Vitamins for Joint Relief
by Julie Tridle
Can vitamins help relieve joint pain? That depends upon the cause and the severity of the pain. Common causes of joint pain are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis and gout, although there are countless others as well. Proper diagnosis is essential before undergoing any form of joint pain treatment, including a vitamin regimen. Studies do show, however, that vitamins A, C, E and D may offer relief and help prevent several common forms of joint pain.
Common Types of Joint Pain
One of the most common causes of joint pain, osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage within various joints breaks down. Cartilage works as a cushion within the joints, and when it breaks down, bones rub together and tendons and ligaments stretch, causing pain, swelling and loss of function. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the knees, hips, fingers and spine.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), another common cause of joint pain, is an autoimmune disorder that leads to inflammation of the joints and the tissue surrounding them. As with other autoimmune disorders, RA is caused by the body's immune system attacking its own tissue.
Bursitis affects the fluid-filled pockets surrounding the joints, causing aching, stiffness, swelling and redness. It most commonly affects the hips, shoulders and elbows but can affect the knees, heels and big toe as well.
Gout is a form of arthritis that causes acute attacks of joint pain. It is caused by the accumulation of urate crystals formed by high levels of uric acid in the blood.
Used in conjunction with medical treatment, vitamins do offer some joint pain relief by reducing inflammation. Studies have shown they may help protect against cartilage damage as well. Antioxidants, for instance, have been shown effective for relief of several types of joint pain, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis and gout. These antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E and work to stabilize free radicals, preventing them from attacking cartilage and other important tissue. A 1996 study published in "Arthritis Rheum" showed that participants who took higher than average amounts of vitamin C had three times less cartilage erosion than other participants. Some experts also believe vitamin C may help prevent and alleviate gout by reducing uric acid levels.
Vitamin D has also been shown to play an important role in joint health. A 1996 Boston University Medical Center study showed evidence that vitamin D deficiencies could impede the body's ability to repair osteoarthritis damage. Vitamin D also helps the body absorb calcium, a mineral essential to joint and bone health. Foods rich in vitamin D include salmon, tuna and fortified dairy products.
Though vitamins may help with your joint pain, make sure you discuss any new vitamin regimen with your doctor before you begin. Too much of certain vitamins, such as vitamin A, can lead to increased joint pain as well as other complications.
References & Resources
Nutrition Science News
McAlindon TE, et al.; Do antioxidant micronutrients protect against the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis? Arthritis Rheum 1996; 39:648-56
Felson D.; Relation of dietary intake and serum levels of vitamin D to progression of osteoarthritis of the knee among participants in the Framingham Study. Ann Int Med 1996; 125:353.
The Mayo Clinic: Gout