Eric Bakker N.D.April 30, 2022

Much can be done to make your many musculoskeletal problems more bearable, and maybe even slow down or halt the progression of many common complaints. Let's look at muscle, joint and bone problems and see what can be done. I take a look at conventional treatment and then have a look at more natural options.


Patients often see naturopaths about conditions affecting their joints, muscles and bones. We often see the same complaints such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, knee cartilage issues, hip and lower back pain, muscle strain, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia rheumatica, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, and other similar conditions.

We can do much to make your many musculoskeletal problems more bearable, and maybe even slow down or halt the progression of many common complaints. Let’s look at muscle, joint and bone problems and see what can be done. I take a look at conventional treatment and then have a look at more natural options.

Conventional Drug Treatment of Muscle or Joint Pain

If you have problems such as pain and immobility with your muscles and joints, you will know how it can slow you down in everyday life and may lead to lost working days or a loss of enjoyment in unbearable simple tasks and events of your life.

You know how the swelling, heat and excruciating pain of this sometimes changes cane problem can leave you feeling quite down and depressed. You’re also sure to be aware of the high cost of medical expenses and pain medication, along with the many adverse side-effects that drugs may cause.

What you may not know is that there are many natural drug alternatives available to you to effectively relieve the pain of muscular problems and arthritis pain temporarily, and how simple lifestyle changes can help you manage your pain and immobility so you can get on with enjoying your life once more.

The question you need to ask yourself is do you want to do something about improving your general health and relieving the pain, or, are you satisfied with continuing to take drugs to “control” pain levels and carry on on your current path, with side-effects a real possibility?

Pharmaceutical Treatment is Common

There are four classes of drugs commonly prescribed by your medical practitioner for pain, whether it be muscle or joint pain.

1. Analgesics

Paracetamol is the most commonly prescribed drug by your GP for osteoarthritis and other non-inflammatory, but painful, forms of arthritis. Some analgesic pain relievers are available without a prescription, while a GP must prescribe others.


(non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) There are many different NSAIDs available, such as aspirin, naproxen, diclofenac sodium (Voltaren), ibuprofen and another class of drugs called “Cox-2 inhibitors” like Celebrex, Mobic and Arcoxia. Even though some NSAIDs are available without prescription.

3. Corticosteroids

Prednisone is probably the best known of the Corticosteroids and can be taken by mouth as tablets or liquid. Injection can also deliver them into a joint, muscle or soft tissue. Corticosteroids reduce pain and swelling by suppressing immune response and inflammation but unfortunately have devastating side-effects long term. They also deplete the body’s adrenal gland function, leaving the patient tired, with poor immunity and a host of long-term complications, some of which can severely reduce the quality of the person’s life.

3. Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs

(DMARDs) are prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, for juvenile arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. Drugs in this class include Methotrexate, Minocycline, Hydroxychloroquine sulfate, and Sulfasalazin which are prescribed by doctors to slow the disease process. DMARDs suppress the immune system, which reduces the activity of the immune system to attack and damage healthy joints.

Now how clever is that, to reduce the effectiveness immune system? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that a combination of Corticosteroids (Prednisone) and an DMARD like Methotrexate, a common combination with rheumatoid arthritis, will have dire effects on a person’s health long term.

Some say in these instances that the cure may be worse than the disease. There is a delay of sometimes 2-3 months before any improvement occurs, and it makes sense to start looking at more natural forms of treatment with inflammatory arthritis in particular. Our disappoints had an excellent success rate with many of these conditions and we tend to tackle these conditions differently from the Western drug based model.

The Quick Fix Rarely Gives Results and often Surgery Long-Term

Act in haste and repent at leisure is what can happen with quick solutions for problems affecting your muscles, joints, or bones. For example, it is all too easy to get a steroid injection into a painful shoulder, when a more natural treatment such an osteopathic procedure or massage would have been just as effective without the long-term risk of weakening or damaging the joint further.

Symptomatic drug treatment is very common, as pharmaceutical company advertising teaches us to “switch off the pain”. Today, patients are in addition offered a “quick fix” in terms of orthopedic surgery as well, and it is rare to find a patient who has had an orthopedic procedure to alleviate pain that has actually lived up to the patient’s expectations. I have found this particularly with shoulder operations, but also with lower back pain, including “spinal fusions”.

Pharmaceutical TV advertising aimed at period or headache pain tell you that it’s “your choice” and you can take a drug if you want to switch off your pain. Drug treatments for muscle or joint pain do have a place, but unfortunately the downside long-term is quite significant, particularly on the digestive system.

