Many breast cancer survivors experience chronic joint pain. If you are one of these people, it is likely that your pain is not caused by arthritis or tendonitis. Instead, the real cause of your joint pain could be from hormone (estrogen) blocking drugs. These drugs, called aromatase inhibitors (AI), are often taken by breast cancer survivors to prevent the cancer from coming back. Even though AIs can be effective for prevention, almost 50% of women experience joint pain as a side effect .
Why trust should you trust my word over another professional?
Well, it’s not my word to be honest. I am just the messenger. There are several studies and medical professionals that tell the same story: AIs can cause joint pain due to their estrogen-lowering properties.
In fact, the link between low estrogen and joint pain is not a new concept…the correlation was first described in 1925, when physicians noticed that women were likely to experience joint pain after menopause (estrogen levels decrease as a result of menopause) .
Nobody truly knows why AIs cause joint pain. At first, it was assumed that AIs were causing rheumatoid arthritisauto-immune associated arthritis or tendonitis. The only conclusions scientists have drawn so far is that AIs cause joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness. They also can cause your vitamin D levels to become low .
If you think you may have AI-induced joint pain, check out the typical signs & symptoms:
- Symmetrical joint pain (e.g., pain in both knees)
- Pain in hands and/or wrists
- Morning stiffness
- Joint discomfort improves with activity, movement, or exercise
- Decreased grip strength
- Pain starts when you started taking AIs
Since I know this is a common issue with breast cancer survivors, I want to help you find joint pain relief.
I am certainly not going to tell you to stop taking your AI drugs altogether. Instead, I want to help you stay on AI drugs. If you can find joint pain relief, it will be much easier to stay on your AI medication. That way you can prevent future cancer recurrences without the joint pain. It is possible to have the best of both worlds.
So just take a deep breath, know you are not alone in this, and read on to learn about the different measures you can take to naturally find joint pain relief.
Natural Pain Relief for Joint Pain Caused By Aromatase Inhibitors
You may be asking “why should I seek alternative methods of joint pain relief when I can just take an NSAIDnon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Ibuprofen, Advil, or Aleve?
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can have a wide range of undesirable side effects, especially when used for long periods of time. The side effects can include gastrointestinal, kidney, and cardiovascular complications. They can also potentially cause heart attack or stroke .
The long term use of NSAIDs is generally not suggested, especially when there is evidence of effective natural treatments that are safer.
So there is hope for your joints after all! Without rambling on anymore, here are the treatments you can try for yourself:
1. Vitamin D
High doses of vitamin D have been shown to relieve muscle and joint pain for many breast cancer patients who take AI drugs . Some have even reported that their pain has completely disappeared after taking high dosages of vitamin D.
It is first important to check if you meet the daily vitamin D recommendation of 600 IUinternational units. Getting enough sunTry to get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure a day. will certainly help you meet your body’s vitamin D requirements.
It would then likely be safe to increase your daily dosage up to a maximum of 2,000 IU for several months .
The benefits, of course, are not immediate and it can take up to 2 months to experience the full effect. It also may be wise to look into a calcium supplement to support your joint health. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
Ideally, you should consult with your doctor and talk to them about a therapeutic vitamin D supplement for aromatase inhibitor-induced arthralgia. Say it like this and you may catch your doctor off guard ;)! If the doctor is skeptical, show them the existing studies, that way you can get large dosages of vitamin D on a weekly basis and get professional supervision at the same time.
If you are looking to purchase a similar vitamin D2 supplement to what was used in the study, check out this vitamin D supplement (it’s relatively inexpensive). This is an affiliate link, by purchasing through my link, you support my mission to produce more helpful articles like this, so I can continue to help others who have heal naturally.
2. Natural NSAID Alternatives
As I explained earlier, general NSAIDs are not suggested for long term joint pain relief due to their potential side effects. So you may be asking, what can I take instead?
