Why Typical Therapies for Chronic Joint Pain Don’t Work and How Fixing Your Metabolism Does

When you experience chronic joint pain, it can really impact your quality of life. Chronic pain can interfere with daily activities, movement, and even your thinking. It’s no wonder why people resort to taking over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription pain killers. Unfortunately, these don’t fix your underlying joint pain issues. Here are some reasons why looking into your metabolism is important and why typical therapies such as medication, physical therapy, and chiropractic adjustment may only provide temporary relief.

Chiropractic adjustment can help with chronic pain, but won't usually fix the root cause.

Reasons why typical therapies don’t work:

#1. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can actually interfere with the resolution of an inflammatory process.

#2. Opioid medications can lead to dependence, addiction, and lower your quality of life. Long-term they can become less effective and the side effects may outweigh the pain relief.

#3. Steroids-Long-term use of steroids causes joint dysfunction and pain. While short term, it can decrease inflammation that is causing acute pain, used over time, it loses effectiveness and leads to side effects, a weakened immune system, and joint damage.

#4. Chiropractic adjustment can be very helpful where realignment and readjustments are needed. However, when there is an underlying problem causing inflammation and joint pain, the pain will likely resurface and adjustments may only provide temporary relief.

#5. Physical therapy can help with strengthening exercises, manual therapy to break up fibrin which causes pain, and increase joint range of motion. Physical therapists may use heat, cold, and electrical stimulation to help with decreasing pain. They also may help you with education on posture awareness and body mechanics.

Reasons to investigate your metabolism to fix your joint pain:

#1. Diet and Nutrient deficiencies can result in joint pain- Vitamin D deficiency is linked to joint pain. Poor nutritional status along with drug therapies, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), prescribed to alleviate RA symptoms, may increase the requirement for some nutrients and reduce their absorption.1 Dietary approaches including replacement of deficient nutrients and elimination of foods contributing to inflammation are helpful in reducing joint pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. 2

The deficiency of vitamin C is also linked to joint pain as vitamin C is important in the formation of collagen which is an important component of ligaments and bones. Vitamin A is also important to bones, although too much can also cause joint pain, so supplementing should be done based on practitioner recommendations.

Micronutrients such as selenium, zinc, and magnesium are important to an inflammatory response. Low levels of these have been associated with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Other vitamin deficiencies can result in nerve damage that can ultimately lead to joint pain. Vitamins E, B-1 or thiamin, B-6, B-12, and niacin are necessary for your nerves to grow and develop in a healthy way.

A diet high in polyphenols can improve the gut microbiome and bacteria associated with anti-inflammatory properties. These are present in vegetables, fruits (berries, grape, pomegranate), red wine, green tea, and cocoa among others, and have been shown to increase the abundance of beneficial gut bacteria within the microbiome. While the exact combination or amount of specific polyphenols is not currently known, more research will help to identify their effects as well as synergistic effects.3

#2. Environmental Toxins and Heavy Metals can cause joint pain-Certain heavy metals can aggravate joint pain. Increased levels of mercury, aluminum, lead, and cadmium can cause higher levels of inflammation in the joints, which can in turn cause increased pain and accelerated arthritis. The presence of heavy metals in urine and blood have been associated with RA. 4 Fibromyalgia patients have significant disturbances and imbalance of essential & non-essential metals level that could contribute to their syndrome as well as neurological signs.5

Both mold and environmental toxin exposure can increase joint pain and other symptoms by causing autoantibodies to the nervous system. 6

#3. Food sensitivities-Gluten, dairy, and sugar are frequent culprits in autoimmune disease and joint pain flares. Many studies confirm that these contribute to autoimmune disease and exacerbate joint pain. Some foods are your friends and some can be your foe…and it’s all about how your body reacts to them.

#4. Leaky gut can lead to inflammation, joint pain, and autoimmune diseases associated with joint pain such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Psoriatic Arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Diet impacts the gut microbiome. Leaky gut can result in a change in the microbiome of the gut and impact inflammatory conditions associated with joint pain.