It makes a lot more sense to try to allow the body to repair and regenerate injured muscles, bones and joints. After all, that is what the body is good at, given the right conditions. I have seen all too many patients with a wrecked liver and digestive system after years of pharmaceutical drug dependency. The first thing we go about is trying to repair such digestive damage, and in some cases it can take many months and even a year. How can the body efficiently repair damage to a joint, bone or muscle when the digestive system itself becomes damaged through pain killers, preventing the efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients so crucial to the repair process?

Leading a Healthier Lifestyle

We can do much to make your muscular or joint problem more bearable, and maybe slow down or even halt its progress. Look carefully at your current lifestyle, and if necessary, make some healthy adjustments.
Avoid becoming overweight, as it is a definite contributing factor to the development of arthritis. Exercise is essential, and your diet should be carefully looked at, stress and other trigger factors need to be avoided, and natural dietary supplements added whenever necessary.

Eat Well To Be Well

The optimum diet for those with structural problems such as arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and any other muscle, joint or bone problem should be preferably vegetarian based with a content of about 75% alkaline foods such as fruits and vegetables. You would be best to aim for a diet that will provide you with all the necessary natural ingredients your body requires repairing, rebuild and maintain its healthy function. Of all the foods, fresh, brightly colored fruits and vegetables when eaten partially raw or raw will provide the very best in health potential not only for the structural parts of your body, but will aid in improving your entire health. Digestive enzymes are a must if you burp, bloat or fart or are over 50 and feel your digestive system needs “pepping-up”. Have you had your gallbladder removed? Then definitely try digestive enzymes, you will feel much more comfortable and will lose weight more readily too.

Alkaline diet is better than an acid forming one

This is where the “experts” and scientists get it all wrong, they just don’t get the point and seem to think that diet has very little to do with a build up of residues in the body which can easily affect the body’s subtle biochemistry adversely.
A highly alkaline diet with its emphasis on raw foods is very easy on the digestive system, helps to cleanse your body and avoids constipation. Such a cleansing diet will discourage the accumulation of acid forming and toxic deposits around the joints, and encourage the dissolution of existing deposits in and around the joints, muscles and other tissues of the body. These deposits are seen as a major cause of many rheumatic, arthritis and muscular conditions.

Eat Frequently – 75% of Diet

Vegetables – steamed or raw where possible
Fruits – raw
Raw sprouted seeds and beans – Almonds are particularly good.
Wholegrains – oats, millet and buckwheat
Vegetable broth – especially carrots, celery, parsley, sweet potato, etc) Drink regularly
Fresh fruit juices – made with the Vitamix for best results. vegetable – (celery, carrot, beets, etc) fruit – apple, pineapple, low on citrus)
Water – 6 to 8 glasses daily, or drink to thirst.

Eat Small Amounts – 25% of Diet

Seafoods – (cold water fish like salmon, tuna) Green lipped mussels are good for those with joint or connective tissue problems.
Wheat – one of our most acidic grains, yet one of our most consumed staple foods.
Dairy foods – go for low fat
Citrus fruits – lime and lemon are better choices than orange, mandarin and grapefruit.

Don’t Eat – If You have Pain!

Sugar – or foods containing sugar.
White flour products
Starchy foods
Red meat
Saturated fats, deep-fried food
Cocoa, chocolate
Follow my Hypo-Allergenic Diet, try to avoid foods which you are allergic to.


Exercise is most essential for the sustained mobility of your joints and connective tissues and particularly for keeping the surrounding muscle well toned. It is important to bear in mind that your muscles stabilise your joints and support the body’s underlying structures of bones, nerves and other tissues. In the acute stages of muscular pain and arthritis, exercise may be painfully impossible and rest may be more important, however, once immediate pain has subsided, gentle manipulation by another person such as a massage therapist or osteopath may be of significant benefit.
Beneficial types of exercises include swimming, particularly in warm water or sea water, low impact aerobic exercises or isometrics or gentle exercise like yoga or tai chi, but the very best type of exercise is just plain walking, to be honest, and it’s free! Walking on sand with bare feet may be especially beneficial and I find this one of the best forms of exercise for the spine in particular.

Rest and Relaxation

Stress and tension can work to create an “acidic” state within our bodies. Though stress itself is not the direct cause of pain and inflammation, it can act as a trigger factor to create flare ups of painful conditions, especially in the young and older persons. It is very important for you to schedule regular time for rest and relaxation. Stress-relieving nutrients can also be added to your diet to help your body cope naturally with life’s unavoidable stresses and worries. Are you burned out? Perhaps fatigued? By increasing your body’s ability to produce energy you will be increasing your ability to lose weight and feel fantastic over time. Energy is one of the most important “health commodities” you have, and it is one of the first things I try to get right with any patient who comes to my clinic.

