Life Extension Magazine
Joint Pain Common Among Adults
Joint pain is common among adults, even those without arthritis.
Persistent discomfort makes it difficult to perform day-to-day activities. And of course, pain reduces quality of life.
Pain and stiffness can also lead to decreased daily physical activity, which is detrimental to overall health. Pain relief medications are not designed for long-term use, and often come with side effects. Scientists have identified two plant extracts that have demonstrated joint-health benefits.
In a trial of people with non-arthritic knee joint pain following exercise, subjects who took the plant extracts were able to walk a remarkable 118 feet farther in six minutes than those taking a placebo. The plant extract group also had a significant increase in range of motion and reduction in joint pain.
Joint Pain and Medications
Joint pain can be a symptom indicating underlying inflammation. In some cases, joint pain and/or inflammation are the result of deteriorating cartilage that covers the ends of the bones where they come together to form joints.
Common pain medications can help in the short term, but are proving even more dangerous than previously thought. A meta-analysis found that ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) can raise heart attack risk by 48% in less than a week. The same analysis found a week of naproxen (Aleve®) use increased heart attack risk by 53% compared to non-users. Aware of these risks, scientists searched for safe treatment for joint pain.
They identified two nutrients that work together to reduce joint stiffness and discomfort. In a clinical trial, these ingredients allowed patients to walk farther, faster, and with improved knee joint flexibility and range of motion.
Tamarind Reduces Inflammation
Researchers identified the leaves and seeds of tamarind as a nutrient for joint health.
This fruit-bearing tree has long been safely used in traditional Indian and African medicine for its anti-inflammatory effects. Tamarind has also been traditionally used for fever reduction, liver ailments, and digestive support, among other health issues. Tamarind is rich in procyanidins, a group of polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains the minerals phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
To most effectively target the pain and limitations that often accompany joint aging, scientists combined the anti-inflammatory plant tamarind with an additional compound also known for anti-inflammatory activity.
Turmeric Limits Inflammation
The turmeric plant has been used in traditional medicine for almost 4,000 years. Its rhizome, or underground stem, is a rich source of a group of polyphenols called curcuminoids.
The best-known curcuminoid, curcumin, is well-established in the scientific and medical literature as a particularly powerful anti-inflammatory. One review paper presented data on six human trials and concluded that curcumin was safe and that it has anti-inflammatory activity.
Curcumin is also a free-radical scavenger and can influence the expression of antioxidant enzymes in different cell lines.
A Rigorous Clinical Trial
Scientists developed a blend of tamarind seed and turmeric rhizome extracts in a 6:3 ratio. A team of researchers from the Netherlands, the U.S., and India tested this blend in a randomized, controlled clinical trial that took place at two sites in India. The team enlisted healthy, non-arthritic adult volunteers who experienced knee joint discomfort caused by physical activity. Men and women were included, with an average age of 45.
The 90 participants were divided into three groups:
- Group 1 was given 125 mg of the blend twice daily (total 250 mg daily).
- Group 2 was given 200 mg of the blend twice daily (total 400 mg daily).
- Group 3 was given a placebo.
The trial continued for 90 days. To thoroughly assess joint function and pain following exercise, the scientists performed a range of tests:
- Six-Minute Walk Test, which measures distance walked in a six-minute period.
- Stair-Climb Test, timing how long it takes to walk up and down nine steps,
- Visual Analog Scale, in which participants rate how much pain they’re experiencing,
- WOMAC Scale (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index), which consists of 24 questions assessing pain, stiffness, and physical functioning, and
- Range-of-Motion Knee Flexion, which evaluates the mobility of the knee.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Relief for Joint Pain
- Many adults have frequent joint stiffness and joint pain, which reduces quality of life. Inflammation is one potential cause of this discomfort.
- Extracts of two plants, tamarind and turmeric, have a long history of safe use in traditional medicine.
- Working together, tamarind and curcumin (from turmeric) inhibit key enzymes to reduce inflammation.
- A rigorous clinical trial tested a blend of these extracts in non-arthritic men and women with knee joint pain following exercise. In 90 days or less, the extracts led to remarkable improvements in pain, walking speed, joint range-of-motion, and more.
Easing Pain and Boosting Function
Every outcome measured was improved by taking the tamarind-turmeric blend. As far as the study’s secondary endpoints, on the WOMAC and Visual Analog scales, treated participants reported significant improvement in both pain relief and musculoskeletal functions compared to those taking a placebo.
