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Chronic Joint Pain and Problems with Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Chronic joint pain is an inflammatory condition which limits a person’s ability to do basic tasks and affects their quality of life. It affects your sleep, movement, digestion, participation in events and ages you more rapidly. Chronic inflammation is a culprit in many heart and circulatory conditions, including plaque buildup in the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. 

Joint pain can be caused by many types of injuries or conditions. It may be linked to arthritis, bursitis, muscle, ligament and tendon inflammation or injuries (sprains, strains, tears). As well as autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Gout forms painful crystals in the joint. Viral or bacterial infections such as Lyme Disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “Chronic pain caused by arthritis affects millions of people in the United States every year. About one in four adults with arthritis—15 million people—report experiencing severe joint pain related to arthritis. Additionally, nearly half of adults with arthritis have persistent pain.”

NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are among the most popular pain-relieving medications worldwide. In fact, estimates suggest that about 15% of the US population takes an NSAID regularly (over the counter and prescription strength). Some of the most common NSAIDs include ibuprofen (as in Motrin), naproxen (as in Aleve) and celecoxib (as in Celebrex).

Using anti-inflammatory medications like steroids or ibuprofen may relieve pain in the short-term setting, but a new study suggests this may lead to chronic pain.

Research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine led by clinicians at McGill University in Canada discovered that blocking these neutrophils with NSAID’s may help reduce pain in the short term, in mice, blocking them can prolong the pain for up to 10 times longer. An analysis in the United Kingdom that included about 500,000 individuals found that people who took anti-inflammatory medications experienced long-term chronic pain for the next two to 10 years.

Heavy or long-term use of some of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and higher dose aspirin, can cause chronic kidney disease known as chronic interstitial nephritis. They can cause the kidneys to retain more salt and water in the body, which can increase your risk of heart failure. They can also make some blood pressure-lowering medicines, such as ACE inhibitors and diuretics less effective – and is likely to worsen heart failure.

One report published in the February 2022 journal Circulation found,” Regular daily intake of 4 g acetaminophen increases systolic blood pressure in individuals with hypertension by ≈5 mm Hg when compared with placebo; this increases cardiovascular risk and calls into question the safety of using acetaminophen regularly.”

Family physician Dr. Matthew Goldman suggests. “Over the Counter (OTC) pain meds are relatively safe for occasional take-the-edge-off-the-pain use. But pain that lingers beyond a couple of days, or that rears its ugly head on a fairly regular basis, is a sign that something isn’t quite right with our bodies. I’d prefer to determine what’s causing the pain rather than have you continue to mask it. By getting to the bottom of why you’re having pain, we can hopefully find a solution that delivers consistent, long-term relief.”

Therefore, lets consider nutrients (supplements) that can be taken long term and will help repair the tissues and relieve inflammation and pain without side-effects.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body comprising 90% of our connective tissue and 90% of organic bone matrix. By age 21, our body’s collagen supply begins to decline1, which overtime is the source of joint and bone degradation that lead to arthritis, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. It’s anti-inflammatory properties are due to its content of the amino acids proline and glycine which inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that are released by cells in response to infection or injury. Additionally, collagen can also help to reduce inflammation by blocking the action of enzymes that destroy cartilage. In one trial, patients receiving 5-7 grams of collagen hydrolysate daily for 1-6 months demonstrated a 70% response rate for significant or noticeable improvement in joint pain. In another study, collagen proved 25% more effective in reducing osteoarthritis pain and stiffness compared to other anti-inflammatories such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Type I & 3 collagen is used for strong hair, skin, nails, and bones. Type 2 collagen is more specific for joint and cartilage health.

MSM or Methylsulfonylmethane, is a naturally occurring compound in foods such as fresh vegetables, meat, and dairy products. MSM provides a source of natural sulfur, which plays a role in many of the body’s processes without any toxicity (although people with psoriasis should not take as it increases flairs). As a supplement it is most well-known for connective tissue repair including skin, ligaments, tendons, muscle and cartilage. MSM, plays an important role in making collagen and glucosamine, both of which are vital for healthy bones and joints, and in the production of immunoglobulins, which help your immune system.

Many of MSM’s benefits have links to its anti-inflammatory action for joint inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, musculoskeletal pain, torn rotator cuff, torn meniscus, scleroderma, scar tissue, stretch marks, hair loss, wrinkles, protection against sun/wind or radiation burn, and accelerated wound / burn healing.

Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory plant related to ginger. Turmeric’s main active ingredient is curcumin, which has amazing anti-inflammatory properties for numerous health conditions. For inflammation and/or pain, one study found that taking turmeric extract three times daily was comparable to taking a 1,200-milligram dose of ibuprofen daily. 

Studies from the NIH suggest, turmeric extracts and curcumin have been investigated for their toxicity in several studies and have been found to be safe. A phase 1 human trial with 25 subjects using up to 8000 mg of curcumin per day for 3 months found no toxicity from curcumin. Five other human trials using 1125-2500 mg of curcumin per day have also found it to be safe. Many studies suggest curcumin can stop or potentially reverse the development of atherosclerosis or clogged arteries. It does have some blood thinning aspects so people on blood thinners should be cautious.

CBD (Cannabidiol) is one of the main pharmacologically active phyto-cannabinoids of (Cannabis sativa L.), which is non-psychoactive (no THC), exerts a number of beneficial pharmacological effects, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research has shown that CBD may help reduce chronic pain and inflammation via its effects on endocannabinoid receptor activity. Studies show CBD is especially beneficial for chronic, long-term pain and pain that interferes with sleep without side-effects. Research carried out on humans has shown a significant reduction in pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, nerve pain and multiple sclerosis (MS). The people with MS also noticed a reduction in muscle spasms.

Guidelines from the American Academy of Family Physicians also suggest that instead of initially turning to medications to treat pain, using heat, massages, or physical therapy should be the first step. If those don’t work, medications like anti-inflammatories or other analgesics like acetaminophen can assist.

Staying healthy can sometimes be challenging, but don’t let chronic joint pain and medications decrease your quality of life! 

As always check with your healthcare practitioner before starting any new supplements.

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To make an in-office or telephone appointment at the Tree of Life Wellness Center call 508-336-4242.

Jane Jansen Holistic Practitioner

Host Holistic Healthline Radio