Thaw Out Those Achy Winter Joints

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

December 2, 2015

  • Chilled to the bone
  • Let’s thaw out those creaky joints
  • …And take the aches and pains out of winter

Now that December is here, many of my seasonal patients are back in South Florida. These are folks who come down from the northern states to escape the cold winter weather.

But in many cases, it’s not that they actually dislike the winter months. It’s more that the snow and chilly weather they used to love has turned into their enemy.

Some have become more susceptible to colds and flus over the years. Others are prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). But by far, it’s joint pain and stiffness that presents the biggest problems for my northern patients.

Now, joint problems aren’t confined to cold weather. They can happen year round, no matter what climate you live in. It’s just that being cold can aggravate the symptoms.

Part of the problem could be restricted blood flow. When you’re cold, your body conserves heat by increasing blood flow to your heart and lungs. This means your joints and limbs are receiving less oxygen rich blood than usual.

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At the same time, changes in the barometric pressure can cause swelling around irritated joints. This puts pressure on the nerves, causing pain and inflammation.

The key, then, is to get the chill out of those bones and arrest that inflammation.

Now, not everyone can afford to spend their winters in Florida. But you can create a warm and humid environment to loosen up those stiff joints.

When pain and stiffness start setting in, run a nice, warm bath. Add about 2 cups of Epsom salts, which will help relax skeletal muscle and loosen those stiff joints.

For extra relief, add three or four drops of an essential oil with anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Some good choices include eucalyptus, peppermint, menthol or wintergreen. You can even blend them, but don’t use more than about 6 drops in total or it can irritate your skin.

Once your joints are loosened up, apply a topical capsaicin formulation directly to the sore joint. This compound, which comes from hot peppers, works to block the chemical that carries pain signals to your brain.

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I prefer roll-on formulas. This way, you can apply it without getting it on your hands – or in your eyes. Look for a maximum-strength formula that contains 0.75% capsaicin.

For long-term relief, it’s also important to add other pain-relieving treatments to the mix. And I don’t mean NSAID pain relievers. These drugs – even if they’re sold over the counter – can speed up the breakdown of joint cartilage, hasten deterioration of the joints, accelerate arthritic damage and hurt your kidneys, GI tract and cardiovascular system.

Instead, there are some naturally powerful nutrients that work just as well, without the damage.

One of my top choices is green lipped mussel extract. You might not have heard of this before. Most people haven’t.

It’s high in something called “furan” fatty acids. These fatty acids are even more powerful than omega-3s when it comes to scavenging damaging free radicals and fighting off inflammation. Just 150 mg. daily can reduce joint tenderness, morning stiffness and improve pain levels by 70% or more.

You can also combine green lipped mussel extract with other natural anti-inflammatories to boost arthritis relief even more.

Turmeric is high on my list. The key compound in it, curcumin, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities which make it a powerful weapon against arthritis and joint pain. Regular use can reduce pain and stiffness, improve joint function and decrease inflammatory markers.

Look for a formula that also includes bioperine. This is a black pepper fruit extract that substantially increases turmeric’s bioavailability. It should be standardized to contain 90 to 95 percent total curcuminoids. Take 250 to 500 mg. three times per day.

I also recommend trading in your NSAIDs 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 into acetylsalicylic acid in 1898 to become the aspirin.

White willow bark lasts longer than aspirin and doesn’t pose as great a risk for gastrointestinal harm. Take 50 to 100 mg. daily with a meal.

Now that you’ve taken care of the creaks and aches in your joints, you can stay more active. This, in itself, will add further relief to help you remain active and pain free all winter long…and throughout the other seasons of the year.

Rains C, et al. Topical capsaicin. A review of its pharmacological properties and therapeutic potential in post-herpetic neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy and osteoarthritis. Drugs Aging. 1995 Oct;7(4):317-28.

Hauser RA. The Acceleration of Articular Cartilage Degeneration in Osteoarthritis by Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs. Journal of Prolotherapy. 2010;(2)1:305-322.

Gibson SL, et al. The treatment of arthritis with a lipid extract of Perna canaliculus: a randomized trial. Comp Ther Med 1998;6:122–6.

Henrotin Y, et al. Curcumin: a new paradigm and therapeutic opportunity for the treatment of osteoarthritis: curcumin for osteoarthritis management. Springerplus. 2013; 2: 56.

Schmid B, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of a standardized willow bark extract in patients with osteoarthritis: randomized placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2001 Jun;15(4):344-50.

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