Weight lifting presents a paradox to damaged and achy knees. On one hand (or knee), weight training strengthens the muscles and ligaments that surround the funky knee, thereby protecting it from damage. However, all that lunging, squatting, pressing, and extending causes wear and tear on the cartilage.
Not only that, but every ounce of muscle you gain puts a huge cumulative load on the knee joints. Let's say you gained 10 pounds of muscle in the last year and you take, on average, 10,000 steps a day. That's an extra 100,000 pounds or so of cumulative pressure your two knees have to divvy up each day.
Most lifters address the achy-knee problem with chondroitin and glucosamine, but they soon figure out that the beneficial effects of those compounds, if any, are woefully modest. With no other recourse, most hit the ibuprofen bottle (Advil or Motrin). Too bad, because they should be using "golden magic powder," also known as curcumin.
Curcumin, the main active constituent of the spice, turmeric, has a long, storied history as a pain killer, but most scientific studies investigate its theoretical effects on pain. In other words, scientists know, through their research, that curcumin disables certain enzymes that ordinarily lead to the production of inflammatory chemicals that are associated with pain.
However, a recent study conducted by Indian scientists tested the real-world effects of curcumin on knee pain. They recruited 331 people, all of who had osteoarthritis in their knees, and put them on either 1200 mg. of ibuprofen or 1500 mg. of turmeric. Each subject filled out a questionnaire on multiple occasions during a 4-week period to measure his or her knee pain (the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index).
The people who used turmeric (curcumin) reported just as much of a reduction in pain and stiffness as those using ibuprofen. Functioning of the knees improved equally in both groups. Those using turmeric, however, experienced less bloating and stomachache and less wear and tear on the liver.
The scientists who conducted the pain relief study prepared their own turmeric extracts by grinding C. domestica rhizomes into powder and then processing it with ethanol to obtain a semisolid with a fairly high (between 75% and 85%) yield of curcuminoids, the active turmeric agent.
As good as their preparation was, it didn't overcome the one consistent problem associated with using turmeric/curcumin as a supplement – poor absorption. The human body just doesn't absorb the stuff really well. Consequently, you have to take large amounts in order for it to have a chance of working, and the larger the amount you take, the more chance for a whole litany of digestive problems (dyspepsia, nausea, loose stools, abdominal distension, etc.).
Therefore, to stop achy knees (and almost any other kind of pain that afflicts the body), use Micellar Curcumin, which contains solid lipid curcumin particles that produce 95 times more free curcumin in the bloodstream than standard curcumin.
- Kuptniratsaikul V et al. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. Clin Interv Aging. 2014 Mar 20;9:451-8. PubMed.