Joint Pain – A (very) Brief Word

Q: My joints constantly hurt regardless of how I modify my training.   Is there anything I can take that will help?

A: Here are a few of my suggestions (keep in mind this is nowhere near comprehensive by any means):

  1. First, do not look for band-aid therapies (i.e.-what you should take to ease joint pain). Rather, identify and work on the causative factors that create your joint pain.  At the very least work on the causative factors while you are using the band-aid therapies.  Otherwise, you will be dealing with joint pain for a very long time.
  2. Regulate your blood sugar and energy production at the cell level. This requires that you completely customize your nutritional efforts to your physiology.  If you are eating the wrong foods in the wrong combinations at the wrong times, you will simply drain your energy reserves.  When energy demand exceeds the supply, the stress/inflammatory response is initiated.  Left unchecked, this can eventually lead to lower than normal levels of cortisol.  When cortsiol drops below norms, it is not uncommon to experience joint pain.  I have seen some hardcore lifters take supplements to lower their cortisol levels in an effort to gain more mass and prevent catabolism (muscle breakdown) and in so doing, they drop the levels below normal and their joints begin to hurt like hell.
  3. Ease the burden on the GI system by eating foods that are easy to digest. Overburdening the GI system with tons of indigestible fibers and poly-unsaturated fatty acids (which hinder protein metabolism amongst a myriad of other problems) can easily contribute to joint pain.  When the gut “leaks” it is easy to accumulate immune complexes and these things can settle in your joints and lead to horrendous joint issues and pain.  This is one of the reasons why so many people are a fan of fasting in cases of severe rheumatism…it takes the load off of the digestive system.  However, fasting is immunosuppressive so I am not advocating that here – just attempting to make a point.  Avoid hard to digest foods, fibers, etc. and ease the burden on the GI and immune systems.   
  4. Correct your postural faults and structural imbalances. If you are training with postural faults and structural imbalances, you are placing excess compression, torsion, and sheer on working joints.  This progressively wears out joint structures and will inevitably lead to pain. Find a qualified professional and/or coach that can assess your structure, lifting technique, and training program design and periodization to avoid pattern overload and the like. 
  5. Be sure you are adequately hydrated. Dehydration is your enemy if you have joint pain – or any other pain for that matter!  Drink somewhere between 2 and 3 liters of clean water per day on a very regular basis.  Increase that if you are outdoors and sweating a lot.  Also, make sure your water is clean.  Evian, Trinity, and Volvic are my favorite bottled waters, along with high quality Artesian and reverse osmosis waters.  For excellent filtration systems, you can visitcom.
  6. Improve your food quality as best as you can! Stop eating things that are overly processed such as boxed, bagged, frozen, and canned foods.  These foods will quickly overload the liver and the Cytochrome P448 and P450 pathways.  These are the primary Phase I detox pathways which basically run off of sulfur.  When there is not enough nutrition on board to run these pathways efficiently, guess where we the body stores extra sulfur?  Cartilage!  The immune system will break down cartilage and mobilize the necessary sulfur to run the detox pathways of the liver.  This can, and often does, lead to joint pain.
  7. Eliminate all grains (at least for a little while) from your diet. I have seen some pretty horrendous cases of joint pain completely disappear when this is implemented.  

As far as band aids go, keep in mind, I recommend addressing my primary suggestions, but here are some options to get you some relief in the meantime:

Please note – I am not telling anyone to go out and take any of these products in any amount.  The below (and anything that I write for that matter) is purely for educational purposes.  Consult your physician if your joint pain persists.

  1. Traumeel is a product that has been used in the past in Germany to relieve pain. It used to come as an ointment and in an injectable form.  I have heard that the injectable stuff is the way to go.  I am not sure if this is still the case, but back in the day Dave Tate and Elite Fitness sold both forms.  Let me just add the mandatory precaution here: make sure to have a qualified medical practitioner administer the injection if you go that route.
  2. There are also products like Nu Joint Matrix and Arnica Gel that are topical. The Matrix is a spray and the Arnica is an ointment.  To test it for yourself, perform multiple sets of heavy eccentrics to induce muscular soreness and then apply the spray to only one side. When you wake up, if the product is worth a damn, the side which received the application would be much less sore. 
  3. I am not sure if it still exists but MD+ Joint Support used to be a great joint supplement. It creates its effects through several mechanisms.  If I remember correctly Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale had a hand in the formulation and he is incredibly thorough.   The dosage of this product can range from 5 – 15 tablets per day depending upon the severity of your pain as well as your financial resources.
  4. I have also seen results with using Curcumin. Curcumin (Curcuma longa) is the source of the spice Turmeric, and is used in curries and other spicy dishes from India, Asia, and the Middle East.  It has been used as a pain relieving, anti-inflammatory agent to relieve pain and inflammation in the skin and muscles. Many elite level power lifters have moved from the OTC anti-inflammatory drugs to Curcumin to ease their painful joints from years of wear and tear.
  5. The traditional band aids of glucosamine, chondroiton, and MSM are of benefit as well. However, if these work, it is highly likely that your detoxification system is overloaded as these are all sulfur based supplements (see primary suggestion #4).  Aerobic Life sells a supplement that combines glucosamine and MSM called Arthri-Flex. 
  6. Regular consumption of high quality saturated fats can aid in keeping the joints well lubed. Suggestions here would include coconut oil, real butter, lard, and tallow.
  7. Magnesium deficiency could be an issue here. As much as 83% of the population is deficient in magnesium and the number is higher in lifters and athletes.  Consider supplementing orally and topically to restore levels to norm. 

Also, I am personally not a huge fan of over-the-counter NSAIDs and pain relievers such as Aleve (naproxen), Tylenol (Acetaminaphen), and Advil (Ibuprofen) –  yes, I have taken one of those if something is super bad, but that is extremely rare for me personally.  Research shows that aside from the destruction they create in the gut, they also hinder protein synthesis.

I hope this was of some benefit.  Use what you feel is beneficial and discard the rest!

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