Trigger Factors

Several trigger factors are involved in creating inflammation and pain in the muscles and joints, here are a few of the key trigger factors. There are many more, these are just four of the most common ones I see.


Common allergy foods are dairy products, wheat, eggs, beef, bananas, shellfish, peanuts and some tree nuts, citrus particularly oranges. Some people with arthritis may have issues with the “nightshade” family of foods such as potato, tomato, eggplant, chilli and capsicum and have found an adverse effect on their arthritis from consuming them. Allergies are a key issue with pain and/or inflammation anywhere in the body. Follow my Hypo-Allergenic Diet, try to avoid foods which you are allergic to.


Inactivity allows metabolic wastes and toxic deposits to build up around the joints, increasing the immune response and stiffness. Inactivity also may contribute to constipation and poor nutrient uptake in the body.


Stress is a certain trigger, it allows increased levels of the immune system inflammatory mediators to affect the body increasing the pain response. An acidic state is produced as well.


Toxins such as heavy metals, sprays and many chemicals used in and around the home all potentially have an adverse effect on the body. These in turn can increase inflammation and create acidic conditions. Consider a Detox, it is a great way to start cleansing your body.

Muscular Problems

pain_2Muscle tissue of the body primarily functions as a source of power, you flex muscles and use them in a voluntary or involuntary way to perform tasks.  Muscle which is responsible for moving extremities and external areas of the body is called skeletal muscle. Heart muscle is called cardiac muscle, and muscle that is in the walls of arteries and bowel is called smooth muscle.

Muscles serve many functions, they produce movements of the body and are used to maintain position of the body against gravity. Muscles can also be used to alter pressures or tensions of structures within the body as well as protect the body. Muscles can easily become tight with stress and anxiety, and pain with continued tension is a common consequence.

Most all muscle pain and tension I have seen in the clinic is due to stress or continued overuse, and I commonly refer patients to either an experienced osteopath or a chiropractor. More than 90% of patients I have seen have structural problems and all too many suffer with tension and stress, consequently affecting their muscles. We see plenty of people with tight necks, sore lower backs and painful shoulders in the clinic. Most can really benefit from a “tune-up” by a professional who specialises in body mechanics such as a really good massage therapist, or somebody who can do deep-tissue work. This will often release “trigger” points where acute pain is located and stored. I used to have a massage clinic for the first three years of my practice, and I could see first hand the difference it would make to a person after having a good massage.

Muscle pain can also be a sign and symptom of many rheumatic conditions including: lupus, mixed connective tissue disease, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia rheumatica, polymyositis, and various other conditions.

Muscular problems can trigger other problems, and left untreated could become more problematic. To help sort out the problem, you can consider using nutritional compounds to assist with this. To view our suggestions please click the hyperlinks below.

Muscular problems may benefit from the following:

  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Magnesium
  • Bromelain

Joint Problems

A joint is an area of the body where two different bones meet. Some joints are immovable, e.g., those that connect the bones of the skull, which are separated merely by short, tough fibers of cartilage. Movable joints are found for the most part in the limbs. Simple hinge joints provide a forward and backward motion like your elbow and knee joints. Ball-and-socket joints, like those at the hip and shoulder, allow the greatest range of movement  as the rounded end of one bone fits into the hollow or socket of another bone, separated by elastic cartilage. Because of the enormous range of motion a ball and socket joint is capable of, it is also one of the most prone to giving you many potential problems. Shoulder joints are typical, there is such an incredible wide range of motion possible it is no wonder that so many people who specialise in working on people’s bodies end up treating upper back, neck and specifically shoulder strain. Frozen shoulder is a condition which is relatively common with those over 40 years of age.

Joints are complex tissue structures of your body, and something has to hold them in place. Strong ligaments fastened to the bones above and below the joint hold a joint in place and are prone to wear and tear and injury in particular. Joints are often subject to sprains and dislocations but they are also affected by infections and disorders caused by diseases as the various forms of arthritis. The use of artificial joints has become increasingly common, particularly in hip and knee replacement. Many orthopedic surgeons now perform such operations of this sort, and in many instances a hip joint replacement can make such an improvement to the quality of one’s life.


Arthritis is a joint disorder featuring inflammation, and there are three common forms of arthritis I see in the clinic – rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout. In most developed countries, millions of people suffer from these conditions. The symptoms range from and occasional painful twinge or stiffness in one or two joints, to the unbearable agony that makes any small task a painful battle of sheer physical endurance, such as opening a bottle or can.

