Physical activity is essential to healthy aging. It keeps muscles and bones strong to keep performing tasks independently and reduce the risk of falling. It helps to reduce cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, and it helps prevent arthritis and other painful rheumatic conditions from affecting the joints. According to the CDC, older adults should get 150 minutes of exercise each week for optimum health.
But for many seniors, joint pain keeps them from being able to move. Anne Joergens, a physical therapist who works in nursing homes throughout the St. Louis area, said it’s a catch-22 when it comes to keeping her patients active.
“When seniors don’t move regularly, muscle tissue stiffens and hardens, and joints lose the lubrication they need to move,” she said. “But cartilage between joints breaks down with age (leading to osteoarthritis), and inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis can limit range of motion. All this can make it hard for them to move, so they sit still to avoid that discomfort—which only leads to more stiffness.”
To encourage her clients to get moving, she suggests supplements that help reduce joint inflammation and decrease pain. Each patient has different needs based on how much pain they have and what other medications they’re taking, so she consults with doctors before recommending a treatment plan.
If your elderly loved one is experiencing joint pain, talk to their doctor about the following natural supplements that could help.
Turmeric is a plant from the ginger family that contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties the MayoClinic says may be beneficial for reducing pain and increasing ease of movement in people with osteoarthritis. As a supplement, turmeric should be absorbed with fatty oils, such as avocado or olive oil, or a supplement such as fish oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA)
A 2020 study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology showed omega-3 fatty acids can significantly decrease joint swelling and tenderness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. While they can be found in tuna, salmon, sardines, tofu, walnuts and flaxseeds, taking supplements such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can allow seniors to achieve adequate levels for improved joint function.
Chondroitin and glucosamine
As we age, cartilage around joints tends to decrease. Chondroitin and glucosamine are natural substances within cartilage, and the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research found that supplements containing these have been found to reduce pain caused by cartilage loss because chondroitin improves function and glucosamine improves stiffness. Joergens said it’s best to ask a doctor which of these supplements is best for a loved one’s particular condition, as they should not be taken together.
A deficiency in Vitamin D can not only lead to soft, brittle bones, but a study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology found that many rheumatoid arthritis patients are deficient in Vitamin D. To help with this painful condition characterized by swollen, aching joints, seniors should incorporate Vitamin D supplements into their daily diet.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil
Although the FDA has not approved over-the-counter CBD products for pain, many patients are benefiting from its use. The oil from CBD does not cause an intoxicating effect like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but can activate the endocannabinoid system within the central nervous system to help the body regulate pain. CBD oil is available as a topical lotion to relieve joint pain, or can be taken orally via capsules or gummies. Doctors who work with the Arthritis Foundation warn that patients should ask their doctor before trying CBD if they take corticosteroids (such as prednisone), tofacitinib (Xeljanz), naproxen (Aleve), celecoxib (Celebrex), tramadol (Ultram), certain antidepressants (including amitriptyline [Elavil], citalopram [Celexa], fluoxetine [Prozac], mirtazapine [Remeron], paroxetine [Paxil] and sertraline [Zoloft]), and certain medications for fibromyalgia, including gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica).
Does combining joint pain supplements make them more effective?
While it’s always best to discuss any new medications with a doctor, taking some supplements in combination can help maximize joint pain relief. There are products available that aim to deliver the benefits of multiple supplements, such as Elixinol Active Omega Turmeric Capsules. Just one capsule contains a trio of ingredients including turmeric to reduce inflammation, Omega-3 DHA to support joint health, and CBD to reduce pain.