How to Overcome Joint Pain (or Arthralgia, as Some Might Say)
What is Arthralgia?
Joint pain. Two words we all heard our parents say when we were kids, and we had no ability to comprehend. At around age 8, I have my earliest memories of my mom complaining about hip pain and sciatica - I remember thinking “it can’t be that bad - just get outside and play more!” Little did I know that joint pain (or arthralgia - pain from within the joint) plagues tens of millions of people.
In an extremely unfortunate (karmic?) turn of events, I started experiencing severe joint pain a mere four years later (at age 12). For me, it started with my knees -- Osgood-Schlatter Disease was the diagnosis - an inflammation of the area just below the kneecap where the patellar tendon attaches to the shinbone. In addition to the Osgood-Schlatter, my doctor told me I also had “runner’s knee” - what can I say? I was a competitive soccer player, after all. In the interests of continuing my budding soccer career, my doctor prescribed 3-4 Aleve a day to manage the pain and sent me on my way (liver be damned!).
From there, my joint pain progressively got worse and worse. My soccer career ended before it really began, and, while manageable, some days, I would wake up and wish I didn’t have to move.
The absolute peak of my joint pain (in fact, I don’t think I knew what pain truly was until this moment), coincided with my first major autoimmune disease flare at age 26. As my body became less and less reliable, I never imagined it would impact me as drastically as it did, but I reached a point in which I could no longer stand up because of the excruciating pain it caused on my hips. I spent the better part of a month in a rolly chair and couldn’t even lay down flat because using my hip joint and abdominal muscles to sit up was too painful. Slowly but surely, through a combination of corticosteroids, an anti-inflammatory diet, and a whole lot of self-care (plus time off from work), I was able to decrease the inflammation my body was experiencing, but remnants remained and would ebb and flow depending on the day. But it didn’t end there…
The final kicker was when I was recently diagnosed with a genetic connective tissue disorder as well as Ehlers Danlos Type III. These diagnoses basically mean that my body doesn’t produce connective tissue in the proper way, so my joints are not supported well (and a myriad of other things, but for now, we’ll stick to the simplest explanation!). I had to find answers, natural remedies -- anything -- to help my joints function in a way that didn’t knock me off of my feet on a daily basis.
What Causes Joint Pain?
As you might imagine, not everyone’s joint pain is equal - there’s a myriad of things that can result in joint pain. Injury can affect the ligaments, bursae and tendons causing joint pain. Disease can also result in joint pain. Additionally, pain is a feature of joint inflammation and infection. Joint pain is an extremely common condition, with one recent study reporting that 33% of adults reported joint pain in the last 30 days.
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How Can Hemp Help with Joint Pain?
Preliminary research suggests that molecules within hemp have anti-inflammatory properties. Hemp extract has also been found to be neuroprotective, which means it can help preserve nerve cells from damage, degeneration or impairment of function.
Since many instances of joint pain are caused by inflammation, hemp extract’s anti-inflammatory properties could potentially help ease the join pain that many adults experience.
For me personally, using a transdermal hemp-based cream two to three times daily on any sore joints (particularly my knees, neck, hips and shoulders), takes the edge off of the pain I’m feeling and allows my joints to move a bit (instead of the usual “locking” effect I experience).
Additionally, in taking a daily hemp extract sublingual oil, I’ve learned that at least a bit of my joint pain (mainly in my neck and shoulders) is related to my anxiety. Daily use of hemp oil puts me into a better, calmer state of mind, which means less tension through my body. I never would’ve expected that result, but it’s been a pleasant surprise.
But hemp alone is not the answer to joint pain -- I’ve found that it takes a careful regimen to find relief.
Can Stretching Help Relieve Joint Pain?
Stretching can be a great reliever depending on the type of joint pain you’re experiencing. I’ve found that it’s important to keep myself mobile and not allow myself to reach any points of stiffness. However, for me personally, particularly due to my connective tissue problems, it can be dangerous to overstretch as my joints can actually dislocate. I have to find a comfortable balance between stretching and strengthening. For me, keeping the musculature around each joint strong is a great support system that prevents subluxations (partial joint dislocations).
Arthritis vs. Arthralgia
Arthritis and arthralgia -- both conditions mean you have joint pain. Arthralgia specifically is pain that comes from within a joint and can be anything from mild discomfort to severe pain that makes it hard to move, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the joint is suffering from chronic inflammation.
Meanwhile, arthritis is chronic inflammation of the joint. Much like the old square versus rectangle saying, arthralgia can be a symptom of arthritis, but some instances of arthralgia do not coincide with arthritis. If you have a chronically inflamed joint (arthritis), the pain associated with that inflammation would be considered arthralgia. However, if the joint is not chronically inflamed, but you’re still experiencing pain that radiates from within the joint, that would be arthralgia (but not arthritis).
Now that I’m a wizened old thirty year old, I must have all the joint pain answers, right? Well, maybe not quite, but I’ve found that a combination of low-impact strengthening, gentle stretching, red/infrared light therapy, lots of time in the water (swimming, hot tubs, etc.), and daily use of hemp oil and cream has gotten me to a place where I’m able to function on a daily basis. To most thirty year olds, that might not seem like a big deal, but when you spend almost half of a year at age 26 in a rolly chair and unable to stand up straight or walk without severe pain, being able to jog, swim, do pilates, box, even walk, is a win -- so I’ll stick with my remedies for as long as they keep me on my feet!
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