Caffeine Can Help Reduce Joint and Other Pain

Author: Disabled World - Contact Details
Published: 2014/06/17 - Updated: 2021/08/30
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Synopsis: Information regarding the pain relief benefits of caffeine consumption and why caffeine is added to pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. In humans, caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant, temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. Caffeine blocks receptors in the brain called, 'adenosines,' which in turn induce relaxation and activate dopamine chemicals associated with both pain relief and energy.


Main Digest

Caffeine stimulates a person's nervous system and perks them up when they feel groggy. It also plays a role in the management of pain. Unfortunately, using caffeine also might come with some negative effects.

What Exactly is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid and a stimulant drug. In humans, caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant, temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. It is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug, but unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. Beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks, enjoy great popularity. In North America, 90% of adults consume caffeine daily.

Caffeine for Pain Relief

Joint pain may stem from a number of different causes and people may experience various levels of severity. Medical conditions that cause pain in a person's joints include osteoarthritis, a degenerative disorder, or rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder. Temporary pain might also happen due to an infectious disease, or inflammation of a person's joints from exercise and overexertion, or chronic pain from conditions such as gout. Despite the cause, a person may experience discomfort and like most people, want to decrease the intensity and duration of the pain. Prior to using any substance to relieve persistent pain it is important to consult a doctor in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and to ensure you treat the cause of the pain, not simply to mask it with random medications.

Gout is a form of arthritis that is associated with high uric acid buildup that often times causes repeated episodes of pain and inflammation in a person's joints. The Arthritis Foundation summarized the results of a study by researchers H.K. Choi and colleagues published in, 'Arthritis and Rheumatism, ' when it said that men who drink 4 cups or more of caffeinated coffee each day experience a reduced risk of gout. The study revealed that caffeine lowers the level of uric acid in a person's blood quite notably, which is the main risk factor for developing gout.

As a stimulant, caffeine digests quickly and a person can feel the effects within minutes of consuming it. Caffeine blocks receptors in the brain called, 'adenosines,' which in turn induce relaxation and activate dopamine chemicals associated with both pain relief and energy. A study from the year 2009, summarized in Science Daily and conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign indicates that small doses of caffeine prior to working out may prolong the duration of a person's exercise. It may also prohibit the pain a person might experience in their joints due to strenuous activity.

Consuming Caffeine Daily

A moderate daily dose of caffeine at no more than 300 mg each day, or 2-4 cups of coffee, might improve a person's joint pain while providing them with an energy boost. Consistent use of caffeine may lead to withdrawal symptoms when a person is not consuming it as well. Withdrawal symptoms from caffeine can include headaches, jitters, as well as fatigue. For those who pursue excessive caffeine consumption, it may be wise to consider cutting back and keeping track of how much you use caffeine. Caffeine is found in:

Caffeine, Pain Medications and Warnings

Some people might wonder why caffeine is added to pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Adding caffeine to a pain reliever appears to improve its ability to decrease the pain a person experiences. The effect is called, 'adjuvant analgesia,' and it is most noticeable with headache pain. Caffeine is an adjuvant analgesic that does not seem to be as good for post-surgical pain.

Caffeine is a, 'vasoconstrictor.' What this means is that is that it narrows or closes down a person's blood vessels. The effect is to reduce the amount of blood flowing to an area of a person's body.

If a person has a, 'throbbing,' headache it is often times because there is too much blood flowing to their brain. Caffeine reduces the flow of blood and therefore decreases the pain. Someone could experience the same effect; vasoconstriction of blood vessels in their head, by placing their feet in a bucket of ice cold water because blood would be diverted from the person's head to warm their feet. You can understand why over-the-counter headache medications containing caffeine would be easier and less uncomfortable to use than ice cold water.

Yet as anyone who uses caffeine in any form on a daily basis is aware - there are indeed withdrawal symptoms that can appear. Headache is the number one withdrawal symptom people experience related to caffeine use. Fatigue is another common effect of withdrawal from caffeine. Anyone who is preparing for surgery, or for fasting blood tests, who consumes caffeine on a regular basis may expect to experience a headache from caffeine withdrawal.

The Mystery of How Caffeine Helps Pain Remains

The question of how caffeine works to reduce pain or help pain relievers to relieve pain remains. The mechanisms are not well understood. In simple terms - caffeine blocks a person's pain receptors.

Do you feel like gambling? Some studies have shown that low doses of caffeine might actually have the opposite effect. Caffeine, according to these studies, inhibits blocking pain receptors; yet what does this information mean to you or me? It is possible that a cup of coffee or tea, or small amounts of other foods or beverages containing less than 100 mg of caffeine, might prevent other pain relievers from working! The same inhibitory effect of low doses of caffeine has been observed with electrical stimulation and acupuncture.

Still, researchers are not quite ready to state that people should avoid caffeine prior to using electrical stimulation to control pain, or before acupuncture treatment. Additional studies on the effects of different doses of caffeine are needed before any specific guidelines on caffeine use can be determined. It sounds like 4 cups or more might help, but more studies are needed.


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