Pain Behind Knee When Walking: Top 10 Possible Underlying Causes

Pain behind your knee could be due to an injury or to dangerous medical conditions that need immediate attention. Find out what the symptoms you’re experiencing could mean.

Pain is how your body communicates with you. A pain in your head might mean you’re dehydrated, pain when touching a hot stove lets you know that’s a bad idea, and pain in your joints could be an indication of injury or arthritis. But what does pain behind your knee when walking mean? This article details potential conditions that could be causing this leg pain so you can address the issue before it becomes chronic and debilitating.

Understanding the Knee

Severe pain behind your knee when walking is not uncommon. Known as posterior knee pain, aches around the knee are a common complaint fielded by doctors.

One of the biggest joints in your body, the knee joint is also one of the most complex and load-bearing joints, tasked with keeping the body upright as you stand and walk.

Your knee is vulnerable to many types of abuse, from arthritis to injury in any one of its many moving parts—the kneecap (patella), the thigh bone (femur), the shin bone (tibia), and the various muscles, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments that come together at the knee joint. Damage anywhere could spread or worsen, which is why knee pain needs to be identified and addressed as soon as possible to avoid any interruption to your mobility.

Let’s first explore what the pain behind your knee could mean, and then figure out how to remedy it.

Pain behind the knee when walking: possible causes.

Top 10 Possible Causes of Pain Behind the Knee When Walking

Pain behind your knee could be accompanied by swelling, visible lumpiness, or a locking sensation. Any accompanying symptom could help you determine the cause of this pain, so investigate your knee thoroughly, or better yet seek an examination from a medical professional, because some of the issues that may be causing your knee pain are quite serious. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of posterior knee pain.

1. Leg Cramp

You may well know the pain caused by a charley horse in your calf, but your other leg muscles can also experience cramps, including those on the back of the thigh. Cramps occur when your muscles tighten independently of your control, and can be caused by nutrient deficiency, dehydration, nerve problems, toxicity, or liver disease. Many women experience leg cramps during pregnancy, and even more people cramp up during exercise.

Muscle spasms usually don’t last very long, but the pain they cause can linger for hours or sometimes days. If you suspect a cramp is behind your leg pain, warm or massage the area to help it heal, but be sure to monitor it: if the pain doesn’t lessen and ultimately subside soon, consult a trusted health care professional.

2. Baker’s Cyst

A baker’s cyst, otherwise known as a popliteal cyst, is a fluid-filled pocket under the skin behind the knee. The fluid in this cyst is synovial fluid, which exists to help lubricate your joints and keep them working smoothly. However, too much synovial fluid in the area could build up into a cyst.

Symptoms of a baker’s cyst (along with pain) are palpable swelling, stiffness, or trouble flexing the joint. If the cyst bursts you’ll notice a very sharp pain in the area, which is why it’s recommended you seek professional assistance in identifying and draining the cyst before that occurs.

3. Jumper’s Knee

Jumper’s knee is the common name for patellar tendonitis, aka tendonitis of the knee. The tendon that connects your kneecap to your shin bone is susceptible to knee injuries from jumping, and is often treated in sports medicine, as it’s very likely to occur in those who play basketball, volleyball, and other sports that involve jumping.

Other symptoms of jumper’s knee besides pain below your kneecap could be stiffness, weakness in the joint, or difficulty straightening or bending the knee. Proper rest may be all that is required to heal this injury, but if it persists, you may want to consult a doctor to rule out other contributing factors.

4. Calf Strain

Calf strain, or gastrocnemius tendonitis, is tendonitis that affects the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle, which is, obviously, located at the back of the lower leg. Sports like squash or tennis that involve quickly switching from standing to running can cause calf strain, and the pain of this injury may be accompanied by visible calf bruising, swelling, or trouble standing up on your tiptoes depending on the severity. Use the RICE technique (rest, ice, compress, elevate) to help this injury heal as quickly as possible.

5. Arthritis

Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that involves a gradual wearing away of the cartilage that cushions the bones of your leg. Without cartilage, the bones start to grind against each other, causing long-lasting damage and pain. Cartilage cannot regenerate, so medical assistance is required to prevent a worsening of the condition.

Different types of arthritis that could afflict the knee joint include autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis (which also comes with scaly skin patches), and osteoarthritis. Treatment options include steroid injections, specific exercises, drugs targeting the immune system, or surgery. Seek medical advice to learn which is most appropriate for your circumstances.

6. Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee, also called chondromalacia, is another joint pain issue involving cartilage breakdown, and can come about as a result of injury, overuse, arthritis, or aging. Pain behind the knee when walking occurs when your leg bones rub together without the protective divide of cartilage between them. The pain may manifest as a dull ache, and it may also worsen when climbing stairs. You may notice a grinding sensation when you walk as well.

7. Meniscus Tear

A meniscus tear is an injury to one of the two menisci that each knee has. A meniscus tear can happen suddenly, or gradually develop as the meniscus starts to wear down. Athletes often injure their menisci, and you may notice a popping sound or sensation at the moment of injury, followed by pain, swelling, weakness, stiffness, or a giving or locking feeling in the joint.

8. Deep Vein Thrombosis 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the leg that causes pain, particularly when you stand up. DVT is incredibly dangerous, as a “thrown” clot that breaks off and travels through the body could result in a pulmonary embolism and possible death.

Other symptoms of a blood clot include leg swelling, a warming sensation in the area, and reddened skin. Seek medical advice as soon as possible if you suspect deep vein thrombosis.

9. Hamstring Injuries

Hamstring tendonitis and hamstring sprain are two injuries that could affect one of the three hamstring muscles located at the back of your thigh (the biceps femoris muscle, semitendinosus muscle, and semimembranosus muscle). These muscles allow your knees to bend, and an injury there could manifest as pain at the back of the knee. It may also involve swelling, bruising, or noticeable weakness at the back of the leg. Hamstring injuries are common among athletes who compete in fast sports like track, tennis, basketball, and soccer.

10. Ligament Injury

The knee ligaments that attach your thigh bone to your shin bone include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). PCL injuries are most often caused by car accidents, and ACL injuries are the most common overall as it is the ligament that crosses diagonally through the knees and keeps your shin bones from sliding up in front of your thigh bones. A ligament tear could cause knee-area pain when walking and may require surgery to repair.

Knee Pain Diagnosis

It is important to seek medical attention for many of these conditions. A doctor may utilize X-rays or an MRI to assess whether your pain is due to bone or soft tissue injury, and may also recommend treatment options spanning from over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen) to surgery and physical therapy. Take care of your joints with natural joint health supplements, and be sure to help them heal when they’re injured, because an untreated joint injury could permanently limit your range of motion and disrupt the enjoyment of your life.

Thumb Knuckle Pain: The Top 6 Possible Causes

Thumb knuckle pain: what does it mean when you have unexplained pain in your thumb pad, lower joint, or knuckle? Find out what could be the underlying cause and how to get relief. 

If you have persistent pain at the base of the thumb, right at the knuckle joint, or in your thumb pad, you might be worried about what it could mean. Did you sprain your thumb, somehow sleep on it wrong, or could it be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis? This article reviews a few thumb knuckle pain culprits, and what you can do to help treat the cause of this discomfort.

Joint Pain Overview

If you’re young and experiencing joint pain, you may not immediately jump to the conclusion that it could be arthritis or some other serious joint-affecting condition like degenerative joint disease or gout. However, data shows that these conditions, though statistically more likely to develop with age, can afflict people as young as 40 (arthritis) or 30 (gout). In all honesty, our bodies start declining in little ways after the age of 25, and after that it’s just the luck of the draw on the genetic lottery sometimes, especially with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re experiencing unexplained tenderness anywhere from the base of the thumb to thumb middle joint pain, discomfort so palpable that it’s interfering with your thumb’s range of motion, then it could be the sign of a serious condition, regardless of your age.

Thumb knuckle pain: top 6 possible causes.

Thumb Knuckle Pain: The Top 6 Possible Causes

Our thumb joints are one of the evolutionary wonders that differentiate us from our ape ancestors, and thumb knuckle pain can throttle your fine motor skills.

If you can’t think of any reason why your thumb knuckle is in pain—something as innocent as maybe you spent some time cracking walnuts or you’ve gotten a new keyboard and it could be a mild case of wrist tendinitis—then you could be worrying about one of the following underlying conditions.

1. Basal Joint Arthritis or Osteoarthritis

Basal joint arthritis could be causing your joint pain. The basal joint lies at the base of your thumb, just above the wrist. A wearing away of the cartilage in this joint is commonly called “thumb arthritis,” and comes not only with pain but also the loss of thumb mobility and the possible loss of thumb grip strength.

Our joint cartilage provides a cushion at the spot where two bones would otherwise meet and grind together. Cartilage cannot heal on its own, because, unlike other forms of tissue in the body, it has no blood supply to provide a healing pathway. Becoming aware of cartilage damage as soon as possible is important so you can ask your doctor how to prevent further breakdown.

Cartilage breakdown in the joints is also known as osteoarthritis, and it’s the most common form of arthritis worldwide.

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Thumb arthritis could also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis in the thumb. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can affect many of your joints. Rheumatoid pain in your thumb joint might be experienced as a stabbing, burning, or milder creaking pain.

3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by a pinched or compressed median nerve in the “tunnel” it travels through your wrist. This could cause tingling, burning, numbness, or weakness in your finger joints, thumb joints, or wrists. A common condition in the United States, carpal tunnel affects up to 6% of adults, though it’s more likely to occur in women rather than men.

