Tying Joint Pain and Hepatitis C Together
Although not viewed as a common symptom of liver disease, joint pain is a frequently encountered problem for those living with chronic Hepatitis C. Often going undiagnosed in its earliest stages, Hepatitis C sufferers rarely exhibit symptoms during their first decade of infection. Regarded by experts as one of Hepatitis C’s “extra-hepatic manifestations,” joint pain could be a surprising source of a smoldering viral infection in the liver. In some instances, joint pain is the reason a person initially seeks medical help – an investigation that could conclude with a Hepatitis C diagnosis. For those with this chronic liver infection who seek relief for their joints, there are several, liver-friendly ways to ease the pain.
Although seemingly separate health issues, studies indicate that nearly one-third of people with Hepatitis C will have arthritis. As a problem that occurs outside of the liver, joint pain’s categorization as an extra-hepatic manifestation of Hepatitis C does not have a clear, recognized etiology. Although there can be many possible causes, the following represent two concrete links between this liver virus and painful joints:
- Medications – Joint pain is a common side effect of two medications used in the standard treatment protocol for Hepatitis C: peginterferon and ribavirin.
- Cryoglobulins – Antibodies the body makes in response to infection may cross-react with certain molecules in the joint, leading to inflammation and pain. In some people with Hepatitis C, specific antibodies called cryoglobulins may be the source of joint pain.
Even though Hepatitis C medications and the presence of cryoglobulins are known to induce joint pain, there are still a significant amount of joint pain sufferers with Hepatitis C who don’t fall into either category.
Physicians may prescribe a wide range of anti-inflammatory or other anti-rheumatic drugs for joint pain relief. However, the tendency for pain relieving medications to add an additional toxin load onto the liver makes this a difficult decision for many conscientious sufferers. Thankfully, there are alternatives. The following strategies may help those with joint pain while still being supportive of the liver:
- Heat – Highly regarded in cultures across the globe for safe pain relief, applying a heat pack or taking a warm bath can help relieve some types of joint pain. Relaxing contracted areas, heat expands muscles, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue. In addition, heat helps dissolve pain-inducing cryoglobulins.
- Inhibition of COX-2 Enzymes – While the COX-2 enzyme supports pain, inflammation and swelling, inhibiting COX-2 enzymes helps minimize many types of pain. Although several pharmaceutical versions of COX-2 inhibitors were discontinued due to their side effects, natural sources appear to offer the COX-2 inhibiting benefits without the risks.
- Glucosamine and Chondriotin – Many types of joint pain are related to the breakdown of cartilage, thus reducing the body’s natural cushioning between the bones in a joint. Glucosamine and chondroitin are both ingredients in healthy joint cartilage. Thus, providing the body with these raw materials needed for joint cushioning may help support healthy cartilage.
- Acupuncture – A 2,000 year old practice involving the insertion of fine, hair-thin needles into the skin, a large retrospective study just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found acupuncture to be effective in relieving chronic pain.
The link between joint pain and Hepatitis C is often dismissed because the two don’t appear to have a direct association. Whether there is a cause and effect relationship or not, over 30 percent of people with this liver virus have documented joint pain too. Because of this large crossover, solutions such as heat, natural COX-2 inhibition, acupuncture, glucosamine and chondriotin are ideal for affected individuals so they can achieve pain relief without putting their liver in further jeopardy.
http://hepatitis.about.com/od/symptoms/a/JointPain.htm, Joint Pain and Hepatitis, Charles Daniel, Retrieved September 29, 2012, about.com, 2012.
http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/11/health/health-acupuncture/index.html, Acupuncture Works, One Way or Another, Amanda Garnder, Retrieved September 29, 2012, Cable News Network, 2012.
http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/patient/pain/hepatitisC-pain.asp, Pain Associated with Hepatitis C, Retrieved September 29, 2012, US Department of Veteran Affairs, 2012.
http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases_and_conditions/hcvassociatedarthritis.asp, HCV and Rheumatic Disease, Retrieved September 29, 2012, American College of Rheumatology, 2012.
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