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What Can You Do About Joint and Muscle Pain?

Aug 17, 2007
One of the most common questions I receive: "I'm having pain in my knees and joints. My knees even hurt when I get on the bikes at the gym. Is there a certain exercise that can help in strengthening my knees, or any other advice you can give? Someone said to take fish oil."

Osteoarthritis, or "wear and tear arthritis", is actually common at any age, although more common as we get older and remain physically active.

May people suffer joint pain because of the opposite - inactivity. In fact, I believe this is the root cause of most joint issues that have nothing to do with injury. Like anything else, we either use our joints or we loose our joints. Over the years, if you've lived a sedentary life, you'll find that the body shifts its biochemistry to support only what you are requiring it to do.

One of the things I speak about is how the body and mind work together. Unfortunately, this is one of those times when the mind has a mind of it's own. I'm going to go out on a limb here and voice my enthusiastic opinion on what's going on. Some doctors will pitch and scream about this, but others back me 100%. I'll let you decide. Then I'll give you some great solutions for helping knee and joint pain that's not being caused by a chronic injury.

First, there's our old friend calcium. Calcium is touted heavily for conditions such as osteoporosis - however, the media is only giving you one segment of the story. The real culprit here is your hormones. As you age, unless you remain physically active (even more-so than when you were young), the body alters its hormonal production. Thyroid levels and testosterone levels decrease. Low testosterone has been directly linked to problems with bone density. The lower the levels, the more brittle the bone can become.
Enter osteoporosis.

These hormones also cause a drain on the body's nutrients, including calcium. However, replacing calcium will no more cure the problem in many cases than, say, replacing water from a bucket with a hole in it. You have to plug the hole - and that is best done through hormonal management, dietary shifts, and exercise.

Let's take thyroid: the Mayo Clinic published an article just last week on the connection between low thyroid and joint problems and muscle pain. I overcame hypothyroidism and the associated joint pain that accompanied it. You can, too. It takes some work, and in some cases some medical intervention, but often thyroid levels can be managed naturally.

A friend of mine, Jackie Lee, at age 72, looks 52 at best - and acts 22. She still tumbles, dances, teaches yoga, competes in figure and even bodybuilding shows - and she's been hypothyroid for decades. She manages it through a combination of specific amino acids, her lifestyle nutrition plan (she's a vegetarian; I am not), and of course exercise. Her story is quite inspiring.

Now, since we know that thyroid, testosterone, and other bodily hormones have a lot to do with joint and muscle pain, doesn't it make sense to start there and work our way outward to a solution? I think so.
Have your hormone levels checked. A few simple blood tests will let your doctor know if you are hypothyroid (be sure to run free and reverse T3/T4 - many doctors only run TSH, which is not adequate) or if you have other hormonal issues. Resolve those first.

Again, and I cannot stress this enough, many hormone issues are resolved naturally through exercise and nutrition. Trust me, as I have ALL of them. My hormones took an early nosedive in my 20s. Even though I require natural hormones to make up for a defective pituitary, my hormone requirements are now less than half of what they were. Through training and eating properly, I have managed to cut my medications in half from the time when I was obese. That's the power of exercise and nutrition.

Let's assume that your hormones are fine. What if you're just having "natural" wear and tear? Well, there are some great places to start before you go diving head-long for the cortisone injections.

First, do consider fish oil. Fish oil (EPA/DHA in the correct ratios, such as in Carlson's Brand) works wonders for the joints and connective tissues, as well as being one of the healthiest substances you can put in your body. Fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers related to heart disease, reduce blood pressure, lessen the likelihood of stroke, and even control blood sugar levels. Many Type 2 diabetics have removed themselves (under a doctor's care) from medication with the help of fish oil, exercise and proper nutrition.

Again, "proper nutrition" is not a one-size-fits-all prescription. If you're 55 and obese, you do not want to role model a 25-year-old personal trainer whose only fat resides between his ears. Listen to someone who's been there. That makes for certainty, and certainty is the key to success.

Next, look into a three-supplement "stack" I recommend to some of my clients who really suffer from joint pain: MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Each works is a slightly different way. Glucosamine has the most amount of medical research behind it, but MSM is deemed as a "miracle cure" for a lot of people. For others, it has limited use - but the 'stack' is the best natural approach I've found, when combined with fish oil, for relieving joints and muscles from non-injury-related pain.

Dosages vary, but a good start would be:

Glucosamine: 1,000mg per 100 pounds of body weight
Chondroitin: 400mg 2-3x per day
MSM: 1,000mg 2x per day
Fish oil: 2-4 grams per day in liquid form (Carlson's lemon-flavored fish oil actually tastes good)

Again, be sure to pass these recommendations by your physician.

Last, but not least, move. You may want to start with Yoga, believe it or not. Yoga can relieve joint and muscle pain like you would not believe. I used Yoga stretches when I injured my lower back in 2002, and the healing was remarkable.
About the Author
Jon Benson is a nutrition and fitness counselor who specializes in weight loss and life coaching. He is the creator of The Fit Over 40 Role Modeling System, and the author of "Fit Over 40". More information on women's health is available at http://www.fitover40.com/kw/womens-health.
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