Long-term repetitive movements of the hand are risk factors for developing carpal tunnel. Imagine the repetitive work of jobs like stenographer, cashier, assembly line worker, musician, or hair stylist.

4. Sprain, Injury, or Break

A sprained, jammed, or even broken thumb could cause pain in the area. Jammed thumbs are commonly referred to as “skier’s thumb.” If you suspect an injury as serious as a thumb break, you should seek medical advice immediately to have it evaluated and properly set for healing.

5. De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis and Trigger Finger/Thumb

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a tendinitis condition that involves inflammation on the thumb side of your wrist. It’s often called “gamer’s thumb” in the modern world, as it can develop due to repetitive video game playing and the grip held on the controller.

Likewise trigger finger is the lay term for stenosing tenosynovitis, which is typified by a locking or catching sensation when you bend or straighten one of the digits on your hand. It most commonly affects the ring finger and the thumb, but it can impact any of the other fingers as well.

6. Gout

Though most people think of gout affecting the big toe joint, it can cause pain in any joint, including the knees, elbow, ankles, wrists, and fingers. Gout causes a buildup of uric acid crystals in these joints, which then leads to pain, swelling, and inflammation not unlike a feeling that the joint is on fire.

Thumb Knuckle Pain Treatment

Depending on the cause of your pain, treatment may involve little more than RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) if it’s due to an injury, or it may involve long-term care if it’s due to a chronic condition. A doctor may order X-rays or MRIs to assess the cause of this pain, and present you with treatment options, which may include:

  • Home remediesOver-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Tylenol or Advil, natural supplements and vitamins for joint pain, and devices like splints or ACE wrap bandages.
  • Medical treatments: Steroid injections, prescriptions for pain relief, physical therapy, or possible surgery may be appropriate for your situation. Your physician will review the pros and cons of each.

Thumb knuckle pain: top 6 possible causes.

Knuckle Down

There are many different causes that may be behind your thumb knuckle pain, anything from arthritis of the thumb to an injury that just needs time to heal.

If you’re experiencing persistent pain in your thumb pad, thumb joint, or thumb knuckle, don’t simply rely on anti-inflammatory medications to wait it out—chronic pain means there’s an underlying cause, and getting professional medical treatment sooner rather than later could make a massive difference when it comes to treatment, thumb mobility, and getting back to your daily activities.

The Top 10 Supplements and Vitamins for Joint Pain

Here are the top 10 natural supplements and vitamins you can use to boost bone and joint health, relieve pain from osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis, and strengthen your body’s cartilage resources.

Joint pain afflicts many people, often in cases as serious as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that can diminish one’s range of motion and quality of life. In the case of most arthritis conditions, previously healthy joints begin to develop degenerative conditions, whether genetically or through wear and tear. Levels of chronic pain vary, but there are dietary supplements that can help before resorting to dangerous pharmaceutical drugs for pain relief. This article runs down the top 10 supplements and vitamins for joint pain management.

The Unfortunate Abundance of Arthritis

Almost a quarter of the American population is afflicted with some form of arthritis. Pain in one’s joints can arise from many different conditions involving bone health, connective tissues, or the immune system, but the one thing they all have in common is a shared need for joint support.

While over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil (ibuprofen) are often quick solutions for joint pain relief, when it comes to chronic conditions, taking drugs indefinitely can lead to other side effects. Stomach bleeding, kidney stress, and liver damage, can all result from taking too many drugstore medications, and often people want relief without risking other aspects of their priceless health.

What follows are natural supplements and vitamins that can support bone and joint health without the need for drugs or medications.

Top 10 supplements and vitamins for joints.

The Top 10 Supplements and Vitamins for Joints

Here are 10 proven aids for joint health you can safely add to your daily routine.

1. Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a natural, crystalline compound found in our cartilage and connective tissue. Cartilage is the rubbery component of our joints that keeps our bones from rubbing together as we move (which would cause pain and dangerous wear).

Many joint disorders involve the breakdown of cartilage. But cartilage can not heal like our skin or our livers can, because cartilage has no blood supply. Therefore, in an effort to maintain healthy cartilage before it wears away to nothing, glucosamine can be consumed.

While glucosamine has been extensively studied in connection with osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease or DJD), researchers are still unclear on how it works. Of the two types of glucosamine supplements—glucosamine hydrochloride and glucosamine sulfate—glucosamine hydrochloride appeared to be ineffective in improving joint pain according to a 2013 meta-analysis of studies. And a 2007 study found that glucosamine sulfate did improve osteoarthritis symptoms.

When it comes to joint health, glucosamine sulfate is suggested for supplementation, as studies indicate that it may work by slowing down the narrowing of your joint space, a marker of worsening osteoarthritis progression.

2. Chondroitin

Chondroitin is a central component of cartilage, much like glucosamine. It, too, may help prevent cartilage breakdown due to osteoarthritis and other joint conditions.

Studies have shown that chondroitin has the ability to relieve joint pain and lessen the stiffness associated with osteoarthritis. Up to 53% of those who take it report a significant improvement in knee pain.

Chondroitin sulfate may also slow down joint narrowing and delay the degenerative progression of osteoarthritis.

Preservation is the name of the game in degenerative cases, meaning chondroitin is another valuable, natural addition to this list. Both chondroitin and glucosamine can often be found packaged together in joint supplements on the market.

3. Turmeric

A natural supplement known for its anti-inflammatory effects, turmeric root has a bright golden-orange color and can help relieve inflammation throughout the body, including in joints afflicted with arthritis. Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric that makes it an effective supplement, and it has been shown to perform significantly better than a placebo when tested in randomized clinical trials, as can be seen in this systematic review and meta-analysis from 2016.

Some studies suggest that turmeric may perform at the same level as ibuprofen, making it an excellent potential replacement for over-the-counter drugs that may cause digestive damage if taken too frequently.

4. Vitamin D

Having low levels of vitamin D is linked with a higher likelihood that you’ll suffer from joint pain. Not only does vitamin D aid the absorption of calcium (the bedrock component of your bones), but it also helps regulate phosphorus, another key player in bone health.

You can purchase a vitamin D supplement, or you can get it from eating fortified foods like cereal and milk (which also contain calcium), or from the natural rays provided by a few minutes’ exposure to the sun.

5. Frankincense

Frankincense, aka boswellia, is another natural compound like turmeric that is known to have an anti-inflammatory effect on arthritis and more. The active components in the extract are known as boswellia acids, and they have been clinically proven to ease knee pain and increase knee flexion and walking distance better than a placebo.

6. ASUs (Avocado-Soybean Unsaponifiables)

Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) are the extracts from avocado and soybean oils that can help prevent cartilage breakdown. They’re known to possess anti-inflammatory, anabolic, and anticatabolic properties, and on a practical level can reduce joint pain and stiffness while improving joint function in human subjects.

7. SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine)

S-adenosyl-L-methionine or SAMe is a derivative of the amino acid methionine. While methionine is an essential amino acid that you need to consume to gain, SAMe is a chemical created naturally from methionine in the liver. One of its functions is to aid in the production and repair of cartilage tissue.

Supplementing with SAMe can enhance these effects, as was found in this 2004 study comparing SAMe with the anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex (celecoxib). After 1 month of supplementation, Celebrex was out-performing SAMe, but at the 2-month mark both were performing more-or-less equally.

8. Devil’s Claw

The charmingly named devil’s claw, or harpagophytum, contains an anti-inflammatory compound known as harpogoside. Devil’s claw is native to southern Africa and a member of the sesame family, and is so-called because of its hook-like fruit. In this study from 2000, devil’s claw was found to be comparable in effect to diacerein, an anti-inflammatory drug, providing yet another promising natural alternative to drugs for joint pain relief.

9. Fish Oil

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil—DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)—not only have anti-inflammatory effects but can also improve heart health, brain function, and liver health. When it comes to the joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, a recent 2017 study found that consuming fish oil supplements helped reduce joint pain in the participants with RA.

10. Calcium

No joint health list would be complete without calcium, the building material that keeps us all standing tall.

Up to 99% of the calcium in our bodies resides in our bones (and our teeth). Without sufficient calcium, our bones become weak, more prone to fracture and dislocation. Weakened bones will inevitably impact our joints, which are defined as the space where two bones meet, or join together, and may cause joint deformity or even an acceleration of cartilage and joint tissue damage. For all of these reasons, calcium matters greatly when it comes to joint health.

Without enough calcium, too many people develop osteoporosis, a bone disease that comes with its own side effects of joint pain and weakness. The Arthritis Foundation asserts that getting enough calcium is vital for those with rheumatoid arthritis and those who are taking corticosteroids for treatment, as they both increase the risk of osteoporosis, which leads to a higher risk of falls, fracture, and joint deformation.

Calcium can be found in dairy products like milk and yogurt, fortified and enriched foods like breakfast cereals, and dark greens like spinach and broccoli. Women generally need to consume more calcium than men, especially women who have been pregnant.

Superior Joint Health Supplements

Consult your doctor for advice on supplements and vitamins for joint health, as not all supplements are closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Your doctor knows best what your joints need and in what dosages, so that they don’t conflict with any other medications (like blood thinners) or treatments you’re currently undergoing. When seeking supplements for joint pain, natural remedies are the best option if your condition is responsive to them, so do not hesitate to try.

