Do you have achy joints? Maybe you find it difficult to get moving when you get out of bed in the morning or regularly pop painkillers to take the edge off a bad back. Well you’re not alone. Millions of people in the UK are currently affected by musculoskeletal conditions every day; over 8.75 million people aged over 45 and over suffer from osteoarthritis, around 10 million people live with chronic back pain and 3 million people are diagnosed with osteoporosis. This all adds up to over 30 million working days lost each year due to musculoskeletal conditions, so we would comment that the state of many people’s joints and bones are not in good shape![1]

Back pain and osteoarthritis are two of the most prevalent musculoskeletal conditions in the UK population and can severely affect quality of life. These painful conditions can also contribute to other health issues, such as inability to exercise and maintain a healthy weight, depression[2] and are even linked with other co-morbidites such as heart disease.[3],[4]

Painful inflammatory conditions are often managed by conventional medicine through regular, even daily, painkillers. However, whilst this may seem the easy option, for many people these medication cause unwanted side effects including constipation when using opiate-based painkillers and gastric ulcers associated with widely available non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) usage like aspirin and ibuprofen.[5] In fact, these serious side effects can occur within just a couple of days of use and NSAIDs are one of the leading hospital admissions for adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in the UK NSAIDs can also cause damage to the stomach lining leading to ulcers and bleeding. This is why NICE guidelines are now stating that people receiving NSAID treatment should also be prescribed proton pump inhibitors (drugs that reduce gastric acid secretion). We find this a truly concerning move when you consider the long-term implications of low stomach acid: Hypochlorhydria can lead to many health problems including nutrient deficiencies like calcium, which we will discuss in our blog about Nutrition for Joint and Bone Health.

It’s for these reasons that many people do not want to be on medication for the long-term so are now seeking out nutritional therapy as a way to reduce inflammation and naturally support short and long-term health of their joints and bones. Maybe this has got you thinking about new ways to protect and support your joints and bones?

But first, why is there such a rapid rise in joint and bone conditions?

The human musculoskeletal system is designed to move; instead, we now live very sedentary lives revolving around office based jobs and lack of movement and exercise in our everyday lives. Where we once used to be on the move for most of the day, we now rely much more heavily on cars and technology to do the jobs we used to have to do physically and manually. However, it’s not just sedentary jobs that involve a lot of sitting at desks or standing that cause joint problems; jobs within certain industry sectors, such as the construction and agriculture industries, also contribute to musculoskeletal conditions.[6]

There are also negative dietary and lifestyle factors, such as obesity and smoking, that contribute to joint and musculoskeletal conditions like gout, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain and osteoarthritis.[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12] Diet is particularly important as healthy joints and bones require many different micronutrients and fluid to support function; today’s highly processed diets and lack of hydrating fluid consumption (namely water!) often contributes to micronutrient deficiencies, such as zinc, magnesium, as well as dehydration, which affects long term health and function of the musculoskeletal system, not to mention other areas of the body. For example, Vitamin D deficiency through lack of dietary intake and low levels of sun exposure, affects calcium absorption, as well as many other areas of health, and may also play a role in the rising level of osteoporosis in the UK.[13]

It’s also interesting to note the link between gut microbiota and health of the immune system – there is increasing evidence that inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are related to levels of certain gut bacteria demonstrating the importance of addressing diet and lifestyle to positively impact the health of our immune and musculoskeletal system.[14]

Of course, there are genetic components to some musculoskeletal conditions[15] but we have control over many factors that will support both the short and long-term health of our joints and bones. If you’re interested in finding out more about the practical nutritional approaches to supporting musculoskeletal health then please read our blog about Nutritional Support for Joint and Bone Health.



[1] https://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/data-and-statistics/state-of-musculoskeletal-health.aspx

[2] Matcham F, Rayner L, Steer S, Hotopf M. The prevalence of depression in rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review and meta–analysis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2013;52:2136–48.

[3] Michaud K. Co–morbidities in rheumatoid arthritis. Clinical Rheumatology, 2007; 21, 885–906.

[4] A. Young, G. Koduri, M. Batley, E. Kulinskaya, A. Gough, S. Norton, and J. Dixey.Mortality in rheumatoid arthritis. Increased in the early course of disease, in ischaemic heart disease and in pulmonary fibrosis. Rheumatology (2007) 46 (2): 350–357.

[5] Drini (2017) Peptic ulcer disease and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs Aust Prescr. 2017 Jun; 40(3): 91–93

[6] Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Work –related Musculoskeletal Disorder related Musculoskeletal Disorder (WRMSDs) Statistics, Great Britain 2016

[7] Poddubnyy D, Haibel H, Listing J et al. Baseline radiographic damage, elevated acute–phase reactant levels, and cigarette smoking status predict spinal radiographic progression in early axial spondylarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2012 May;


[8] Zhang S, Li Y, Xu X, Feng X, Yang D, Lin G. Effect of cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption on disease activity and physical functioning in ankylosing spondylitis: a cross–sectional study. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. 2015;8(8):13919–13927.

[9] DeMarco MA et al. (2011). Obesity and younger age at gout onset in a community–based cohort. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken ) 63(8): 1108–1114.

[10] Silman AJ, Hochberg MC. Epidemiology of the Rheumatic Diseases. 2nd Ed. Oxford Medical Publications, (2001)

[11] K.llberg H, Ding B, Padyukov L, Bengtsson C, R.nnelid J, Klareskog L, et al. EIRA Study Group.

Smoking is a major preventable risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis: estimations of risks after various exposures to cigarette smoke. Ann Rheum Dis. 2011;70:508–11.

[12] Zheng, H., & Chen, C. (2015). Body mass index and risk of knee osteoarthritis: systematic review and meta–analysis of prospective studies. BMJ Open, 5(12). doi:10.1136/bmjopen–2014–007568.

[13] What is Osteoporosis? National Osteoporosis Foundation. Accessed on August 1st, 2013 at http://www.nof.org/articles/7.

[14] Hsin-Jung Wu, Ivaylo I. Ivanov, Jaime Darce, Kimie Hattori, Tatsuichiro Shima, Yoshinori Umesaki, Dan R. Littman, Christophe Benoist, Diane Mathis Gut-Residing Segmented Filamentous Bacteria Drive Autoimmune Arthritis via T Helper 17 Cells. Immunity, Volume 32, Issue 6, 815-827, 17 June 2010

[15] Cornelis F, Faure S, Martinez M, et al. New susceptibility locus for rheumatoid arthritis suggested by a genome wide linkage study. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1998, 95: 10746–10750.

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