According to several studies, the most effective anti-inflammatory natural remedy for joint pain relief is rose hip powder [10-13]. Many breast cancer survivors have found significant joint pain relief with rose hip powder. Even better, most of the studies mention that rose-hip powder has virtually no negative side effects.
3. Stay Active
Yes, this may not be your idea of easy relief, but if you truly want to be free of pain and joint stiffness, I urge you to take this suggestion to heart. Women who participate in low-impact exercise for at least 150 minutes a week have been found to experience significantly less joint painup to a 25% reduction in pain .
So whether you get out and walk around the neighborhood, go swimming, do yoga, go hiking, or participate in some other form of low-impact exercise, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you get at least 150 minutes of activity per week and you will likely experience less joint pain. Remember to never over-do it. Listen to what your body is telling you. Exercise should not cause unbearable pain.
4. Try Yoga
I did already say activity, but yoga deserves its own spotlight. Before you dismiss yoga as an option for you, hear me out first: Yoga is simply amazing for muscle and joint health—I personally advocate its benefits and so does the evidence [7, 8]! Yoga has been found to significantly reduce general pain, muscle aches, and total physical discomfort for those who experience AI-related joint pain .
Yoga is also a fantastic option for a low impact exercise. If you are interested, I would suggest that you go to a couple yoga classes first to get an idea of what you are supposed to do. If you are financially struggling, however, I completely understand. As an alternative, check out this 30-day You Tube yoga series by Adriene. It is a great yoga video series for beginners. So grab a mat and reap the benefits!
5. Weight loss
Shedding some extra pounds can also help relieve joint pain if you are overweight. Increased weight means increased pressure and stress on the joints. Those who are overweight have been found to have more symptoms of arthritis and joint pain compared to those who are a healthy weight .
If you are overweight, you may want to consider weight loss for the sake of your joint pain. Not to mention the other countless benefits, weight loss and regular exercise can lower your risk for recurrent breast cancer .
If you are feeling unmotivated, start with a small manageable activity (which also relieves joint pain) and work your way up. It is never too late to start.
If you have any licensed acupuncturists in your region, I highly recommend acupuncture. A study in 2010 found women with AI-related joint pain, found significant relief with acupuncture treatments. Also, some even noted that they no longer had to take their NSAIDs because the acupuncture reduced their pain so much .
If you want a solution that takes less time, acupuncture might be a great option for you. Typically, people see results anywhere between 1-3 acupuncture treatments.
7. Many More Natural Remedies & Suggestions
This is the first article in my complete guide to natural joint pain relief that I am currently writing. In the articles to come, you will see how you can cure joint pain naturally with substances such as tart cherry juice, turmeric, and much more. If none of the treatments here suit you, there are many more effective treatments you can try. The treatments listed here are just shown by scientific evidence to specifically help joint pain caused by AIs–so they should be your priority if you experience AI-induced joint pain.
Keep in touch by subscribing to our newsletter or check back in a week for the next article. Once the article is complete, this section will link to it. Thank you for your patience!
If these suggestions seem overwhelming, that is completely normal. Just remember to take a deep breath and pick one treatment or behavior that you think you can most easily take on. I would personally suggest that you seek out an alternative NSAID like rose-hip powder first. This will allow you to get the fastest pain relief with minimal side effects and effort.
Next I would either find an acupuncturist and/or look for ways to increase your activity. It is best to progressively add more pain-relieving strategies and remedies as you go rather than taking them all on at once; people usually fail or quit if they try to take on too much at once.
Don’t stop a treatment when you begin to see results. That is the biggest mistake you can make. If something works, continue doing it.
With that said, experiment with the different options. Everyone is different, what may help you, will not necessarily help another. Give each suggestion at least a month to show results. Not everything works instantly.
Good luck with getting rid of your joint pain! Feel free to ask any questions, provide suggestions, or just say hi in the comments section below.
Also know that I offer health coaching services. So if you want additional information, help with making a lifestyle plan to relieve joint pain, or are looking for help with anything else health related, feel free to check out my Holistic Beginnings: Health Coaching services.