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD): Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a chronic condition that cannot be cured but can be managed to help preserve the joint health you still have before it’s too far gone. Let’s take a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is another term for the condition known as osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. Painful and debilitating, this disease afflicts more than 30 million Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and this article details its causes, along with its prevention and treatment options.

What Is Degenerative Joint Disease?

Degenerative joint disease, or DJD (the medical abbreviation), is an all-too-common chronic joint disorder. Your joints are the spots in your body where two bones meet and are joined together via layers of cartilage and connective tissues like muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

With DJD, the cartilage starts to break down in the joint space, allowing painful bone-on-bone contact that causes stiffness, disability, and many other adverse symptoms. We’ll review those symptoms below, and then go on to discuss what causes DJD and how to slow its development.

The Causes of DJD

Age is one of the leading causes of DJD, commonly referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis because that’s often how it develops: a lifetime of using your joints may wear down the cartilage that keeps your bones separated. Other risk factors include a family history of joint disorders like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).

Causes include:

  • Torn cartilage
  • Ligament injury
  • Dislocated joints

Whether the joint damage comes from an accident or is just a side effect of daily activities done under your own body weight, the pain can interfere with your life, and could ultimately require a joint replacement surgery.

The Nature of Cartilage

Your cartilage is a tough, rubbery, flexible substance that protects your bones while allowing them to move and slide against each other. When your cartilage starts to break down, the bone surfaces begin to roughen, causing pain in the joint and inflammation in the surrounding tissues.

Cartilage cannot repair itself like your skin or even your liver can—there are no blood vessels in cartilage, and so the damage suffered there is damage that is permanent.

Once cartilage wears away entirely, there is no more buffer between your bones to cushion their contact. What follows are the symptoms of that condition.

DJD Symptoms

Degeneration of cartilage can happen in any joint in your body, but the most common joints affected are the joints in your hands and fingers, hips, spine, and knee. The symptoms of DJD can include:

  • Joint pain: Pain in your joints during movement or even at rest could be an indication that there is friction between your bones and less cartilage to prevent it. This pain may worsen as the disease progresses.
  • Inflammation: A burning or itching inflamed feeling may be felt in your joints and surrounding tissues.
  • Stiffness: As stiffness worsens, your range of motion may become more limited, interrupting your daily activities and decreasing your quality of life.
  • Tenderness: The joints may become sensitive to the touch, especially if DJD develops in your fingers and hands.
  • Swelling: Synovial fluid (an egg-white-like viscous fluid in your joints) may increase in DJD cases, causing painful swelling. It may also contain broken-off pieces of cartilage freely floating within it.
  • Joint instability: Your joints may fail, buckle (lock up), or otherwise become unstable and unreliable, possibly causing falls if DJD is in your knee joints or hip joints.
  • Other symptoms: As DJD progresses, other symptoms may arise, like weakening muscles, bone spurs, and joint deformations.

While this condition and these damages are not reversible, there are ways to treat and alleviate the resulting pain.

DJD vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not the same as DJD. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder rather than a degenerative condition that can be caused by natural wear and tear. While they share similar symptoms, they are nevertheless different conditions and require different treatment methods to manage.

DJD Diagnosis

If you have joint pain, your doctor may take a medical history and assess your symptoms before ordering an imaging scan from either an X-ray or MRI machine to evaluate the condition of your bones and joints. A blood test may be ordered to rule out rheumatoid arthritis, and a fluid analysis may be conducted to find out whether your joint pain is caused by an infection or possibly gout.

Degenerative joint disease: causes and treatments.

DJD Treatment Options

Because DJD cannot be reversed, these treatments are therapies meant to manage your symptoms and retain the health you still have. This is why early diagnosis is important—you’ll want to slow the progression of the degeneration as much as possible. Outside of pain and anti-inflammatory medications your doctor may suggest or prescribe, here are lifestyle changes you can make to help manage DJD at home.

Low-Impact Exercise

Not only does exercise shore up your muscle strength, which provides joint stability, but certain low-impact exercise techniques like yoga or swimming can help stretch your body, alleviate stiffness, and improve your flexibility and pain management tools.

Gently stretching, going on walks, or practicing tai chi can improve your range of motion and preserve the joint health you still have.

Weight Loss

If you are overweight or obese, your weight-bearing joints like your knees are under extra strain, which could quicken the progression of DJD. Losing excess weight may not only improve your joint pain but could also save you from other health dangers like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Quality Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep improves your mood and mental health and allows your joints to rest and recover at the end of each day. Tips for a good night’s sleep include sticking to a regular bedtime, following the same pre-sleep routines, and going to bed in a cool, dark room.

Hot and Cold Therapy

You can help relieve joint pain by applying a heating pad or cold compresses as needed to the afflicted joints. Doing so can reduce swelling and inflammation and draw blood to the area to help repair surrounding tissue damage.

DJD Medications

Medications and pain killers that may help you manage DJD include:

  • OTC analgesics: Over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) along with pain-relieving gels, creams, or topical patches may help you manage pain flare-ups.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) can help reduce swelling and joint pain.
  • Antidepressants: The antidepressant duloxetine (Cymbalta) may be useful in helping you achieve pain relief—ask your doctor if it’s appropriate for your condition.
  • Corticosteroids: Oral or injected corticosteroids are prescription medications that can provide joint pain relief.

DJD Natural Treatments

Your doctor may advise that you try to avoid relying on drugs if you can manage your pain more naturally. Here are non-drug supplements that could help your DJD symptoms.

  • Green tea
  • Ginger
  • Fish oil
  • Glucosamine

Likewise natural physical treatment options include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Epsom salt baths

Don’t Let Degeneration Get You Down

There are very few upsides when it comes to degenerative conditions: the pain you’re in now might be persistent and progressive, and it’s hard to find a silver lining in what, medically speaking, is a downward slope. Focus not on what you can’t control, instead set your sights on how healthy you can be around degenerative joint disease, how well you can preserve your joints, and how you can build strength going forward.

SI Joint Pain: How to Identify and Relieve Sacroiliac Joint Pain

SI joint pain: find out if your lower back pain is coming from your sacroiliac joints, what causes this pain, and what treatment options are available to relieve it.

Your sacroiliac or SI joints are located in your lower back, and may be the source of low back pain you experience. This article has information that will help you identify SI joint pain. We’re also covering the different methods of pain relief and treatment options.

Where Is the SI Joint?

Issues with the sacroiliac joints are thought to be the cause of 15-30% of chronic lower back pain cases. A problem at your SI joint may manifest as a radiating stabbing pain between your pelvis and hips, or it may be felt as numbness and tingling down your thighs that makes it feel as if your legs are going to buckle. That is because your SI joints are located just above your tailbone (coccyx), between the triangle-shaped bone at the base of your spine (the sacrum) and two of your three hip bones (the flared ones that jut out below your waist, known plurally as your ilia), which reside at the uppermost part of your pelvis.

SI joint pain: causes and treatments.

The Symptoms of SI Joint Pain

SI joint pain, sometimes referred to as sacral pain, affects around 80% of adults in the United States at some point in their lives. Lower back pain and injury is one of the most common causes of work-related disabilities as well, most likely because the SI joint is the fulcrum of your back, responsible for distributing your body’s weight over the pelvic region and acting as a shock absorber for your spine.

The space between the jagged SI joint bones is full of lubricating fluid and free nerve endings that send pain signals directly to the brain. When there is any misalignment in the SI joint, the pain can be debilitating, and the communication between the nerves may be interrupted, causing numbness or lack of feeling.

While the bones in this area are stabilized by strong ligaments and muscle connections that allow us to stand upright, unlike our ape ancestors, and give birth to the large craniums of human babies, the area is nevertheless extremely vulnerable to injury and other medical conditions.

Some common symptoms of SI joint pain include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the hips, groin, or buttocks
  • Radiating pain that spreads down to the thighs
  • Stiffness or burning feelings in the pelvis
  • Numbness or weakness
  • A sensation of leg-buckling
  • Increased pain when standing from a seated position

SI Joint Pain: What Are the Causes?

There are many ways the SI joint can experience pain, only one of which is injury. Inflammation of the SI joint is called sacroiliitis, though it is often referred to as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, a general umbrella term that could apply to any of the following causes of SI joint pain.

1. Injury

The lower back is one of the most vulnerable parts of our bodies. Our brains are protected by our skulls, our most vital organs all guarded by our ribs or cradled by our pelvic bones, but the lower back region is wide-open. This allows for a unique range of motion and the ability to stand upright and tall, but it also means that the weight of the world relies on one column of bone and ligaments (the spine), which sits atop the sacroiliac joint. Trauma resulting from motor vehicle accidents, household or workplace falls, or even sudden twists of movement can cause injuries and damage that may persist for a lifetime.

2. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s SI joint needs to become more elastic to allow for a vaginal birth. This is achieved with the release of a hormone aptly called relaxin, which allows the pelvis to widen when it comes time to give birth.

A combination between this elasticity, plus the weight gain associated with pregnancy and the positioning of the baby’s body, all lead to a higher likelihood of SI injury or ache. The joint becomes less stable, and some women even develop arthritis in their SI joints, a condition that may worsen with subsequent pregnancies.

3. Gait

Your walking pattern or gait can contribute to SI joint pain and dysfunction. For example, an overpronation problem can affect the way you walk, and the same is true if one leg happens to be longer than the other. A lifetime of irregular walking can add up to problems like shin splints, knee joint pain, and lower back pain, conditions that may or may not be remedied by corrective footwear.