The physical functions evaluated by the WOMAC Scale included normal daily activities such as shopping, doing domestic chores, using stairs, rising from sitting, bending, getting in or out of a car, putting on socks, and others. Taking tamarind and curcumin improved the ability to perform these daily functions.
The Stair-Climb Test further confirmed that those taking the blend were able to go up and down steps in less time. Results of the study’s primary outcome, the Six-Minute Walk test, were even more impressive.
Greater Distance Walked
The Six-Minute Walk Test showed that both treatment groups increased their walking distance in just 14 days. By that time, both groups outperformed the placebo group in distance walked.
By 90 days, the subjects who took 400 mg of the blend daily were able, in six minutes, to walk:
- 40 feet farther than those who took 250 mg daily, and 118 feet farther than the placebo group.
Compared to the distance walked before treatment began, the distance walked after 90 days of treatment increased by:
- 7.4% for the group taking 250 mg daily, and
- 10.4% for the group taking 400 mg daily.
Improved Walking Speed
Both treatment groups also increased their walking speed over the first 60 days and maintained this higher speed at the end of 90 days:
- The volunteers taking 250 mg daily increased their average walking speed by 0.18 mph, and
- The volunteers taking 400 mg daily increased their average walking speed by 0.25 mph (a 10% improvement), from 2.5 mph to 2.75 mph.
These are not minor improvements. In one study of men over age 70, scientists noted that there were no deaths during a 53.9-month period among those who could walk about 3.0 mph.
The same study found that, in those men, the ability to walk faster than 1.8 mph was associated with a 23% reduced risk of dying.
Another important assessment of joint improvement was range of motion. The Range-of-Motion Knee Flexion test measures the angle in degrees that the knee can be bent away from a straightened position.
At the end of the study, participants who supplemented with the plant extract blend daily showed up to a 4.34% improvement in knee flexion from baseline. The placebo group showed a mere 0.82% improvement. This represents more than five-times greater improvement in the tamarind-turmeric group!
The authors of this study concluded that this tamarind-turmeric blend substantially relieved knee pain after exercise and improved joint function in non-arthritic adults.
Inflammation is often a key factor in joint pain and stiffness.
There are two key enzymes involved with inflammation:
- The enzyme 5-LOX (5-lipoxygenase) transforms arachidonic acid into pro-inflammatory compounds known as leukotrienes, and
- The enzyme COX2 (cyclooxygenase 2) transforms arachidonic acid into pro-inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandin E2.
Tamarind and turmeric inhibit these two enzymes involved in the production of inflammatory compounds. The clinical study described earlier showed that a blend of tamarind and turmeric extracts significantly increased range of motion and reduced joint pain in people with non-arthritic knee joint pain following exercise.
The blend also delivers antioxidants that help to protect joint cells and tissues. Together, this blend can significantly improve walking speed, functional limitations, and joint range-of-motion and pain.
RESOLVING INFLAMMATION AFTER IT HAS DEVELOPED
Tamarind and turmeric extracts inhibit inflammation before it can contribute to joint pain. But research has shown that resolving inflammation after it has flared up may be just as important.
Scientists have identified compounds produced in the body that help resolve inflammation, returning inflamed tissues to their healthy state. They are known as pro-resolving mediators or PRMs.
PRMs are a family of naturally occurring lipid mediators, sometimes also referred to as Specialized Pro-resolving Mediators (SPMs). For years, it has been known that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties, but it was not fully understood why.
As it turns out, PRMs are fat- or lipid-based compounds. They are produced from oily substances, including the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils (such as DHA and EPA).
Adequate intake of these omega-3s is required for the production of adequate levels of PRMs in the body. To optimally resolve inflammation, higher amounts of PRMs than may be available from fish oil alone can be considered.
Scientists demonstrated that taking an enriched fish oil supplement containing omega-3 plus a combination of PRM precursors, including 18-HEPE, 17-HDHA, and 14-HDHAwas effective at raising blood levels of PRMs.
Taking PRM precursors in addition to anti-inflammatory compounds may be the best way to put an end to harmful, ongoing inflammation.
Joint stiffness and pain can limit physical activity and reduce quality of life. One of the factors involved in many cases of joint pain is inflammation.
Deteriorating joint cartilage combined with inflammation are other common causes of joint pain. Scientists have combined extracts of two plants, tamarind and turmeric, long known for their anti-inflammatory effects.
A clinical trial of non-arthritic men and women demonstrated a remarkable improvement in functional abilities such as walking distance and speed, knee range-of-motion, as well as joint pain, all within 90 days.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at + 1-866-864-3027.