QUESTIONS? CALL 1-800-448-4919 M-F 9AM-6PM EST

Natural solutions for joint pain

By and Dr. Mary James, ND

Have you told your doctor about your joint aches and pains? If so, you might have been offered just two options: prescription pain relievers and/or surgery if you have significant joint damage. The truth is, there is a lot you can do to alleviate joint pain naturally.

A woman with her dog taking steps to reduce inflammation and joint pain

Women with joint pain need practical, effective solutions that improve the way they feel and naturally support their joint health going forward. Once the source of your joint pain is identified, you can take steps to resolve it.

First step to relieve joint pain: find the root source

Whether your joints hurt because of a prior injury, structural imbalances, overuse, or osteoarthritis, all ongoing joint pain is fueled by inflammation. This starts as a normal immune response to injury. But once ignited, the inflammatory process can continue indefinitely if the source is not snuffed out.

Inside a joint: the knee

knee joint

(click for larger view)

Note: Once joint cartilage has deteriorated, or you have major problems with tendons or ligaments, options for complete relief are greatly reduced. For sudden joint pain, or pain that is debilitating, or if a joint isn’t working right, see your doctor right away.

Most chronic joint inflammation can be driven by:

  • Earlier injuries — Previous injury can make a joint more susceptible to inflammation and pain, especially when other inflammatory factors are present.
  • Hormonal imbalances — Estrogen is anti-inflammatory and supports collagen, so when it declines naturally in menopause, women may become more aware of joint issues. Inflammation can also be exacerbated by chronic stress and resulting adrenal imbalances.
  • Weight and mechanical stressors — Excess weight stresses the joints as do body misalignments from repetitive motions, postural imbalances, and reduced flexibility. Over time, stressed joints become inflamed.
  • Systemic inflammation — Body inflammation can intensify any localized pain, whether due to infection, allergy, autoimmunity, or metabolic imbalances.

Your joints don’t have to hurt!

Science shows us that chronic inflammation is closely connected to lifestyle and diet. If you’re eating — or doing — the wrong things, inflammation can cause trouble for your joints, and the rest of your body. The simplest way to put out a fire is to eliminate its fuel, and inflammation is no different.

salad on plate

Do it with diet — eat alkalizing, plant-based meals.

Certain foods — processed, fried and fast foods, sugar, dairy products, white flour, and most animal proteins — are acid-forming in your body, and increase inflammation. Other foods — especially fruits and vegetables — do the opposite by alkalizing your system and providing antioxidants. Because a plant-based diet controls inflammation, you may be still able to eat some of your favorite acid-producing foods like fish, meats and eggs.

The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet shown to reduce joint pain and stiffness in women with arthritis. And the combination of omega-3-rich fish and olive oil — key elements of the Mediterranean diet —reduces C-reactive protein, a key marker of inflammation.

You can add specific supplements and antioxidants to support joint health:

mussels on a plate

  • Curcumin — from the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa), curcumin is a safe herb with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Taking it in a special “phytosome” form improves absorption and has been shown to reduce osteoarthritis symptoms.
  • Boswellia serrata — extracted from the bark of the frankincense tree, boswellia is another potent and safe anti-inflammatory herb with proven effectiveness in arthritis.
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale) — originally used in China for multiple ailments, ginger root is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb that targets symptoms of arthritis.
  • Green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) — from the waters off New Zealand, this shellfish contains omega-3 fats, amino acids and minerals. Studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in osteoarthritis.
  • Bromelain — a pineapple-derived enzyme, bromelain is used for swelling and soreness and is often paired with quercetin for their synergistic anti-inflammatory effects.
  • MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) — a safe and time-tested staple for relief, MSM contributes sulfur to joint tissue repair.
  • Antioxidants — classic antioxidants like vitamins C and E neutralize destructive free radicals that can inflame and damage sensitive joint tissues.
  • Vitamin D — vitamin D helps prevent autoimmune reactions in the body, including the joints.
  • Quercetin — a plant flavonoid, quercetin also functions as an antioxidant.

close up on sneaker walking

Food sensitivities can make joint pain flare and are worth investigating. A few weeks of avoiding suspect foods like gluten grains, corn, dairy, and regularly-consumed foods can help identify food intolerances. The “nightshade” family (tomato, eggplant, green/red pepper, potato) can also cause joint pain in some people.