4. Gout

Gouty arthritis, or simply gout, is a disease characterized by high levels of uric acid in the body, often caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices. The joint pain caused by uric acid buildup can be severe, and while it usually starts with the joint of the big toe, it can affect any joint, including the two SI joints.

5. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis involves the degeneration of joint cartilage, causing potential pain and stiffness in many joints, including the SI joint, the knees, hips, and thumbs.

6. Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that affects the joints of the spine. Not only does it cause pain from inflammation, but it can also lead to the growth of new bone structures that fuse together spinal joints and inhibit normal movement. This condition primarily affects the SI joint, but it can also cause inflammation in other joints and organs as far away as the eyes. It is most likely to be diagnosed in young men.

Diagnosing SI Joint Issues

SI joint problems are often hard to diagnose. These joints are located deep in your body and their associated issues often cannot be seen on CT, MRI, or X-ray images. Another reason is that lower back pain and other signs of SI issues resemble the symptoms of different conditions like arthritis of the hip, bulging spinal disks, and sciatica.

Doctors may diagnose your SI joint problems with a:

  • Physical examThe doctor may move you or ask you to stretch in certain ways to identify the source of your pain.
  • Diagnostic injectionBy injecting a local anesthetic like lidocaine into the SI region, doctors may determine the source of your pain if it temporarily disappears upon injection at that site.
  • Imaging test: While X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs don’t show every potential cause of SI joint pain, they can reveal an injury or misalignment right away.

SI Joint Pain: Treatment Options

Here are some possible options for treating pain in your SI joints.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

  • Pain medication: Doctors may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids to help relieve joint inflammation and chronic SI pain that cannot otherwise be prevented.
  • Chiropractic or physical therapy: A physical therapist or chiropractic physician may perform or instruct you in SI joint stretches to relieve pain and build strength.
  • Yoga: The stretching exercises that characterize yoga can help increase flexibility and improve your pain symptoms.
  • SI joint injectionsMedications like corticosteroids may be regularly injected into the affected SI joint or joints to ease pain.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): This procedure, like steroid injections, can help temporarily deaden certain sensory nerves to stop the transmission of pain signals from the SI joints.
  • Physical aids: A sacroiliac belt or corrective footwear could help SI joint pain depending on its cause.

Surgical Treatment Options

Surgery is the very last resort when it comes to relieving sacroiliac pain, and involves a sacroiliac joint fusion surgery that utilizes small screws and plates to encourage these bones to fuse together. It’s invasive, it comes with its own set of risks (as does any major surgery), and experts agree it’s best to explore all other nonsurgical options before deciding alongside your doctor that this is the only way forward.

Preventing and Recovering from SI Joint Pain

Some instances of SI joint pain are temporary, say if it’s caused by a pregnancy or can be dealt with by wearing corrective gear. However, sometimes this pain arises from chronic medical conditions like osteoarthritis or irreversible injury, and may plague you for a much longer time without medical intervention.

Be cautious with your back when lifting or moving items at home or at work, and maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid conditions like gout. That being said, not all SI joint pain causes can be avoided, so consult with a trusted medical professional to recover the best way possible.

SI joint pain: causes and treatments.

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Remedies: 12 Natural Remedies for Pain Relief

Here are the top 12 rheumatoid arthritis home remedies that have scientific backing, proven safety, and can help ease the pain and stiffness of RA either independently or in coordination with your rheumatologist’s treatment plan.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disorder of the immune system characterized by excessive inflammation and pain in the body’s joints. While doctors may prescribe medication to help manage the condition and relieve arthritis pain, some RA symptoms will persist. If you’re looking for rheumatoid arthritis home remedies you can employ yourself—whether they be exercises, supplements, or care devices—this article has a variety of proven therapies that may help relieve your pain.

The Top 12 Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Remedies

While these at-home remedies may not be cures, and most certainly cannot replace your doctor’s advice and guidance, they are nevertheless some natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis you can try on your own to relieve RA’s side effects of stiffness, pain, and discomfort. Some will be simple, like using heating pads and ice packs, while some will involve assistance from others, like acupuncture. If you have any questions about whether these home remedies are appropriate for your circumstances, ask your doctor before trying them, and once you get the go-ahead, find the treatment that works best for you.

The top 12 rheumatoid arthritis home remedies.

1. Heat and Cold Applications

Heat and cold treatments can both help ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, though each one offers unique benefits.

  • Cold compress: Applying an ice pack or other form of cold compress to the affected joint during an RA flare-up can help curb inflammation and joint swelling. It’s recommended that you apply cold for about 15 minutes at a time, taking a 30-minute break in between applications.
  • Heating pad: Heat relaxes your muscles and encourages blood flow to the affected area. By using either a warm, damp towel or a moist heating pad you can avoid any burns that might come from applying heat directly to the skin. A hot shower or warm bath can also act as heat therapy, but it’s recommended that you avoid hot tubs or spas in instances of heart disease, high blood pressure, or pregnancy.

2. Magnet Therapy

Magnet therapies can be found in a variety of forms, from bracelets (designed as home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis in hands) to necklaces, inserts, pads, and disks. They’re often available for purchase at natural food stores. While a lot of the data on the effectiveness of magnetic therapy is inconclusive and difficult to test for objectivity, it’s nevertheless a therapy you could evaluate on your own to see if it works for you.

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that is one of the oldest natural pain therapies on record. In acupuncture, super-fine needles are used to stimulate your body along energy pathways known as meridians, with the goal to balance your energy or qi (pronounced “chee”). Acupuncture has been shown to be a beneficial rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and has also been found to help alleviate other chronic pain conditions like back pain and osteoarthritis. If you’re considering this course of treatment, ask your rheumatologist to recommend a trusted practitioner who has worked with RA patients before.

4. Aromatherapy

While this treatment won’t influence your pain levels or causes of inflammation, it may still improve your mood and your stress levels. Your sense of smell is linked deeply with your mood and memory, and some people have found that essential oil therapy and massage improve their feelings of well-being.

5. Biofeedback Training

Biofeedback training involves placing sensors over the patient’s body to monitor the physiological data regarding automatic responses, like your blood pressure and heart rate. This monitoring is done so that a therapist can help train the patient to acquire voluntary control over these functions, and has shown positive application in rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Biofeedback treatment may include use of one or more of these measuring devices:

  • A galvanic skin response meter: For measuring eccrine sweat gland activity.
  • A thermistor: Used to measure peripheral skin temperature.
  • Electrocardiograms or photoplethysmographs: Meant to measure peripheral heart rate, blood flow, and heart rate variability.
  • Electromyogram (SEMG): For measuring surface neuromuscular responses.
  • A respiratory gauge: Used in measuring breathing patterns, breathing rate, and expired carbon dioxide.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG): Used to measure the electrical activity of the cerebral cortex.

Biofeedback is considered a self-regulatory therapy because it is a tool to increase your awareness of your individual physiological responses in order to change them, reducing symptoms or improving performance as needed in reaction to stressors.

6. Deep Breathing and Yoga

Deep breathing techniques involve taking slow breaths from the depths of your belly, and can help calm your body, relax your muscles, and turn off certain stress receptors. Deep breathing is often a focal point in the practice of yoga, a low-impact exercise method with spiritual roots that was developed in India over 5,000 years ago. Yoga can help ease joint pain, increase flexibility, and release tension in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. If you’re seeking a yoga instructor, try to find someone with experience in guiding people with RA.

7. Exercise

Other types of exercise can help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and increase your joint health. Your doctor may be able to recommend a physical therapist to get your body into a fit enough condition to take on some of the following exercises if you think they might help improve your quality of life. Your physical therapist may recommend:

  • Aerobics: Activities like walking, running, and swimming increase your cardiovascular capabilities and health.
  • Strength trainingStrength training helps to keep the muscles surrounding your joints strong.
  • Range-of-motion exercises: These exercises help to train your joints to move as they should.
  • Balance movesBalance training helps you avoid dangerous stumbles and falls (see the next entry on tai chi for more information).

8. Tai Chi

Tai chi is another ancient Chinese tradition that can serve to increase your balance and strength. Tai chi involves performing slow, deliberate movements in a focused manner, and, like yoga, also includes deep breathing techniques and holding various physical postures. Tai chi is a gentle martial art that teaches you to use your own bodyweight and connection to the earth to increase your strength, and has been shown to help with lower extremity mobility in RA patients, so it’s particularly good to include in home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis in knees or ankles.

9. Massage

Massage is another incredibly old and reliable natural remedy, and modern science still acknowledges that it can help ease pain, especially for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Massage and reflexology have been shown to help manage RA pain and fatigue in patients, and you should be able to get recommendations on a qualified masseuse from your doctor or your physical therapist.

10. Fish Oil Supplements

Studies have shown that fish oil supplements may help reduce pain and joint stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Be sure to consult with your doctor before adding fish oil supplements to your regimen because they could interfere with certain medications and increase the likelihood of bleeding or bruising. The only other side effects some people report are belching, nausea, or a fishy taste in their mouth. If you do choose to try fish oil supplements, know that they contain valuable omega-3 fatty acids that will also improve your body’s fatty acids ratio.

11. Topical Gels, Creams, and Patches

At-home remedies like rubs, heat patches, and warming creams can help alleviate your pain without the need for pharmaceuticals. Many of these products contain capsaicin, the ingredient that makes your chili peppers hot and that studies show can help ease RA pain. However, it’s not recommended to use these products along with an electric heating pad, as doing so could make burns more likely to occur.

