Joint inflammation is a common condition that can cause debilitating pain if left untreated. While symptoms may be due to a chronic condition for some, the right treatment can reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and return mobility back to the affected joints long-term.
Common Causes of Joint Inflammation
What triggers inflammation in joints? Joint or tissue damage, autoimmune diseases, and different types of arthritis are all triggers for inflammation in joints.
Joint inflammation from arthritis is more common in women, but the risk for both men and women of developing osteoarthritis, or wear-and-tear arthritis, increases with age.
Men are more likely to develop gout, an inflammatory form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals around the joints.
The most common causes of joint inflammation in men are joint injuries and inflammatory arthritis. Hormonal changes may also be at play. While women may feel joint pain during menopause, low testosterone in men may cause side effects like inflammation and a reduced sex drive.
There is no cure if you have arthritis, but appropriate treatment can improve symptoms dramatically. Short-term inflammation from injuries can often lead to a full recovery, although some men may experience lasting symptoms even with joint injuries.
Joint Inflammation Signs & Symptoms
How do you know if you have joint inflammation? You know if you have joint inflammation if you experience:
- Pain or swelling
- Redness or warmth at the joint
- A loss of mobility or joint function
- Joint stiffness
Some patients with joint inflammation may also display flu-like symptoms like fever, fatigue, and stuff muscles. This may be the sign of an infection.
Is it possible to have joint inflammation without pain? It is possible to have joint inflammation without pain, especially if you aren’t actively touching the area.
In most cases, though, pain or swelling at the joint is a classic sign of joint inflammation.
Medications for Joint Inflammation
Pain medications or medication therapies that work to reduce inflammation are not an exact science. The appropriate therapy for you depends on the root cause of your joint pain. Some patients may benefit from combination treatments of pain relievers and more holistic options.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin are often the first course of treatment for those seeking pain relief from joint inflammation. These are available over-the-counter, and can offer some immediate relief as you come up with a long-term plan.
Corticosteroids are prescription-only anti-inflammatories often used during an arthritic flare-up. They come as injections, topical treatments, or oral medications. Steroid therapies are not meant to be a long-term solution, as they may weaken surrounding tissue over time.
Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, shows promise as a therapeutic option for symptoms of arthritis. One study showed that it reduced participating patients’ reliance on other pain medications.
CBD use has also been linked to anti-inflammatory properties that may lower blood pressure, improve sleep quality, and ease anxiety, all contributing factors to chronic pain.
Supplements That Fight Inflammation
We’ll explore an anti-inflammatory diet next, but it can take time to build healthy habits in the kitchen and see results from those changes. Supplements that fight inflammation can support your wellness journey along the way.
Note that you should always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a regimen of supplements, especially if you’re taking other medications like blood thinners.
Glucosamine & Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are often recommended as a combination treatment for osteoarthritis. Both are naturally produced in the body as part of your cartilage, the connective tissues found in between your joints.
In people with different types of arthritis, a supplement that includes both may help the body fight back against attacks on cartilage at the joints. One meta-analysis showed that chondroitin was particularly helpful for joint pain, while glucosamine supported joint mobility.
SAM-e, or or S-adenosyl-methionine, is a naturally-occurring compound that supports joint mobility. One study showed that when taken as a supplement, it was just as effective as NSAIDs in reducing joint inflammation and pain from arthritis.
Fish oil supplements are a good way to boost your omega-3 fatty acids, proven anti-inflammatories that may support long-term joint health and mobility. Fish oil has the added benefit of reducing symptoms of common gut conditions like inflammatory bowel disease.
Vitamin D & K
You may already be getting quite a bit if you live in a sunny place and follow a healthy diet, but vitamin D deficiency can contribute to a loss in bone density. A Vitamin D supplement can fill in those gaps and help your body absorb calcium, a key component of strong, healthy bones.
Vitamin K supplements are often recommended as a preventative measure against osteoarthritis for older adults. There also appears to be a connection between low levels of both K1 and K2 and bone fractures.
The superfood turmeric is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects. In patients with joint pain, a supplement with turmeric or curcumin, its active ingredient, may be just as beneficial as over-the-counter medications.
Supplements with turmeric extract are often preferred over curcumin-only supplements because they appear to be absorbed more easily by the body.