#5. Infections and Pathogens-With a change in the gut microbiome, dysbiosis can occur. This results in an imbalance of the microbiome, and an overgrowth of too many of certain gut flora exist and there is an opportunity for pathogens and infections to occur. This can lead to a variety of undesirable symptoms, including joint pain, as well as the risk of disease, including autoimmune diseases.

#6. Hormonal imbalances-Hormones are affected by stress. Changes in hormones, for example with menopause, result in fluctuating estrogen levels, which can lead to inflammation, osteoporosis, joint changes, and pain.

#7. Sleep disorders-Grinding of teeth and jaw clenching during sleep can lead to painful temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Specific exercises, stress reduction techniques, and good nutrition can help promote restful sleep and reduce TMD issues.

#8. Weight issues-Obesity is a significant factor in osteoarthritis and RA. Weight management and resetting of the metabolism as well as lifestyle changes can help to address joint pain.

#9. Lack of Exercise-Lack of exercise decreases mobility and joint range of motion which can lead to joint pain. While overall exercise is important, specific exercises can target range of motion and improve posture to allow maximum joint function and alignment.

Joint pain can be caused by a variety of metabolic issues.

How you can address your metabolism:

When you have chronic joint pain, it is important to determine where you may have underlying metabolic issues. A trained functional expert such as a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P) or other Functional Medicine provider has the skills in using and interpreting specialized functional lab tests as well as traditional labs. Traditional medical doctors and other providers not trained in functional medicine do not use these tests.

The value of functional lab testing is that it provides insight into whether you have a leaky gut, toxins, infections, imbalances in your gut microbiome, hormonal imbalances, food sensitivities, or nutritional imbalances that may be a root cause of your joint pain. Fortunately, addressing any imbalances found often results in a significant decrease in inflammation and joint pain.

Functional practitioners address imbalances with access to a variety of natural therapies, diet, and lifestyle changes. FDN-Ps support clients with a protocol recommendation that includes diet, rest, exercise, sleep, and supplement recommendations as well as coaching. Functional practitioners may also refer you to other practitioners such as a physical therapist, a chiropractor, or other practitioners to help provide chronic pain relief. The difference with functional practitioners is that they test, and don’t guess. Through functional lab testing, they can often find a source of inflammation, causing the joint pain, and once addressed, complete healing can occur.

If you are looking to feel better, move better, and live better, it is important to fix the underlying issues of chronic joint pain. Fix your joint pain with lab testing as well as support from a functional practitioner who can coach you on how to get immediate symptom relief while identifying and addressing the underlying metabolic issues.

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1.          Silva GB. Micronutrients Deficiencies in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients. International Journal of Pathology and Clinical Research. 2016;2(1). doi:10.23937/2469-5807/1510029

2.          Vijayalakshmi S, Kripa KG. Dietary approaches in the management of rheumatoid arthritis- a review. International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2018;9(3). doi:10.26452/ijrps.v9i3.1614

3.          Bañuls-Mirete M, Ogdie A, Guma M. Micronutrients: Essential Treatment for Inflammatory Arthritis? Current Rheumatology Reports. 2020;22(12). doi:10.1007/s11926-020-00962-z

4.          Chen L, Sun Q, Peng S, et al. Associations of blood and urinary heavy metals with rheumatoid arthritis risk among adults in NHANES, 1999–2018. Chemosphere. 2022;289. doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.133147

5.          Al-Khalifa II, Hassan MF, Al-Deri SM, Gorial FI. Determination of some essential & non-essential metals in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). International Journal of Toxicological and Pharmacological Research. 2016;8(5).

6.          Abou-Donia MB, Lieberman A, Curtis L. Neural autoantibodies in patients with neurological symptoms and histories of chemical/mold exposures. Toxicology and Industrial Health. 2018;34(1). doi:10.1177/0748233717733852

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