12. Turmeric

Turmeric and its derivative curcumin are natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Turmeric is a golden spice often found in Indian and Indonesian cuisine, as well as in many supplements aiming to reduce inflammation and ease pain without use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This traditional medicine has been shown to block proteins that cause inflammation and is commonly used to treat RA.

A quick warning: while some supplements and natural remedies can truly help your condition, a lot of supplemental research is still in the early stages. These natural aids may affect other medications. Check with your doctor before taking even perfectly natural supplements to be sure they are safe for you.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Treatments

If you’re looking for RA or arthritis home remedies, there are many safe and effective options to choose from. If you have concern, doubt, or hesitation about these or other natural remedies, contact your rheumatologist, as any expert in the field will have a comprehensive awareness of these practices and supplements. Once you’re cleared to explore at-home options, you may well find the pain-free solution you’re looking for!

Muscle Atrophy: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Learn about what causes muscle wasting or muscle atrophy, and how best to prevent and treat this condition, including through the use of physical therapy, medical intervention, and staying active. 

Muscle atrophy is essentially muscle wasting: it’s what happens when your muscles waste away, frequently as a result of a lack of physical activity. This article will explore the causes and symptoms of muscle atrophy, as well as preventative steps people can take if they’re immobile or bedridden due to illness. Loss of muscle mass or muscle strength can be particularly devastating for those who are already in positions of compromised health, and so in an effort to help you maintain your quality of life, we’ve compiled the relevant information here.

Muscle Atrophy: Definition

Atrophy of the muscles occurs when a person is inactive for so long that their skeletal muscles (these are the muscles attached to your bones which literally make your skeleton move) begin to break down, and the muscle protein is cannibalized by the body. This can happen in small instances or large, catastrophic instances.

Muscle atrophy of the hand or forearm may occur if you spend weeks in a cast to heal a broken arm, which is why people in casts are given exercises to do while they’re immobilized to prevent protein degradation in their muscles and muscle wasting. Muscle atrophy of the legs or muscle atrophy of the thighs can happen on a much larger scale to those who become wheelchair-bound, either temporarily or due to becoming permanently paraplegic. In even more extreme cases, those who have been held as prisoners of war may have full-body muscle wasting due to confinement and malnutrition for significantly long periods, sometimes years.

Muscle atrophy is a decrease in muscle mass, either partial or complete, which is most commonly suffered when a person becomes disabled or their movements severely restricted. This makes it difficult or impossible to move the part of the body where the muscle has atrophied, and medical advice should be sought for solutions.

Muscle atrophy: causes, treatment, and prevention.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes

Significant decreases in activity levels can lead to muscle atrophy, and there are many situations where that can occur, causing what’s known as disuse atrophy. There are also instances of muscle atrophy due to medical conditions that inhibit the use of a body part, and even rarer causes like the muscle atrophy experienced by astronauts after relatively short periods (a few days) of weightlessness. Muscle atrophy in situations of being bedbound or ceasing intense physical training can come on in as little as 2 weeks. Some of the other causes of muscle atrophy are as follows.

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Advanced aging
  • Malnutrition
  • Stroke
  • Alcohol-associated myopathy
  • Burns
  • Temporary disabling injuries (broken bones, torn rotator cuff)
  • Permanently disabling injuries (severed spinal cord, peripheral nerve damage)
  • Prolonged corticosteroid therapy

Some of the diseases and medical conditions that can disrupt or restrict movement, thus leading to muscle atrophy, include:

  • Spinal muscular atrophy: A hereditary wasting disease of the limbs.
  • Osteoarthritis: Degeneration of bones and joint cartilage that leads to decreased movement.
  • Polymyositis: An inflammatory disease of the muscles.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease): Compromises the nerve cells of the spinal cord.
  • Muscular dystrophy: A hereditary disease that causes muscle weakness.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): An autoimmune disease that destroys the protective sheathing of brain and spinal nerves.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): A chronic inflammatory disease of the joints.
  • Dermatomyositis: Inflammation of the skin and underlying muscle tissue.
  • Polio: A virus afflicting muscle tissue, which can lead to paralysis.
  • Cancer cachexia: The weight loss, lack of energy, and loss of appetite in someone undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome: An autoimmune disease and form of polyneuritis, which leads to paralysis of the limbs.
  • Neuropathy: Nerve damage that results in loss of sensation or functioning.

Muscle Atrophy: Symptoms

Regardless of the cause, these are the symptoms that may alert you to possible muscle atrophy, after which a trusted medical professional should be sought for advice.

  • One of your limbs (arms, legs) appears markedly smaller than the other one.
  • You’ve spent a long time physically inactive (bedridden, hospitalized).
  • You’re experiencing noticeable weakness in one limb.

Not to be flippant about the subject, but there is some truth to the phrase “use it or lose it” when it comes to muscle. If you cannot move your muscles with regular physical activity, you will start to lose them.

Muscle atrophy pain may or may not be a symptom, as that depends on the cause of the atrophy. Many people will begin to lose muscle before they are aware it’s happening, and will have to rely on visual muscle size to realize they need medical attention.

Muscle Atrophy: Diagnosis

Once you’ve gotten in contact with a medical professional, the diagnosis may involve your full medical history, a review of any previous injuries, as well as an evaluation of your symptoms. Diagnosing the atrophy may also involve diagnosing the underlying medical condition, which may require blood tests, X-rays, MRIs, CTs, a nerve conduction study, or a muscle and/or nerve biopsy to find out what could be causing muscle atrophy if it’s not readily apparently (as it would be if you’d suddenly become bedbound).

Can Muscle Atrophy Be Reversed?

Depending on the cause, yes. There are some cases where a proper diet, exercise, and physical therapy can not only reverse muscle atrophy, but also prevent it from recurring. However, this will not be the case in some disease-related forms of atrophy, and it is important that you consult your doctor on what your expectations for muscle atrophy recovery should be in restimulating protein synthesis and rebuilding your muscles.

Muscle Atrophy: Treatment

Again, this will depend on the diagnosis of the cause, and also the severity of your muscle loss, but the treatments for reversible muscle atrophy may be as follows.

  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Dietary changes
  • Surgery
  • Electrical stimulation

If a lack of movement caused this condition, regaining movement will go a long way towards fixing it, and moderate exercise like walking, along with physical therapy, may be a way to regain muscle strength without needing surgery to fix skin, tendons, or ligaments too tight to begin moving again (as in cases of contracture deformity that could be caused by malnutrition or burn injury scar tissue).

Muscle Atrophy: Prevention

There are ways to prevent muscle atrophy before it happens, and ways to guard against it if you were fortunate enough to recover your musculature after one instance of muscle loss. If preventing muscle atrophy is in your control (and, of course, sometimes it will not be), here are a few ways to maintain muscle strength in adverse circumstances.

Stay Active

If you’re in recovery from a severe illness or have just come home from the hospital after a debilitating accident, it’s not as if you’ll take up jogging right away. However, movements as small as walking to your mailbox each day, or around the block, or up and down a single flight of stairs, can truly make the difference in the long run when it comes to maintaining your mobility.

Stay Nourished

Depending on your condition, this may be difficult, but when your body lacks the proper nutrition to stay running, it will start to catabolize your muscles for its needs, which is a form of self-cannibalization or destructive metabolism that literally eats away at your muscles. Make sure you’re getting proper protein, if not from whole foods, then in the forms of protein shakes or supplements, as every little bit may help.

In fact, supplementing with amino acids has been proven to help accelerate muscle recovery in times of sickness and illness and can help boost your muscle-building gains. To learn more about amino acid therapy for muscle atrophy, give this informative article, written by one of the world’s foremost amino acid researchers, a read.

Seek Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is particularly valuable for those with severe injury recovery (such as a car crash survivor) or a neurological condition, as therapists provide professional guidance on what, and how, and how often to stretch your body to build strength.

Try Passive Movement

Another way physical therapy can help you even before you have the strength to help yourself is with passive movement. Passive movement requires the therapist to gently move your legs and arms for you. This is how you can begin to recover from a very deep muscle deficit and build up strength and muscle again.

Preventative Measures

Not only will the above advice help prevent muscle atrophy, but it can also help discourage bedsores in those who are bedridden due to illness, and reduce the chances of developing dangerous blood clots in the limbs. Likewise, these movements may prevent muscle stiffness, retraction, and nerve damage. Consult a medical professional or licensed physical therapist for more advice.

Eliminate Atrophy

If you are in danger of muscle atrophy, take steps to make sure your protein intake and nutrients are sufficient, including the use of a supplement if necessary, like Amino Co.’s essential amino acid supplement, which contains all of the essential aminos required to build new muscle cells and structures. Also, make sure that you stay active, no matter in how small a way, to preserve your muscle function and prevent your muscles from falling into complete disuse. You cannot always control your body’s condition, but if the type of atrophy you fear is the type that’s preventable, it’s well worth the effort to maintain the quality of life and movement you’ve come to expect.

9 Natural Remedies for Back Pain Relief

Few things can be as immediately disabling as back pain. Looking for back pain relief? Here are some natural remedies that can help get the pain off your back.

Few things can be as immediately disabling as back pain. Our backs are a delicate and complex structure of muscles, ligaments, joints, and bones. Back pain can be caused by a wide range of injuries, dehydration, inflammation, and certain underlying health conditions, and back pain relief can be difficult to come by.