Arthritis literally means inflammation of one or more joints, and there are over 100 different types of arthritis. Auto-immune arthritic diseases include rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis; and the more common osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease. Arthritis can have many and varied causes from strains and injuries caused by repetitive motion, sports, over exertion, and falls. Arthritic joints can be sensitive to weather and barometric pressure changes.

A top quality glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM and ginger product can often be of much relief. A course for 3 months can bring about a marked improvement with osteoarthritis. For rheumatoid arthritis I tend to assess the person carefully and treat the underlying digestive system first. This is particularly so after the patient has been on pain relief medication for some time.

Joint problems may benefit from the following:

  • Joint Formula
  • Omega 3
  • Bromelain
  • Herbal Formula

Bone Concerns

Bone diseases are conditions that result in the impairment of normal bone function and can make bones weak. Weak bones should not just be excused as a natural part of ageing. Strong bones begin in childhood! People of all ages can improve their bone health. Bone is a connective tissue that contains a hardened matrix of mineral salts and collagen fibers. Its cells include osteocytes and the free-roaming osteoblasts (which build bone tissue up) and osteoclasts (which break bone tissue down). In addition to providing shape and structure to the body, bone stores mineral salts under an outer layer a compact bone tissue called the periosteum. Bones are the scaffolding of the body, they support the body’s structures, help to protect internal organs, and (in conjunction with muscles) facilitate movement; are also involved with cell formation the metabolism of calcium and serve as a mineral storage in addition. The bones are collectively, known as the skeleton.

In very young children,  the skeleton is composed largely of cartilage and is much more flexible and pliable, reducing the incidence of bone fracture and breakage in childhood. The inorganic, or mineral, content of bone is mainly calcium, phosphate and carbonate minerals. The organic content is a gelatinous material called collagen.

As your body grows older, decreases in bone mass along with any weaknesses sustained to the cartilage, ligaments and connective tissue may lead to an increased vulnerability to bone fractures. Bone fractures heal naturally, although they are often aided through restriction of movement in the affected area. Bones assume a variety of sizes and shapes; however, all bone tissue has a three-layered composition. A spongy layer forms the interior. Long bones (like those found in the arms and legs) are hollow, the inner spaces being filled with bone marrow, important in the formation of blood cells, immune cells in particular. Surrounding the spongy, inner layer is a hard, compact layer that functions as the basic supportive tissue of the body. The outer layer is a tough membrane called the periosteum, which sheaths most bones and allows for additional protection and strength. Although bone appears solid, it contains numerous microscopic canals permitting the passage of blood vessels and nerve fibers.

What many people may not be aware of is that bone tissue is in a constant flux of being broken down slowly, and being built up. This depends to a large degree on the acidity or alkalinity of your blood. The osteoblast cells will slowly release minute amounts of calcium into the bloodstream from the bone tissue to “buffer” the blood (raising the pH) or fractionally reduce the acidity to make it more alkaline. And what kinds of foods increase the turnover of calcium, and hence increase the chances of bone loss, leading to osteoporosis? The acid forming foods.

The most common bone disease is osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is characterised by low bone mass and deterioration of bone structure. Osteoporosis can be prevented, as well as diagnosed and treated and is a very common condition affecting many elderly throughout the modern world. . Osteoporosis is a silent disease until a fracture occur. Four times as many men and nearly three times as many women have osteoporosis than report having the disease. Low bone mass means that bones have less than optimal amounts of calcium and other minerals that make them strong. As a result of low bone mass, bones become weak and break, or can fracture more easily.

Bone fractures often occur from falling or other common accidents, particularly as a person ages and becomes more unstable. I can highly recommend Tai Chi for this reason for the aging person. When one has severe osteoporosis, spine fractures and rib breakages can easily occur while doing daily activities without any trauma. I know of patients who have broken ribs just with coughing. A healthy skeletal system with strong bones is essential to overall health and quality of life, particularly as you get older. Strong bones support us and are the framework for our muscles, they are a storehouse for vital minerals needed to live. In addition, strong bones protect the heart, lungs, brain, and other vital organs from injury. Weak bones often result in painful and debilitating fractures. Hip fractures are the most devastating type of bone fracture and account for many thousands of hospitalisations in this country each year. It is estimated that up to one third of the elderly at some stage have a fall and require a hip replacement. Osteoporosis is something you really want to try and avoid. Like a thief in the night – it sneaks up on you.


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