An anti-inflammatory diet isn’t just good for joint inflammation. It’s good for overall health, including your mental health. Thanks to the gut-brain connection your mental state could be a trigger for your chronic pain.
A healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods also offers protection against oxidative stress. Chronic stress in the body contributes to joint conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and gut issues.
What to Eat
Many of these foods overlap with the Mediterranean diet, a dietary plan rich in antioxidants. Aim for fresh, plant-based options when possible. Here’s a good list to get you started:
- Beans and lentils
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage
- Fatty fish like herring, mackerel, and salmon
- Fresh fruits like apples, berries, and citrus
- Leafy greens like kale and spinach
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, sesame seeds, and walnuts
- Olive oil
- Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat
What to Avoid
You don’t need to cut every inflammatory food out of your diet, but it’s important that you know where to cut back to give yourself some relief from joint pain.
- Excess alcohol
- Fried foods
- Full-fat dairy
- Processed meats and cheeses
- Processed sweets and salty snacks
- Red meat
- Refined carbohydrates like white bread
- Sugary beverages
- Trans fats
- Vegetable oils
RICE Method for Injuries
If your joint pain is caused by an injury, the RICE Method can help reduce pain and swelling in the first 72 hours after injury. For less serious soft-tissue injuries like sprains or strains, here’s how it works:
- Rest: Give the injured body part a break and rest.
- Ice: Use an ice pack to reduce pain and swelling.
- Compression: Wrap the injury with a bandage.
- Elevate: Keep the injured area raised at or above heart level when you rest.
Depending on the injury, a physical therapist may recommend movement over rest to prevent stiffness. Talk to a doctor if you’re worried about a serious injury, as the RICE method may not be appropriate for you.
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Joint Inflammation
Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet is a great start to reduce chronic inflammation and arthritis pain. Adding the lifestyle changes below can dramatically improve your symptoms and potentially return some mobility to affected joints.
Get regular exercise.
Regular exercise can feel challenging if you’re living with arthritis or joint damage, but low-impact physical activity can have a positive impact on chronic pain. Start with aerobic activities that put less stress on your joints like walking, swimming, or cycling.
Muscle-strengthening activities like yoga or resistance bands are also good for combating joint stiffness. You’ll boost your immune system while you’re at it and reduce your risk of developing additional chronic conditions.
Maintain a healthy weight.
What is the connection between obesity and joint inflammation? The connection between obesity and joint inflammation is that obesity can worsen symptoms of painful joints, particularly at the knees.
Patients struggling with obesity also increase their risk of developing both rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis due to wear and tear on the joints. Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight are often recommended in overweight patients to support long-term joint health.
Reduce your stress levels.
Chronic stress contributes to chronic inflammation in the body. Reducing stress can then reduce inflammation overall, including at the joints. Spend more time doing things that relieve your stress, whether that’s walking the dog, listening to music, or embracing a regular yoga practice.
Lay off the tobacco.
Smoking is directly linked to both the development and severity of chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Heavy smoking may also decrease the effectiveness of drug treatments and biologic medications in arthritis patients.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, smokers also experience more complications following surgeries like joint replacements and suffer more overall cartilage loss. Few habits have as much of a negative impact as smoking on not only joint health, but overall health.
Limit your alcohol intake.
Moderate drinking may be fine for healthy adults, but alcohol can cause inflammation for patients with joint pain or chronic diseases. For patients already taking anti-inflammatory medications, alcohol may reduce the efficacy of those drugs or even cause damage to your gut health.
Get good sleep.
Poor sleep hygiene and a lack of quality sleep can increase overall inflammation and lead to chronic pain. In patients with existing joint conditions and arthritis symptoms, sleep can have a direct effect on the severity of their joint pain.
If you think you may have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, talk to your primary care physician. Sleep disorders left unchecked can lead to a variety of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease.
Find Help When You Need It
You shouldn’t be tackling joint inflammation on your own. If you haven’t found long-term strategies to reduce your joint pain, you may want to explore an integrative approach.
At Sano Health Club, we work with our patients to get to the root of their discomfort for long-term wellness. If you’re ready for an individualized approach, contact us today. We’ll answer any questions you may have, including membership plans we provide for patients like you.
If you’re not ready for an introductory call, join our mailing list to receive the latest information on reducing inflammation, the gut-brain connection, and more, or follow us on Instagram.
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