Be it acute or chronic, back pain causes a reduction in physical activity, lost productivity at work, and overall poor quality of life scores according to a study published in the journal European Spine. 

Low back pain is incredibly common, not only in the United States but also globally. In fact, according to findings from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study, low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Fortunately, there are effective natural pain management remedies that can help you enjoy life to the fullest.

Are You at Risk for Back Pain?

Nearly everyone will experience some type of back pain over the course of a year. According to a National Center for Health Statistics 2016 report, during 2012 more than 125 million adults in the United States had a musculoskeletal pain disorder. This staggering figure accounts for more than 50% of the U.S. adult population.

It must be noted that musculoskeletal pain is classified as pain related to nerves, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bones, not just in the back. The Cleveland Clinic also puts fibromyalgia, arthritic pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome in the same category.

In the general population, researchers report the lifetime prevalence of back pain high at 85%. This surprising statistic comes from a comprehensive review conducted by researchers from the Department of Sports Medicine and Sports Nutrition in Germany.

This same review also found that in athletes, the lifetime prevalence can be as high as 94%, and it identifies rowing and cross-country skiing as sports with the greatest risk.

Of course, there are also risk factors for chronic pain conditions, such as occupations that increase your likelihood of suffering an injury to the back muscles or sustaining muscle pain. In a review of the National Health Interview Survey completed by the National Institutes of Health, the following occupations have the highest rate of low back pain—attributed directly to the job:

  • Construction and Extraction: 11.22%
  • Healthcare Practitioners and Healthcare Support: 10.61%
  • Personal Care and Service: 8.27%
  • Transportation and Moving: 7.74%

Your risk for developing back pain increases according to a cross-sectional study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases if you:

  • Are obese
  • Smoke
  • Are inactive
  • Have family members with chronic back pain

Types of Back Pain

Back pain can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute back pain can last anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks, and generally does not require traditional medical intervention. However, when back pain persists or worsens for 12 weeks or longer, the pain is considered chronic, and a consultation with your health care provider is advised.

Pain in the back can present in the:

  • Lower back
  • Middle back
  • Upper back
  • Neck and shoulders
  • Glutes

Back pain can be described as:

  • Nagging
  • Radiating
  • Throbbing
  • Pinching
  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Severe

Keeping a journal of your pain can help you find a successful treatment. Take note of the type of pain, severity, when it occurs and for how long, the location of the pain, and what you were doing when it occurred. These details can help your wellness team identify the best course of action to relieve your back pain naturally.

Common Causes of Back Pain

According to Weill Cornell Medicine’s Center for Comprehensive Spine Care, there is a wide range of injuries and medical conditions that can cause back pain. Their list includes:

Muscle injuries and muscle strains Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal
Pregnancy Vertebral fractures
Scoliosis Obesity
Degenerative disc disease Tumors
Anxiety Pinched or compressed nerves
Osteoporosis Smoking
Lack of physical activity Aging

The Center for Comprehensive Spine Care makes a special effort to identify the symptoms of thoracic back pain. This type of back pain occurs in the upper back and it may indicate a serious or even potentially life-threatening underlying condition. If you experience upper back pain and any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Deformity of the spine
  • Nerve pain in the lower body
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs or lower body
  • Severe stiffness
  • Severe constant pain
  • Changes in bladder or bowel function

9 Natural Remedies for Back Pain Relief

1. Fish Oil (2,000 milligrams a day)

Omega-3 fatty acids make an essential contribution according to the Harvard T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health. Omega-3s cannot be produced in the body; they must be consumed. The richest sources are coldwater fish, walnuts, and flax seeds.

Every healthy diet should include a variety of foods with these essential fats to reap their health benefits. However, when you are experiencing back pain, taking a high-quality supplement of 2,000 milligrams a day may be advised. In a landmark study conducted by the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical center, fish oil was shown to be as effective and safer than NSAIDs in relieving back pain.

While omega 3s are well-tolerated in food, check with your doctor prior to taking a fish oil supplement if you have type 2 diabetes, take blood thinners, or have a bleeding disorder or a shellfish allergy.

2. Turmeric (1,000 milligrams a day)

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric that fights inflammation and reduces pain, is one of the most effective natural compounds in the world. Researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Department of Experimental Therapeutics conducted a clinical trial that found that natural compounds including curcumin are more effective than aspirin or ibuprofen.

Curcumin’s health benefits extend beyond its anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, in a systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers state curcumin is safe in doses up to 2500 milligrams a day and can be used to treat a wide range of conditions. Current clinical trials are focusing on curcumin’s ability to prevent cancer, fight cancer, and even make traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy more effective.

Incorporating turmeric into your diet is easy. The small orange root is now readily available in most grocery stores. Just look for it near the fresh ginger. But please note, when using fresh or powdered turmeric, to get its full benefit, it must be combined with black pepper. Piperine, an essential compound in black pepper, makes it easier for the body to absorb curcumin.

Turmeric is easy to incorporate into salad dressings, stews and soups, and rice dishes for daily enjoyment. When you feel you need an extra boost of curcumin’s anti-inflammatory powers, sip on a turmeric latte. This delightful warm drink can be made with ingredients in your pantry—just don’t forget to add the black pepper!

3. D-Phenylalanine (1,500 milligrams a day, for several weeks)

D-Phenylalanine, or DPA, is one of the essential amino acids that is recognized for its power to reduce low back pain according to University of Michigan’s, Michigan Medicine. They report DPA decreases pain and can inhibit chronic pain in some cases. There are currently 48 clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of phenylalanine on conditions like cystic fibrosis and PKU, as well as the levels needed for wellness.

To learn more about taking phenylalanine for back pain, check out this article.

4. L-Tryptophan (2-6 grams a day)

Tryptophan, most commonly associated with turkey “comas” on Thanksgiving, is another of the essential amino acids that can help when you are experiencing upper back pain, middle back pain, or lower back pain. Tryptophan plays a critical role in back pain relief by helping to repair muscle tissue that has been damaged. Additional tryptophan benefits include reducing anxiety and depression.

An important note about amino acid supplements: The balance of amino acids in your blood is a delicate one. Because certain amino acids hitch a ride on the same transporter for entry into the brain, increasing levels of one without increasing levels of the other can restrict access and adversely affect mind and mood. For this reason, it’s recommended to supplement with a complete essential amino acid blend formulated with an ideal ratio of aminos.

5. Collagen (2-5 grams a day)

A vital protein, and the most abundant in the human body, collagen is the substance that gives our skin, hair, ligaments, and tendons the fuel they need. If your joints creak or pop, you may not have enough collagen “greasing the wheel” between your joints. And that can increase the risk for joint deterioration that can cause arthritis and chronic back pain.

Collagen is recognized for improving skin health, hair health, IBS symptoms, cellulite, and muscle mass, and has even garnered a reputation as an effective treatment for joint disorders and osteoarthritis according to researchers from the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine. This study specifically points to the efficacy of collagen hydrolysate.

Think of collagen hydrolysate as gelatin. It is rich in amino acids, but it has been processed fairly extensively to make the proteins smaller and more easily absorbed. Seek a high-quality supplement from a reputable company to add to your diet. While generally considered safe, some mild side effects have been reported with collagen supplements, namely digestive upset and heartburn.

6. Acupuncture

A popular and time-tested holistic technique, acupuncture has been shown to improve chronic back pain. In a large-scale clinical trial, researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics evaluated the efficacy of acupuncture for back and neck pain, arthritis pain, chronic headaches, and shoulder pain. The researchers determined that acupuncture is effective for chronic pain and verified that acupuncture has more than a placebo effect.

7. Massage

Massage is known for relieving stress, anxiety, pain, and a variety of other health conditions. Professional athletes often turn to massage after a tough workout or game to help relieve sore or strained muscles. Massage therapists can target specific muscles, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues that are causing back pain.

There are a number of massage modalities, with some dating back to ancient China. Depending on the root cause of the back pain, a licensed and experienced massage therapist might recommend a deep tissue, sports, soft tissue, or Shiatsu massage. Massage is believed to relieve low back pain by improving circulation, releasing tension, increasing endorphin levels, and improving range of motion. Understand that it may take multiple sessions to accomplish relief.

8. Capsaicin Cream

Made from the compound found in cayenne and other hot peppers that cause the burning sensation and taste, capsaicin promotes pain relief, particularly for back pain, according to a study published in the journal Molecules. Available both over-the-counter and by prescription, a topical capsaicin cream can provide immediate back pain relief.

It is important to purchase a high-quality product and apply it as directed on the packaging. In itself, capsaicin can create pain, but it can also relieve the discomfort and pain caused by soft tissue injuries, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and muscle pulls or strains. Researchers believe that the heat generated by the capsaicin works by activating pain receptors that cause the brain to release pain-fighting hormones.

9. DIY Pain Relief Rub

Beyond using heating pads to soothe muscle tension and back pain, you can whip up a quick DIY pain relief rub. For a quick DIY topical back pain reliever (that smells great too!) use the recipe below. This home remedy is perfect for relieving lower back pain after a hard workout or pulling weeds. When applied, it provides a cooling, yet invigorating effect because of the menthol in the peppermint oil.

DIY Pain Relief Rub

  • 5-7 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 5-7 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5-7 drops marjoram essential oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or jojoba oil

Mix all ingredients together until well combined. Massage into sore muscles and joints daily, or as needed.