Make your move — exercise a little every day

If you have joint pain, find your way to keep moving so your joints stay lubricated and flexible. Steer clear of high-impact sports and ease into exercise by adding more movement to your daily routine. Start by walking more— maybe walking a few blocks at lunchtime or parking a distance from your destination. Strengthening your thigh muscles will reduce stress on painful knees. Muscle strength and ease of movement can be improved by walking laps across a swimming pool, or doing yoga or tai chi. Once you get going, it’ll be easier to do more.

Stress = even worse joint pain

The effects of stress aren’t all in your head:

  • Research shows that your stress may magnify your chronic arthritis pain.
  • Psychological distress can determine how severe your back pain is.


Reduce stress — let emotional tension recede

Your thoughts and behaviors can work for — or against — your joint health. Letting go of stress is a crucial element for reducing anxiety, fear, and inflammation. Meditation, visualization, yoga, massage, and a strong, positive belief system can all effectively reduce stress. Choose the one that consistently helps you “center.”

Relief is on the way!

You can relieve joint aches and pains when you take steps to support joint health and dial back inflammation. Get started today by choosing any combination of these steps to get on the road to recovery, so you can feel better and do more with each passing day.


Galland L. Diet and inflammation. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;25(6):634-640.

Braverman J. List of Alkaline Anti-Inflammatory Foods. Updated November 21, 2014. Livestrong.com Web site. https://www.livestrong.com/article/183217-list-of-alkaline-anti-inflammatory-foods/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

Watzl B. Anti-inflammatory effects of plant-based foods and of their constituents. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2008 Dec;78(6):293-298.

McKellar G, Morrison E, McEntegart A, et al. A pilot study of a Mediterranean-type diet intervention in female patients with rheumatoid arthritis living in areas of social deprivation in Glasgow. Ann Rheum Dis. 2007 Sep;66(9):1239-1243.

Yoneyama S, Miura K, Sasaki S, et al. Dietary intake of fatty acids and serum C-reactive protein in Japanese. J Epidemiol. 2007 May;17(3):86-92.

Gaby AR. Alternative treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. Altern Med Rev. 1999 Dec;4(6):392-402.

Lind M. Nightshade Vegetables and Arthritis Pain. Updated October 19, 2013. Livestrong Web site. https://www.livestrong.com/article/431059-nightshade-vegetables-and-arthritis-pain/. Accessed July 15, 2015.

Chainani-Wu N. Safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin: a component of tumeric (Curcuma longa). J Altern Complement Med. 2003 Feb;9(1):161-168.

Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Dugall M, et al. Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Dec;15(4):337-344.

[No authors listed] Boswellia serrata. Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2008 Jun;13(2):165-167.

Al-Nahain A, Jahan R, Rahmatullah M. Zingiber officinale: A Potential Plant against Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis. 2014;2014:159089.

Brien S, Prescott P, Coghlan B, et al. Systematic review of the nutritional supplement Perna Canaliculus (green-lipped mussel) in the treatment of osteoarthritis. QJM. 2008 Mar;101(3):167-179.

Brody JE. Keep Moving to Stay Ahead of Arthritis. April 27, 2015. New York Times blog Web site. https://tinyurl.com/o7qjcva. Accessed July 15, 2015.

Clinical Roundup: Selected Treatment Options for Chronic Joint Pain. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 2014;20(4):218-223. First page available at: https://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/act.2014.20405. Accessed August 3, 2015.

Brody JE. Keep Moving to Stay Ahead of Arthritis. April 27, 2015. New York Times blog Web site. https://tinyurl.com/o7qjcva. Accessed July 15, 2015.



Last Updated: November 9, 2022
on top