Be Well & Be Happy.
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Click for References
- Fisher, P. (2010, November 10). “Shedding Light On Aromatase Inhibitor Joint Pain Syndrome.”Medical News Today. Retrieved from
- Breast Cancer.org (2015, March 13). “Aromatase Inhibitors.” Retrieved from http://www.breastcancer.org
- Georgetown University Medical Center. (2011, November 14). “Joint Pain Linked To Commonly Used Breast Cancer Drugs.”Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/237570.php.
- American Association for Cancer Research. (2013, December 17). “Exercise can reduce drug-related joint pain in breast cancer patients, study shows.”Medical News Today. Retrieved from
- Armamento-Villareal, R., Ellis, MJ., Jamalabadi-Majidi, N., Napoli, N., Rastelli, AL., Taylor, ME. (2011, August). “Vitamin D and aromatase inhibitor-induced musculoskeletal symptoms (AIMSS): a phase II, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial.” US National Library of Medicine. doi: 10.1007/s10549-011-1644-
- Mayo Clinic. (2013, November 1). “Vitamin D Dosing.” Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com
- Nirvath, P. (2013, March 6) “Aromatase inhibitor-induced arthralgia: a review.” Oxford Journals. Retrieved from http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/citmgr?gca=annonc%3Bmdt037v1. Doi: 1-.1093/anonc/mdt037
- Esparaz, BT., Gaur, R., Gewandter, JS., Janelsins, MC., Kamen, C., Mohile, SG., Mustain, KM., Peppone, LJ., Ruzich, J., Sprod, LK. (2015, April) “The effect of YOCAS yoga for musculoskeletal symtpoms among breast cancer survivors on hormonal therapy.” US National Library of Medicine. doi: 10.1007/s10549-015-3351-1. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25814054
- Na H, Oliynyk S. Effects of physical activity on cancer prevention. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2011;1229:176-83.
- Bystrom, Laura., Garner-Wizard, Mariann., Henson, Shari., Keller, Amy., McCutchan, Cheryl., Oliff, Heather. (2005, November 15) “Efficacy of Standardized Rose-hip Powder Hyben Vital on Joint Mobility, Pain, and Daily Living Activities in Osteoarthritic Patients.” American Botanical Council. Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org.ezproxy.mcphs.edu/herbstream/library/Herbclip/index.html#param.wapp?sw_page=@@review%3Fufgp%3D292%252Freview44363.html
- Bystrom, Laura., Garner-Wizard, Mariann., Henson, Shari., Keller, Amy., McCutchan, Cheryl., Oliff, Heather. (October 31, 2005). “Patented Powder from Danish Rose Hip Subspecies Reduces Pain in Osteoarthritis of Knees and Hips.” American Botanical Council. Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org.ezproxy.mcphs.edu/herbstream/library/Herbclip/index.html#param.wapp?sw_page=@@review%3Fufgp%3D291%252Freview44463.html
- Bystrom, Laura., Garner-Wizard, Mariann., Henson, Shari., Keller, Amy., McCutchan, Cheryl., Oliff, Heather. (2010, August 31)“Meta-analysis Suggests Reduction of Osteoarthritis Pain with Rose Hips Powder.” American Botanical Council. Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org.ezproxy.mcphs.edu/herbstream/library/Herbclip/index.html#param.wapp?sw_page=@@review%3Fufgp%3D407%252F041033-407.html
- Bystrom, Laura., Garner-Wizard, Mariann., Henson, Shari., Keller, Amy., McCutchan, Cheryl., Oliff, Heather. (2005, June 30). “Hyben Vital (Litozin) Special Standardized Rose Hip Preparation Lowers Osteoarthritis Pain in Clinical Trial” American Botanical Council. Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org.ezproxy.mcphs.edu/herbstream/library/Herbclip/index.html#param.wapp?sw_page=@@review%3Fufgp%3D283%252Freview44189.html