Natural remedies for back pain relief

6 Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Back Pain

1. Exercise Regularly

The more you move, the better. Regular exercise is important for keeping your strength, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular health at their pinnacle. Low-impact exercise like walking, riding a bike, and swimming are good options when you have back pain.

In addition to weight management, regular exercise has been shown to help:

Aim for 180 minutes each week, or 30 minutes a day, of moderate, low-impact exercise to relieve back pain and discomfort. The other health benefits will help to prevent additional injury and improve cardiovascular function.

Natural remedies for back pain relief

2. Stay Hydrated

Drink at least 8 ounces of pure water for every 10 pounds of body weight to stay properly hydrated. When you are dehydrated, the natural lubrication in your spinal discs is depleted and can result in backaches and fatigue.

Kidney stones and urinary tract infections are more worrisome side effects of dehydration and can both cause back pain. According to the National Kidney Foundation, it is vital to drink enough water during workouts and periods of hot weather as prolonged or frequent dehydration can cause kidney damage.

3. Lift Heavy Items Properly

Avoiding back injury is the best way to prevent back pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is important to use proper lifting techniques to avoid back pain. The Mayo Clinic recommends:

  • Starting in a safe position
  • Maintaining the natural curve of your spine
  • Using your legs to lift the weight
  • Squatting instead of kneeling
  • Avoiding twisting

4. Practice Pilates

Joseph Pilates developed this practice of stretching and body conditioning while interned during World War I. The reformer, which is widely used in Pilates studios today, is modeled after the first equipment he developed in the internment camp using bunk beds, springs, and ropes.

Pilates is focused on increasing core strength and creating long fluid muscle groups. This practice can help prevent injuries to the back and provide back pain relief. If you do have back pain, medical research shows that a regular Pilates practice is a great way to strengthen your core to prevent low back pain. In the just-released results of a randomized controlled trial, 12 weeks of Pilates practice improved chronic back pain.

Most metropolitan areas have established Pilates studios where experienced instructors and reformers are available. If a studio is not available in your area, Pilates equipment, including reformers, are available for home use.

5. Tai Chi

This ancient martial art has been practiced for thousands of years. It is characterized by slow, precise, and controlled movements—a very different discipline than other martial arts that focus on explosive power. Tai chi epitomizes the mind-body connection, as every fiber of your being must be engaged for best practice.

According to Harvard Medical School, the health benefits of tai chi include aerobic conditioning, improved flexibility and balance, better muscle strength and muscle response, and a reduction in falls. Tai chi can be practiced by virtually anyone, in any health condition. It involves low-impact and slow-motion isolating muscle groups responsible for core strength, balance, and confidence.

6. Yoga

Millions of Americans practice a form of yoga. This practice combines deep relaxation, deep breathing, meditation, and strength-training postures that are mixed together in balance to create a discipline known for reducing pain and improving balance, flexibility, and strength.

According to Harvard Medical School, yoga’s proven health benefits include:

  • Reducing your risk of heart disease
  • Relieving migraines
  • Fighting osteoporosis
  • Alleviating the pain of fibromyalgia
  • Easing multiple sclerosis symptoms
  • Increasing blood vessel flexibility (69%!)
  • Shrinking arterial blockages

Regular yoga practice can help you prevent injury and back pain. And, if you have low back pain, a systematic review and meta-analysis focusing on the effectiveness of yoga and back pain showed that yoga is effective for both short-term and long-term relief of chronic low back pain.

Natural remedies for back pain relief

Precautions

As mentioned above, back pain accompanied by certain other symptoms can be a sign of serious underlying health conditions. If you experience back pain and any of the following symptoms, please consult with your physician immediately:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling in any part of the body
  • Deformity of the spine
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Extreme stiffness
  • Severe constant pain
  • Changes in bladder or bowel function

Back pain symptoms tend to recur, with studies showing a recurrence rate of somewhere between 24% and 80%. To protect against future episodes of back pain, learn to lift heavy items properly and build your core strength to reduce your risk of injury.

At the End of the Day

Back pain is costly. It affects productivity at work, health care costs, and most importantly your quality of life. Whether acute or chronic, when you are in pain, the only thing you can focus on is effective back pain relief. Whether it strikes as lower back pain, middle back pain, or as neck and shoulder pain, pain is pain and finding the natural back pain remedy to ease your pain and speed up the healing process is essential.

Once the root cause of your back pain is determined, natural lower back pain remedies and upper back pain remedies are available. The key is finding the combination of treatments that work for you. Whether it is a high-quality amino acid supplement, a DIY essential oil rub, yoga, or Pilates, you can improve your quality of life and relieve your discomfort.

The Osteoarthritis Diet: Best Foods and Supplements for Osteoarthritis

About 30 million Americans suffer from painful osteoarthritis. Check out these best and worst foods for osteoarthritis. The osteoarthritis diet even is known to assist in osteoarthritis prevention.

When nothing else works, change your diet. It’s true for lots of chronic illnesses, but maybe arthritis isn’t one you think can be improved simply by changing your diet. Research tells us otherwise. In fact, there’s even a however controversial “osteoarthritis diet.” Several of them, actually, depending on where you look.

In one clinical trial, for example, a Cretan Mediterranean diet showed a “significant improvement in pain” over 12 weeks among patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The research, published in BMC Nutrition Journal, followed 56 people randomized to a control diet or a diet of vegetables, fruit, and olive oil.

A study published in the journal Arthritis heralded the benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet for osteoarthritis prevention and pain relief. The study of 40 patients with osteoarthritis randomized either to a control diet or a whole-foods plant-based diet showed significant improvements in pain on this osteoarthritis diet in as little as 2 weeks.

Osteoarthritis (OA) comes from normal wear and tear on your joints. About 30 million Americans suffer from painful osteoarthritis. Joints become inflamed when cartilage is worn down or wore out, causing bone-on-bone friction. It can be difficult to find relief.

Check out these best foods for osteoarthritis and worst foods for osteoarthritis. The osteoarthritis diet even is known to assist in osteoarthritis prevention and can help keep other chronic diseases, including heart disease, at bay.

Best Foods for Osteoarthritis Prevention

Some suggestions of best foods for osteoarthritis prevention from Harvard Women’s Health Watch include:

Check out these best foods for osteoarthritis, and worst foods for osteoarthritis. The osteoarthritis diet even is known to assist in osteoarthritis prevention.

  1. Omega-3 rich fish: Oily fish such as sardines, tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines help to ease arthritis pain with anti-inflammatory effects courtesy of their omega-3 fatty acids. If you adhere to a plant-based diet, then you can get your anti-inflammatory omega-3s from flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  2. Healthful oils: Did you know olive oil contains a compound that has comparable properties of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that help to soothe OA pain? Avocado oil is always a great choice, and an esteemed cholesterol fighter.
  3. Dairy products: If you can tolerate dairy, then add it to your osteoarthritis diet. Full-fat dairy is concentrated with calcium and vitamin D for bone strength and to help ease osteoarthritis symptoms.
  4. Leafy greens: Dark green veggies are some of the best sources of vitamin D, antioxidants, and potent phytochemicals that can help suppress infection and boost calcium absorption. Eat your fill of collard greens, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard.
  5. Broccoli: This cruciferous star contains sulforaphane that is thought to help inhibit the progression of osteoarthritis. Broccoli also provides a healthful helping of calcium, vitamin K, and vitamin C.
  6. Green tea: This polyphenol-packed tea makes the list once again, with powerful anti-inflammatory constituents that help to keep cartilage from deteriorating.
  7. Garlic: A compound in garlic called diallyl disulfide is thought to help protect cartilage from damage.
  8. Nuts: Heart-healthy and immune-supportive nuts are full of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin E, and fiber.

Worst Foods for Osteoarthritis

When making dietary changes to ease your osteoarthritis pain and protect your joint health, consider avoiding the following inflammatory foods.

Check out these best foods for osteoarthritis, and worst foods for osteoarthritis. The osteoarthritis diet even is known to assist in osteoarthritis prevention.

  1. Sugar: No surprise here, refined sugars that lurk in desserts such as cakes, pies, and cookies can exacerbate inflammation and cause your joints to feel even worse.
  2. Salt: We aren’t dissing sodium, it’s an important and necessary mineral! But too much can cause swelling and inflammation that can further damage joints. Swap out the salt for garlic and pepper.
  3. Fatty, fried foods: Saturated fats baked in batter inflame your body, including your joints, and can elevate cholesterol levels, which have been shown to contribute to osteoarthritis.
  4. Refined wheat products: Foodstuffs made from white flour and refined grains like pastas sound the inflammation alarm. Instead, eat foods made with whole grains, and if you are at all gluten sensitive, choose gluten-free alternatives.
  5. Omega-6 rich foods: Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid, but when we eat too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3, the body’s inflammatory response is stimulated. So, go easy on the egg yolks and red meat, and up your intake of omega-3s to balance the 6:3 ratio.
  6. Dairy: While dairy can be helpful for some arthritis sufferers, it activates inflammation in others. If you notice your arthritis symptoms are worse after consuming dairy, swap out the cow’s milk for almond or hemp milk.
  7. Alcohol: Alcohol, particularly beer, is highly concentrated in purine that can cause symptom flare-ups.

Obesity’s Impact on Osteoarthritis

Consider what obesity does to someone with arthritis—even more weight on those aching joints. Then, toss in so many other variables a person with arthritis may be living with and you can see why every effort should be made to reduce body weight if you are obese.

