Do you have stiff joints that sound like a bowl of fresh rice crispy treats and milk when doing nominal tasks throughout the day? Do you wish WD-40 came in “human grade”? And if you fall…can you get up?
If any of these questions come to mind on a semi-regular basis, you just might be here to find out how to lubricate stiff joints.
However, finding the right product(s) for the aches and pains can be daunting to say the least. This is why having a research and health nerd (yours truly) on your side can help to sort through the tangled web of supplements that is the “Joint Health Section”.
Where should I start?
Basics. Always the basics. Coming from an avid Tennessee Vols fan this is never an easy analogy to make, but it is true nonetheless. Nick Saban of Alabama is unquestionably the greatest college football coach in history. And is likely to remain such. What makes him so good? The consensus has been and continues to be his attention to the basics. Don’t make penalties. Execute the play so much during practice that it can be done in your sleep. If you are supposed to block a player, BLOCK HIM and don’t miss.
That seems to be the recipe for nearly 2 handfuls of national championships. The same can be said for keeping stiff joints lubricated. The basics WORK! So, what are the basics of joint health and composition? In my experience and from the best information in research we can conclude the following seem to always rise to the top of the list:
- Omega 3s
- The Joint Health Trinity, aka Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM
- Natural anti-inflammatory herbs (Turmeric, Boswelia, Ginger, Willow Bark, etc.)
Is this list the end all be all of joint care? Probably not. However, it is likely to be the most effective and comprehensive list of nutrients and supplements that have clinical evidence supporting their spot on the list as top dogs. Let’s dive in and find out why.
X’s and O’s
To begin, Collagen might seem the most evident option to offer support. Furthermore, most have figured this out based on the fact that collagen holds one of the top spots in supplement sales over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down. People are finding out just how helpful it can be not just for joints, but for so much more.
When it comes to the typical joint issues, collagen has been studied for it all and shown efficacy to boot. Certain types of collagen can even be radio traced (through a specific type of laboratory testing method) to be seen filling in where cartilage is missing. Science is cool, no? Furthermore, collagen contains the primary amino acids needed for repairing cartilage and bone. Why is bone broth so popular? It is a rich source of those specific amino acids. Any tissue can benefit from collagen, but if it pops, cracks or grinds, collagen should be the starting Quarterback.
What can be said about Omega 3s that hasn’t already been proven in research enough times to convince billionaire company executives to have multiple patented pharmaceuticals mimicking them. Everybody knows a great team has a star receiver catching countless touchdown passes in critical times. This is where the Omega 3s shine. No, there isn’t edible WD-40, but omega 3 fish oil might be just as good.
Studies show that omega 3s from fish oil, and more specifically with high amounts of the omega 3 EPA, reduce inflammation in joint tissue at levels that rival anti inflammatory drugs! As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Omegas help to reduce the production of the inflammation rather than just offer a local and short lasting pain relief effect like standard NSAIDS. Like collagen, Omega 3s have a laundry list of benefits extending far beyond joint health. Even more reason to add it to your starting lineup!
Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM
What team has any chance to succeed without a strong offensive or defensive line? Not only do they protect the “star” players, but they can also make up for underperformance and if your QB has a limp, they better not let him get smacked. For these players one needs to look no further than Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane).
These have been around for longer than pretty much any other joint health supplements and for good reason. They have some of the most proven and extensive research of any supplements currently available.
For time and understandability the breakdown of benefit is like this;
Glucosamine – Joint protection and repair, proven to convey results beginning around the 8 week mark.
Chondroitin – Lubricates stiff joints and keeps them healthy.
MSM – Reduces inflammation not only in the joints but also improves immune function and reduces further risk of joint deterioration.
The short story is this; even most doctors have come around to recommending this combo for improving lubricating those stiff joints and that alone commands attention.
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Last but certainly not least we have the anti-inflammatory cocktail of concentrated herbals. Now, these can certainly vary and there is emerging research almost weekly of new and exciting herbals to try. I’ll stick to the ones with the most notable research to make things easier.
First up we have Turmeric Curcumin. The most studied herb in history. It works. Even in lesser quantity offerings or blends. Specifically, the concentrated extract of Turmeric; Curcumin, is shown to be highly effective at combating inflammation from a specific pathway known as COX-2. So much so that certain types of Curcumin have been shown to be as effective at pain reduction as Acetaminophen. And with none of the liver toxicity.
Next up is Boswellia. This stuff was so good the wise men gave it to Jesus. You think I’m kidding! Frankincense is the main source of Boswellic acid and one of the reasons why it has been used for thousands of years is for its pain relieving benefits. Another pain pathway known as the 5-LOX pathway seems to be improved by way of Boswellia supplementation. Not only that, but it improves inflammatory status in many other parts of the body as well. Ginger, another well known inflammation fighting extract and White Willow Bark, known for being the source of the active ingredient in Aspirin are another couple of examples of highly beneficial ingredients belonging to top shelf joint health complexes.
A final thought. I would be doing health and wellness an injustice without remarking on the elephant in the room (apologies for yet another Alabama reference). Exercise, and specifically resistance and/or plyometric exercise is an absolute essential part of maintaining, healing and growing healthy and sustainable joints, ligaments and tendons. As my wife who is a practicing Physical Therapist loves to tell her clients (and me when I don’t do as I should) motion is lotion! Movement is key to longevity and well being.
The Final Play
This goes for the joints as well! If it hurts to move then start slow and controlled or work with a therapist or coach to guide you through process of gradually increasing effort. In the meantime, try adding these products into your daily routine and you just might find that while tackle football or marathons might not be so practical, a family game of flag football or a light walk through the park isn’t so far out of reach.