Whether you spend all day on a computer or operate heavy equipment, those repetitive injuries run the risk of sparking joint and muscle aches including carpal tunnel syndrome.
And while we have been conditioned to believe that as we age, joint pain and arthritis are just part of the natural process, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Pain is your body’s way of saying something is wrong, and in most cases, it is linked to inflammation. And inflammation is something that we can control.
Anatomy of a joint
Our bodies feature numerous different types of joints, which connect our bones to one another by ligaments. Muscles are attached to bones by tendons, and both ligaments and tendons are protected by fluid-filled bursae and cartilage, which protect the area directly between the bones. (Ref. 1)
When any part of the joint is compromised, whether through injury, trauma or inflammation, pain is the end result.
While most point to arthritis – both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, especially – inflammation is usually the real culprit.
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury, and it happens when the body sends out its crew from the immune system to heal a cut or bruise.
It can, however, get out of control, and when it does, it can lead to not only chronic pain, but also to a wide range of diseases potentially including type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Exercise to control pain
Dr. Mark Hamer, an epidemiologist at University College London tells Prevention magazine that inflammation increases as we age in part due to the loss of muscle mass and other physical changes that happen with age. (Ref. 2)
Given that, maintaining muscle mass is a good way to stave off inflammation, making exercise a critical component.
Hamer led a 4,000-person study looking at the long-term role exercise had on inflammation, and found that over a 10-year period, those who exercised at least 2 and a half hours per week – that’s an average of 20 minutes per day – saw their inflammation markers reduced by at least 12 percent.
(Markers include measuring levels of cytokines, small proteins that are part of the immune system and signal cells in response to injury. In high numbers, they are a sign of inflammation.)
And while you might see exercise as counter-productive when it comes to controlling pain, it works for a variety of different reasons. Not only does moving help keep joints from stiffening by increasing blood flow to the tissues surrounding your joints, exercise also helps reduce stress, which can trigger inflammation.
Eating to reduce inflammation
A healthy diet is also a critical component to keeping inflammation at bay.
Eating foods that contain nutrients to calm inflammation can help ease joint pain, even as they help boost feelings of well-being naturally. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are especially beneficial.
Limiting processed foods – foods that don’t resemble their natural selves – as well as foods high in sugar and saturated fat can go a long way toward limiting inflammation.
“They cause overactivity in the immune system, which can lead to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels,” said Dr. Scott Zashin, a clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, in an interview with Health magazine. (Ref. 3)
Some foods that limit inflammation include:
- Foods rich in omega-3s. Fish that have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation. Experts recommend eating fish at least twice each week – especially salmon, tuna and sardines – to reap the many benefits of Omega 3s.
- Whole grains. While refined foods like white flour, ready-to-eat cereal, white rice and traditional pasta can trigger inflammation, eating whole versions – brown or wild rice, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, oatmeal, etc. – provides essential fiber, which has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, an important inflammation marker.
- Leafy greens. The vitamin E found in leafy greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli and collard greens - has been shown in studies to keep cytokines – a protein linked to inflammation – operating properly. They are also rich in other antioxidants that can help keep inflammation and free radicals at bay.
- Nuts. Walnuts, almonds and other nuts are packed with nutrients that can help the body fight off inflammation, including alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, and antioxidants.
- Soy. The isoflavones in soy may help lower inflammation, especially in women. A 2007 study appearing in the Journal of Inflammation found that isoflavones help reduce the effects of inflammation in mice.
- Yogurt. While dairy can trigger inflammation in those who are lactose intolerant, the probiotics in many yogurts can reduce inflammation in the gut, crowding out bad bacteria and replacing them with healthy ones. (Give the probiotics a bigger boost with Kiwi-Klenz, which includes prebiotics which feed the existing good bacteria while stimulating the production of new ones.)
- Cayenne pepper. The capsaicin in cayenne has been linked to both a reduction in pain as well as inflammation. It can be used topically (mix powdered cayenne with olive or coconut oil and apply as needed) or ingested either in raw or powered form.
- Tomatoes. Tomatoes are not only perfect as the T in a classic BLT sandwich, they are also rich in lycopene, which gives them their red color. Lycopene has been shown to help reduce inflammation, especially in the lungs. (Did we need another reason to love natural home-made tomato sauce?)
- Beets. The betalains in beets give them their bright red color, and have been shown to help reduce inflammation.
Easing existing symptoms of CPS
Localized inflammation contributes to the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and other muscle and joint disorders.
Easing that inflammation can make a difference, but most research is targeted toward surgery or pharmaceutical interventions.
Carpal tunnel release is one of the common surgical procedures performed in the United States, and it involves severing the band of tissue surrounding the wrist in order to reduce pressure on the median nerve. Both the traditional open release surgery and the newer endoscopic surgery involve cutting the carpal ligament – the tissue holding the joint together - to enlarge the carpal tunnel.
Risks include infection, stiffness and pain, loss of strength in the wrist and nerve damage that can last a lifetime. (Ref. 3)
Corticosteroids are often used to reduce inflammation, and are either injected into the carpal tunnel or taken orally to shrink swollen tissue and relieve pressure on the nerve.
Trouble is, they often only offer short-term relief, and may result in nerve damage or weakened or ruptured tendons that can further exacerbate the problem. Plus, there is a potential for side effects such as high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose levels and weight gain.
Given the risks involved with both surgery and steroid use, a natural approach seems like a much more tolerable as a way to reduce inflammation.
Natural health experts have pointed to several different natural options to reduce inflammation and pain, including curcumin – found in turmeric, a powerful antioxidant that has been reviewed in hundreds of papers for its beneficial effects – and ginger. Glucosamine has also been shown to help support the elasticity and integrity of the connective tissue in and around joints while chondroitin may help support the body's natural ability to rebuild joint cartilage. According to a 2010 study, omega-3 fatty acids – such as those found in our Green-Lipped Mussel Powder and our Omega-3 fish oil supplements – may help support joint health, function and ease the pain of a wide range of neuropathic problems.
Researchers at the Canadian Centre for Integrative Medicine and the Psychiatry Interventional Pain Clinic at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, an arm of the University of Toronto, looked at the role that omega 3 fish oil plays in supporting joint health. (Ref. 4)
As part of the study, five patients with different underlying diagnoses including cervical radiculopathy (nerve compression of the spine), thoracic outlet syndrome (compression that causes pain in the neck and shoulders), fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and burn injury were treated with high oral doses of omega-3 fish oil (varying from 2400-7200 mg/day of EPA-DHA). The participants were then surveyed both before and after treatment, and all reported “clinically significant pain reduction,” researchers said.
Not only that, they also reported that they had improved function, which continued almost two years after treatment.
“This first-ever reported case series suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may be of benefit in the management of patients with neuropathic pain,” researchers said. “Further investigations with randomized controlled trials in a more specific neuropathic pain population would be warranted.”
Mucopolysaccharides (referred to as the Glue of Life - essentially holding the body and its connective tissues together) and omega 3 phospholipids found in Green Lipped Mussels are often the unknown heroes when it comes to supporting joint health and mobility. These two key ingredients are the reason why so many people are enjoying the benefits of taking Green Lipped Mussel Powder.