In addition, many people with osteoarthritis have a co-occurring debilitating condition, such as diabetes, which is hampered even further by obesity.

“In those overweight, weight reduction of 10% has the potential to lead to important changes in pain and inflammation,” reported researchers in a 2015 paper published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.

How to Avoid Gaining Weight

Obesity does not result from eating specific foods. For example, we are constantly told to avoid sugar. While it is certainly a good idea to watch your sugar intake, it is a myth that sugar causes obesity—lots of people who eat candy and sugary beverages are not overweight. The same is true with other food products that have become demonized, such as french fries and red meat.

The key is not so much what types of foods to avoid, as much as it is to base your diet on high-quality protein, including meat, soluble fiber, and fruits and vegetables, with only a limited amount of sugary food products and fried foods such as french fries. There is nothing very magical or complicated about maintaining a healthy weight—it is a matter of healthy eating and matching the calories you eat with the amount of energy you expend.

How to Lose Weight Effectively

Bookstores, Amazon, and the Internet are filled with different approaches for weight loss. The fact is that any diet will enable you to lose weight if you eat fewer calories than you expend. The main (and often missing) factor in weight loss is how to lose weight without losing your muscles. This can only be accomplished by consuming a low-calorie diet composed largely of protein food products, and even high protein intake will probably not be sufficient to maintain muscle mass. Taking a dietary supplement of essential amino acids will help you maintain muscle mass and function while losing body fat on a low-calorie diet. Click here to learn more about essential amino acid support during weight loss.

Best Supplements for Arthritis

Nutritional supplements can bolster the nutritive support of anti-arthritis foods. And let’s be honest, not every food on the list is going to appeal to your taste buds. Three nutraceuticals in particular can help possibly prevent and slow osteoarthritis disease progression.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is one of the best supplements for arthritis, as it is essential to strong bone health. According to the Arthritis Foundation, if you have arthritis, your doctor may prescribe an oral steroid, making it even more important for you to boost your IUs of vitamin D with supplement support. Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University researchers discovered that patients on steroids were 2 times more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency.

Fish Oil Supplements

Omega-3s work by blocking chemicals called cytokines and prostaglandins that cause inflammation. Instead, the body converts these compounds into inflammation fighters. Omega-3 fatty acids are what make oily fish such a great food choice for people living with osteoarthritis. Coldwater fish such as salmon and super seeds such as chia seeds help boost your intake of essential omega-3s, but you can also supplement with a fish oil to optimize your anti-inflammatory diet.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

These natural compounds make up our joint cartilage and often are used in tandem to treat joint pain. They are naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compounds with a reputation for inflammation fighting and are commonly taken as an osteoarthritis treatment.

Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids arginine, methionine, and cysteine all have been proven effective at reducing arthritis symptoms in laboratory animals. Essential amino acids can help to reduce the inflammation that causes joint pain.

Amino Acids for Arthritis: Nature’s Answer for Better Pain Relief?

Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the United States, with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis ranking as the most common culprits. Studies have shown that certain amino acids for arthritis can help support cartilage and joint health, thereby helping to mitigate painful symptoms.

If you have arthritis, you know how the joint pain and inflammation can negatively affect your day-to-day life. Whether it’s your ability to walk or simply open a jar, arthritis can make your life miserable. In fact, arthritis is the number one cause of disability in adults in the United States. However, it is possible to reduce the impacts of arthritis on your life. And in this article, we’re going to take a look at amino acids for arthritis and discuss the role these building blocks of protein may play in both pain relief and the prevention of joint damage.

What Causes Arthritis?

According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million Americans have some form of the more than 100 different types of arthritis (and associated conditions). But the most common types of arthritis are by far osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the form of arthritis we’re all probably most familiar with. This type is caused by wear and tear on joint cartilage—the firm, flexible connective tissue that provides a protective cushion at the ends of long bones, where they meet at the joint.

If the wear and tear on cartilage progresses far enough, the ends of the bones can eventually begin to grind against one another. This damage can be the result of a number of causes, including:

  • Overuse
  • Injury
  • Anatomic abnormalities
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Weak supporting muscles

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it’s particularly common in the knees, hips, lower back, neck, fingers, thumbs, and great toes.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the synovial membrane—the lining of the joint capsule. If the disease process is allowed to continue, the constant inflammation can eventually degrade both the cartilage and the bone itself to the point that the joint becomes immobile and deformed.

Several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. These include:

  • Sex: Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Age: Middle-aged adults are more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Family history: People with family members with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop the disease themselves.
  • Tobacco: People who smoke have a greater risk of rheumatoid arthritis, especially if the disease runs in the family.

Amino Acids for Arthritis

The good news for arthritis sufferers is that studies have shown that certain nutritional supplements, including amino acids, can support cartilage and joint health, provide pain relief, and make physical activity more comfortable.

Seven amino acids, in particular, play an important role in maintaining joint health. These are:

  1. Methionine
  2. Cysteine
  3. Taurine
  4. Arginine
  5. Citrulline
  6. Histidine
  7. Glycine

1. Methionine

Joint cartilage can’t form without sulfur. And for arthritis patients, a lack of sulfur can have devastating consequences. In fact, studies have shown that the cartilage of healthy people contains approximately three times more sulfur than the cartilage of individuals with arthritis.

Methionine is a sulfur-containing essential amino acid that encourages cartilage cells to create more cartilage tissue and helps strengthen joints by forming sulfurous chains that link together.

Methionine has also been shown in studies to help ease symptoms of arthritis by acting as both an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic.

A 2002 study in The Journal of Family Practice investigating the efficacy of the nutritional supplement S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)—which is composed of methionine bound to a molecule of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—found that SAMe worked as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at decreasing pain and functional limitations, but without the adverse effects seen with NSAIDs.

In addition, a 2004 clinical trial found that SAMe supplementation was as effective at reducing the pain caused by knee osteoarthritis as the prescription NSAID celecoxib. And like the earlier study, this study also found that SAMe was able to improve joint pain without the side effects seen with celecoxib.

Good food sources of methionine include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Brazil nuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Onions

Some studies have suggested that ingesting methionine at levels 5 times the normal dietary intake can lead to an increase in plasma levels of homocysteine, which may have adverse health effects. However, it’s thought that the possibility of this happening through normal dietary intake is quite low.

2. Cysteine

Like methionine, cysteine is an amino acid that helps produce sulfur in the body. It’s also considered a nonessential amino acid because it’s created in the body from methionine.

Cysteine—which is available in supplement form as N-acetylcysteine (NAC)—has potent antioxidant properties that protect cells from oxidative stress. It also supports the immune system and helps stimulate the production of collagen—a structural protein required for the building of joint cartilage.

In addition, cysteine supplementation may help improve joint flexibility in those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Dietary sources of cysteine include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Onions
  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal
  • Sunflower seeds

3. Taurine

Taurine is the most abundant free amino acid in the body and functions as both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s also essential for cardiovascular and skeletal muscle function. Like methionine, taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid and requires cysteine for its production.

Studies have suggested that taurine may also have a role to play in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases. For example, a 2018 study found that taurine diminishes the severity of inflammatory diseases, including arthritis.

Similarly, another study from the same year demonstrated that injections of taurine relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis in rats, including pain and swelling, and inhibit cartilage degeneration.

The best food sources of taurine are animal-based, so vegetarians and vegans are at greater risk of deficiency. Taurine food sources include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Dairy products

4. Arginine

Arginine is an anti-inflammatory amino acid that helps calm the pain associated with joint inflammation by strengthening the immune system and supporting the production of nitric oxide (NO). NO acts as a vasodilator, relaxing blood vessels and improving circulation and nutrient delivery to the joints.

For extra arginine in your diet, look to:

  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Soybeans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds

5. Citrulline

Citrulline is an amino acid that has the same anti-inflammatory benefits as arginine because it converts to arginine in the kidneys. However, while arginine is quickly metabolized when taken as a nutritional supplement, it takes longer for the body to break down citrulline.

Interestingly, citrulline also causes blood levels of arginine to rise higher than those seen when taking arginine. Therefore, citrulline may be even more effective for increasing amino acid concentrations of arginine in the blood.

Food sources of citrulline include:

  • Meat
  • Beans
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Watermelon
  • Dark chocolate
  • Nuts

6. Histidine

Histidine is another amino acid with anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies have found that people with rheumatoid arthritis have lower baseline serum levels of histidine. Though research is limited, these studies also suggest that histidine supplementation may be helpful for arthritis symptoms in some individuals.

Good food sources of histidine include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains
  • Dairy products
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

7. Glycine

The major amino acid constituents of collagen are glycine, lysine, and proline. And of these, the nonessential amino acid glycine is the most abundant, accounting for one third of the amino acids present.

A 2018 study found that while the effects of proline and lysine on collagen production appear to reach their maximum at normal physiologic levels of these amino acids, increasing dietary consumption of glycine by 10 grams could result in an increase in collagen synthesis of approximately 200%.

Moreover, glycine helps the body make glutathione—the so-called master antioxidant—and acts as an immunomodulator, which can be especially helpful in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

Food sources of glycine include:

Whatever amino acid or combination of amino acids you decide is right for you, it’s important to remember that every amino acid works best when used as part of a formula that contains all nine essential amino acids. Not only does this prevent an imbalance in amino acid levels, but it also helps ensure the body has all the building blocks it needs to create the proteins required to maintain overall health and well-being.

Amino Acids for Arthritis