Perhaps one of the most difficult side effects of cancer treatment is the pain that can settle into your muscles and joints. Caused by chemotherapy drugs like Arimidex, Tamoxifen, and Taxol, it can leave you feeling stiff, uncomfortable, even older than your years.
“My doctor said joint pain is a side effect of the chemo,” says one survivor, “and it can last a long time.”
“Sometimes my legs hurt so bad that I have a hard time walking,” says Linda, another survivor.
Chronic pain is a dangerous thing. It can lead to depression and a vicious cycle of more and more pain. Don’t suffer in silence. Take action, and try a variety of remedies until you find something that helps. Living with pain for months or years isn’t healthy, so don’t accept it!
When looking for joint-pain remedies, you’re likely to be overwhelmed with options, so let us help you wade through your choices. First of all, ask your doctor. Joint pain can come from cancer that has spread, so it’s important to rule out this possibility. Before you talk to the doc, chemocare.com recommends you keep a diary for a few days so you can accurately describe the pain. When and where does it occur? How bad is it, and how long does it last? Is it interfering with your activities?
Next, incorporate a low-impact exercise into your day. It helps lubricate joints with synovial fluid and maintain your ability to function. Try walking, swimming, or yoga. Yoga requires deep breathing and stretching, which increases circulation, helps you relax, and loosens your muscles-all great ways to relieve joint pain. (Click here to read our post on how yoga can minimize side effects during treatment.)
Of course, you can try over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, but it’s not good for your liver or your stomach to take these long-term, so be sure to seek out other solutions. Glucosamine, for instance, has a long and impressive record. It stimulates the production of proteins important to the makeup of cartilage, which provides joint cushioning. The latest research shows that glucosamine in liquid form is most effective, so look for a quality brand that gives you at least 500 mg per dose, and take up to three doses a day.
“I tried collagen tablets,” says survivor madonna, “MSM tablets, glucosamine and l-glutamine, all from health-food shops. I had joint pain after the 1st chemo, but none after the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th.” You may even want to try the new and highly publicized “Joint Juice®,” which packs 1500 mg of glucosamine HCl into one serving size, but if it doesn’t work, don’t give up on the nutrient. Try a more concentrated supplement, or get one that combines glucosamine with chondroitin.
According to a 2006 news release from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, patients experiencing joint pain and stiffness often had suboptimal levels of vitamin D in their blood. Once they started taking supplements, the pain went away. Vitamins B, C, and E plus omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce inflammation and pain. Naturalists suggest rubbing the painful area with “arthcare oil,” arthcare being a powerful antioxidant. Boswelia has shown promise in scientific studies, and is included in many joint-care supplements. SAM-e (1,000 mg daily), and cancer-fighting turmeric (1,500 mg daily) can also help, as might massage and heat therapy. (Find more herbal solutions here.)
You may also want to experiment with your diet. Try cutting back on sugar, dairy products, red meat, and vegetable oils, which have a reputation for making joint pain worse. Dr. Nathan Wei suggests several dietary solutions, including fish and ginger. Whatever you do, don’t stop trying, and don’t lose hope. According to breastcancer.org, “The pain may persist for a long time-months or even a year-after treatment ends. The good news is that, sooner or later, it WILL disappear.”
Have you found a remedy to joint pain? Please help others with your recommendations.
Photo courtesy of Anikat, via Flickr.com.