David Blyweiss, M.D.
When I say “joint pain,” what comes to mind? For most people, it’s osteoarthritis. But there are a number of other conditions that can cause joint pain. Known collectively as arthralgia, generalized joint pain also includes rheumatoid arthritis (RA)—an autoimmune disorder that causes stiffness and pain due to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. Another reason your joints hurt may be bursitis—inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion and pad bony prominences that allow muscles and tendons to move freely over the bone.
Whatever the cause, joint pain can make you miserable and prevent you from doing the things you love. It can limit your range of motion and even make it difficult to walk or participate in everyday activities. But there are a collection of natural compounds that can ease debilitating joint pain, no matter what the cause.
One of my top choices for joint pain is green lipped mussel extract. Never heard of it? Most people haven’t. Yet green lipped mussel extract has been shown to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with OA, RA, bursitis and even sports injuries. One reason for this is that green lipped mussel extract is exceptionally rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids ease joint pain and inflammation by increasing the production and activity of anti-inflammatory unsaturated fatty acids, called prostaglandins. In one preliminary trial, people taking a freeze-dried green-lipped mussel extract experienced reduced joint tenderness and morning stiffness, as well as an improvement in overall function.
I also recommend anti-inflammatory herbs like boswellia or turmeric to my patients who suffer from joint pain. Boswellia offers anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties thanks to its two major phytochemicals: boswellin and boswellic acid. Useful in reducing knee pain, increasing knee flexion and lessening the frequency of swelling in the knee joint, this natural resin extract can be taken as a tablet or capsule, or used topically as a cream to relieve pain.
Turmeric is a perennial herb in the ginger family that has been used for centuries as a treatment for inflammatory disorders like arthritis. Curcumin, the key polyphenolic compound in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties that are effective in treating arthritis and other types of joint pain. But curcumin, by itself, isn’t readily absorbed by the body. That’s why I recommend looking for a curcumin supplement that also includes biperine, a black pepper extract that substantially increases its bioavailability.
I also recommend trading in that aspirin or ibuprofen for white willow bark. Known as “nature’s aspirin,” the active ingredient in willow bark is salicylic acid. This is the same compound that was synthesized in 1898 to become the aspirin. So why not just pop an aspirin? Because, although the natural salicin found in willow bark generally takes longer to work than aspirin, it lasts longer and ultimately does not pose as great a risk for gastrointestinal harm.
Of course, you could take all of these supplements individually. But, I’ve found that taking them in a combination supplement like Arthrocet can be an easy and effective way to soothe joint pain while enhancing mobility. This will not only allow you to better perform everyday tasks; you’ll be able to take part in exercise like water aerobics or tai chi that helps maintain your joint strength and range of motion. Over time, you’ll find that the combination of Arthrocet and joint-friendly exercise can bring your joints back into motion.
Brien S. Systematic review of the nutritional supplement Perna Canaliculus (green-lipped mussel) in the treatment of osteoarthritis. QJM: Monthly Journal of the Association of Physicians. 2008;101:167-179.
Funk JL. Turmeric Extracts Containing Curcuminoids Prevent Experimental Rheumatoid Arthritis. Journal of Natural Products. 2006; ;69:351-355.
Kimmatkar N. Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee–a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:3-7