While joint pain can affect anyone, at any age, the most common cause of joint pain is caused by arthritis, and predominantly affects older people. Overwhelmingly the most common cause, approximately 350 million people worldwide suffer from arthritis, with nearly 40 million in the United States.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints and occurs when the cartilage between the joints breaks down, leading to swelling, stiffness, and eventually a lot of pain. It is a degenerative joint disease, sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” of the joints. Most commonly affecting the knees, hips, lower back and neck, and fingers, joints with compromised cartilage eventually result in bone rubbing against bone, which causes the pain and inflammation.
Statistics show that one of every two adults will develop symptoms of knee osteoarthritis at some point in their lives. In addition, one in four will develop symptoms of hip osteoarthritis by the age of 85.
For those affected by OA, unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are treatments available. One of the best treatments for OA is, as counterintuitive as it seems, more movement of the joints. Exercise has been proven effective at treating osteoarthritis, including walking and light physical activity, which helps to strengthen the muscles around the joint and reduce pain and stiffness.
- Most treatment plans combine activity with medicine, available in the form of pills, creams, lotions, or even injected directly into the joint. Among the most popular are:
- Analgesics: Analgesics are available over-the-counter or by prescription, and are pain relievers like acetaminophen, opioids and an atypical opioid called tramadol.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): You’ve probably got a bottle of these in your cabinet right now. NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and celecoxib and are the most commonly used drugs to ease inflammation and related pain. They are available over-the-counter or by prescription.
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medicines. They are most commonly taken by mouth but may also be injected directly into a joint if necessary.
- Hyaluronic acid: Another injected medicine, hyaluronic acid is found naturally in joint fluid, and helps lubricate the joint and absorb shock. For those with OA, this acid appears to break down, so it can be injected directly into the joint.
These treatment options have been, mainly, all that is available to those suffering from osteoarthritis. The unfortunate consequence to receiving these treatments is damage to other parts of the body. Corticosteroids have been known to cause side effects like clouding of the lens in the eye, high blood sugar, increased risk of infections, thinning bones, and suppressed adrenal gland hormone production, while long-term exposure to NSAIDs can result in stomach ulcers, headaches and dizziness, ringing in the ears, high blood pressure, and liver and kidney problems.
For those seeking a more natural alternative to these effective, yet potentially harmful medications, a better solution may be growing right in your garden.
Rosemary essential oil has long been touted for its ability to relieve pain, which makes it among the best natural treatments for headaches, muscle pain, and even arthritis. It possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great treatment for ailments like joint sprains, aches, and even osteoarthritis.
Among all plants, herbs are among the highest in antioxidants, substances that remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism. These oxidizing agents are called “free radicals” which when not addressed can cause oxidative damage to cells throughout the body, leading to many of the most common chronic illnesses. Rosemary is extremely high in antioxidants, which helps it fight inflammation in the body, helping with pain and inflammation in the joints in the process.
One study published in 2015 found that carnosol, a phenolic diterpene found in the herbs rosemary and Mountain desert sage, showed potent inhibition of pro-inflammatory and catabolic mediators of cartilage breakdown in chondrocytes, the cells responsible for creating cartilage.
Researchers cultured chondrocytes in either the presence or absence of carnosol, analyzing the gene expression after 4 days. In chondrocytes, type II collagen expression, one of the prominent components of cartilage, was significantly enhanced in the cells exposed to carnosol. In addition, researchers found that this rosemary treatment suppressed the pro-inflammatory response, which can help deter the breakdown of cartilage in the presence of inflammation in the joints.
Another study combined a proprietary combination of reduced iso-alpha acids, rosemary extract and oleanolic acid in patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia, evaluating participants with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for pain.
Administering 440mg for the first four weeks, and doubling treatments to 880mg for the next four, participants reported “a statistically significant decrease in pain of 50% and 40%… in arthritis subjects.” Reduced C-reactive protein, a common identifier of inflammation in the body, further verified the effects of the treatment. The rosemary treatment relieved pain by as much as 50% and lowered inflammation in the body, all without the report of any serious side effects, making it among the safest treatment possibilities for OA and other diseases of inflammation.
Free from serious side effects, rosemary is yet another effective natural treatment for some very common ailments plaguing people across the planet. While some will scoff at the efficacy of “natural” treatments for serious diseases like osteoarthritis, the studies don’t lie. Participants repeatedly report positive effects when treated with rosemary for joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness, making it a great alternative to the harmful medicines that are all too common the cause of more damage to the body.
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