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The impact of chronic inflammatory joint problems on overall health can be far-reaching; especially when activity levels start to decline due to pain, reduced mobility and inflammation. Here we take a closer look at why activity levels need to be fiercely protected at any age, and the key natural ingredients that every practitioner should have in their toolkit to support this.

The importance of maintaining activity levels

Joint pain and inflammation often feature strongly within the context of a client’s case history. All too often we see clients whose health started to deteriorate following the onset of a painful inflammatory problem such as osteoarthritis. A typical scenario might be a client who is overweight and arrives in clinic with some cardiovascular and pre-diabetic health concerns. Case history reveals they’d always been very active and a regular exerciser, until the onset of an inflammatory joint problem a few years previous, which has steadily got worse. Activity levels declined, mood dipped, intake of sugary snacks increased, joint problems worsened, and so on…

Unfortunately, this picture is all too common. It’s an over-simplified scenario, but isn’t too far from the real stories we hear in clinic every week. The crucial point is that painful inflammatory joint problems, if left unchecked, can soon set off a vicious cycle where healthy diet and lifestyle habits change, and health starts to decline. Before you know it, a few years have passed and the symptoms and effects of ill health really start to accrue.

Conventional treatments often involve NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which unfortunately come with their own set of possible side effects; one of which is worsening of cartilage deterioration, and this further adds to the vicious cycle.1-8

How to break out of the vicious cycle

It all sounds a bit doom and gloom but thankfully there are ways to break out of the cycle.

Natural alternatives are key to supporting reduced pain, inflammation and improved mobility which can help to promote an upward, healthy trajectory once again.

Boswellia and curcumin both have a long history of traditional use in supporting healthy joints and balanced inflammation, and their benefits are also backed by recent scientific research. Here’s a brief look at two of the most effective natural ingredients to support healthy joints.

Boswellia serrata extract

Boswellia gum resin is derived from the Boswellia serrata tree. It is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy that has been used to support a wide range of chronic inflammatory health problems. The main constituents of the boswellic gum resin are boswellic acids, (including the most active acetyl-11-keto-b-boswellic acid (AKBA)) which have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, antioxidant and anti-arthritic activity in a variety of animal experimental models and human studies.9

A 2014 Cochrane review found moderate quality evidence for the benefits of Boswellia serrata in the treatment of osteoarthritis and with low risk of adverse events.10 A 2015 review and meta-analysis of ayurvedic interventions for osteoarthritis reported benefits of boswellia in relief of pain and improvement in function.11 

A 2018 systematic review & meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that supplementation with curcumin and Boswellia serrata demonstrated large and important effects for pain reduction in osteoarthritis at short term.12 Boswellia has been found to be safe and well tolerated.13

Turmeric extract (Curcuma longa)

Curcumin is the main active component of turmeric powder, extracted from the rhizome of the Curcuma longa plant and is known to deliver many health benefits. It is best known for powerful and widespread anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity and is effective for natural pain relief. Research has shown that curcumin has the ability to modulate many inflammatory pathways in the body, making it a potentially useful therapeutic for a wide range of health problems including arthritis.14 The main active constituents of the Curcuma longa plant are curcuminoids and turmerones. Turmerones are known to improve absorption of curcuminoids.

Curcumin has been shown to be safe and effective for reducing pain and improving function in patients with osteoarthritis. Multiple studies have demonstrated that curcumin is significantly more effective than placebo in relieving the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, and does not pose significant safety risks. Results also show that curcumin formulations have comparable efficacy profiles to NSAID treatments, with significantly fewer adverse events.15-20

In a 2014 study involving 367 patients, curcumin supplementation improved osteoarthritis index scores, and levels of efficacy were found to be comparable to ibuprofen.21 These results are backed by a recent meta-analysis assessing the efficacy of curcumin formulations which found significant benefits of curcumin on pain and function in knee osteoarthritis.22

Some studies have focused on exploring the value of curcumin as adjuvant therapy.  One study, conducted in a larger number of patients, found statistically significant benefits in patients who used combination treatment with Curcuma longa extract and Diclofenac compared to patients using Diclofenac and Placebo. 23

In a 2021 review published in Reviews of Physiology, Biochemistry & Pharmacology, researchers assessed the effects of curcumin in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  They found that curcumin improved RA complications through modulating inflammatory and autoreactive responses in immune cells and synovial fibroplast cells. The researchers concluded that treatment with curcumin has therapeutic potential to improve the clinical symptoms of RA.24

Temporomandibular joint osteoarthritis (TMJ OA) is a complex health problem that can be induced by inflammation and oxidative stress.  In a 2020 in vivo experimental study, researchers evaluated the effects of curcumin treatment in TMJ OA.  They found that curcumin induced anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cartilage-protective effects.25

Protecting activity levels at every age

Painful inflammatory joint problems often don’t occur in isolation and can soon set off a vicious cycle where habits change and wider health starts to suffer as a result. Understanding the significance of protecting activity levels at every age and having access to effective natural ingredients such as curcumin and boswellia, that can provide effective support, and are generally safe and well tolerated, is key for all healthcare practitioners concerned with long-term optimal health.

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