscles and joints, and besides causing pain can also contribute to injuries.
  • Trauma – injuries can be a contributor to painful joints. Swelling and redness may occur around the injured area when ligaments, cartilage or bone within the joint are affected by sports activity, overuse, or accident.
  • Emotional stress – joint pain can often be reflective of some aspect of an individual’s “inner” life. In Eastern medicine traditions, pain is a sign of energy blockage, which can also mean emotional energy or life force (known as Qi, pronounced “chee”). Pain in the knees may indicate an inability to move forward for fear of criticism or a lack of self-acceptance. Some folks feel neck or back pain only while at work or around certain people who make them feel tense or burdened. It may seem like a big leap to connect emotional stress with joint pain, but we easily accept the idea that the body stores tension in the muscles.  So it should not be difficult to accept the notion that your emotional life can impact your joints, too.
  • Family History – some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are connected to genetic make-up.  If anyone in your family has had it, this places you at higher risk — but again, giving you only a greater predisposition, not the certainty — of developing it.

Complaints of joint pain increase during cold weather because your blood doesn’t circulate to your extremities as well in colder temperatures. A drop in barometric pressure before a storm can also cause any inflamed tissues to expand and become more painful. In addition, certain activities may be associated with pain. For instance, does your neck or elbow hurt if you type for more than 30 minutes? Do your knees hurt only after a workout? Does your hip give way only after a long drive?

Correcting the Inflammation Problem

I have found that a combination of acupuncture, exercise and proper nutrition are the key to keeping and maintaining joint health and overall health.

With any kind of injury, it is important to give your body the right nutritional support and enough time to heal. Changing the diet to include more vegetables and fruits, making sure your water intake is substantial, and including an exercise program in your daily activities will help.  Start now to implement a lifestyle of healthy eating. Healthy foods include raw fruits and vegetables, along with fish (rich in omega-3 fats) like salmon, herring, mackerel and tuna. Because of our increasingly-polluted waters, a pharmaceutical grade omega-3 supplement may be a safer choice than frequent fish consumption. Drink plenty of clean, pure water and minimize sugar and refined foods. Allow these new habits to become a lifestyle, and not just a passing phase!

Nutrition tips:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink at least 50% of your body weight in ounces (e.g. if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water per day). Caffeine, sodas, and alcohol don’t count, and in my opinion, have a subtracting effect.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast with ample protein.
  • Avoid sugars, simple carbohydrates, and alcohol, as these are associated with inflammation, and easily convert to fat and weight gain.
  • Avoid inflammatory fats/oils such as butter, milk, ice cream, margarine, trans-fats, vegetable shortenings and oils like corn, soy, safflower, canola and sesame, etc. These fats even more detrimental when heated or processed.
  • Consume anti-inflammatory fats/oils like plant or animal-based omega-3s: flaxseed, pumpkin seed, olive, coconut, mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines, walnuts.
  • Eat more green, leafy vegetables.
  • Eat legumes, but avoid soy
  • Take Vitamin D3, B-12, calcium & magnesium.  Be cautious of poor quality calcium and be sure to add vitamin K2 to help distribute the calcium to where it needs to go, rather than to joints or blood vessels.
  • Take herbs such as alfalfa leaves, black cohosh, cayenne, celery seed, chaparral leaves, comfrey, ginger, parsley, valerian root and yucca extract.

Exercise:

A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to disease. Maintaining movement in your body is crucial. A good brisk walk while swinging your arms is one of the best forms of exercise.  Try flexibility exercises to help gently stretch muscles and take joints through their full range of motion. Some common practices are Yoga, Tai Ji, and Qi Gong.  If even the simplest of movements causes pain, a good way to gently move your body is in a pool. The warm water will soothe and the buoyancy helps reduce strain on your joints.

Warmth can alleviate the aches and pains of arthritis, so keep warm, especially while sleeping.

Watch your weight! Being overweight not only puts stress on your joints, but on your entire body. Losing weight will help you improve joint function, allow your body to function properly, and to be free of disease.

How Acupuncture Helps - Acupuncture is scientifically proven to:

  • Increase endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers)
  • Calm the sympathetic nervous system
  • Reduce muscle spasms
  • Decrease inflammation and swelling

Joint pain can severely impact quality of life, making it difficult to get around and hard to function on a daily basis. Using these joint pain management techniques will help you maintain an optimal range of motion and lead an enjoyable life.

Join Michael for a complimentary discussion and free acupuncture treatment to see how he can help alleviate your pain at Whole Foods Market (9366 S. Colorado Blvd, Highlands Ranch, CO 80126) on Thursday, June 21 @ 6:30PM. Space is limited. Please RSVP to 303-471-9355

 

Disclaimer:

People are like snowflakes: no two are alike. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another and can, at times, do damage. The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated the statements contained on these pages. The information contained here is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Suggestions and ideas presented in this document are for information only and should not be interpreted as medical advice, used for diagnosing illness, or for prescriptive purposes.  Readers are encouraged to consult their healthcare provider before beginning any cleanse, diet, detoxification program, or any supplement regimen. The information in this document is not to be used to replace the services or instructions of a physician or qualified healthcare practitioner.

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