Histamine and joint pain

Updated April 17, 2017

Any tissue damage triggers an immune response in the body that leads to inflammation. Histamine and other chemicals cause blood vessels to dilate and become leaky. The leakage of blood into the surrounding tissue causes swelling and pain, explains Dr. Stan Gardner, a specialist in pain management. Joint pain is associated with chronic inflammation.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Many people with joint pain take anti-inflammatory medications, says Dr. Gardner, medications such as Celebrex, Naprocin and Vioxx. All such medications have side effects, he points out. Vioxx was withdrawn from the market in 2004 because of its link to heart attacks and strokes. The use of Celebrex over a long period may more than double the risk of heart attacks, and Naprocin was linked to a 50 per cent increase in heart attacks.

Diet and Inflammation

Certain foods seem to trigger the inflammation response. Avoid aspartame, caffeine, sugar and processed foods to reduce joint pain. Lowering dairy and red meat intake may reduce inflammation and joint pain as well, says Dr. Gardner, who has studied food sensitivities, food allergies and the effects of diet on the immune system.

Dr. Andrew Weil, an expert in integrative medicine, which is the combination of complementary therapies and conventional medicine, says an anti-inflammatory diet includes fresh and organic foods, a wide variety of foods, especially plant foods. He also suggests avoiding high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils. He recommends eating more whole grains and protein in the form of plant foods and fish.


Antioxidant vitamins C and E can reduce inflammation, as will omega-3 fatty acids. High levels of vitamin B6 decrease histamine levels and low levels increase histamine levels. Quercetin supplements can reduce the release of histamine, says Dr.Gardner.

Selenium, vitamin D and calcium can also combat inflammation, Dr. Weil says, along with ginger, turmeric, fish oil and CoQ10.

Mechanical Treatments for Inflammation and Joint Pain

Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) have been found to reduce inflammation and joint pain in some studies.

The evidence is still conflicting, say Cochrane Collaboration reviewers. Not enough valid studies have been done, but based on three studies of TENS-use for rheumatoid arthritis that met their criteria in 2003, they found that Acupuncture-Like-TENS (AL-TENS) reduced joint pain and intensity and muscle power. Conventional-TENS (C-TENS) seemed to show no clinical benefit for joint pain, but patients reported improvements in their condition over time with C-TENS as compared to AL-TENS.

New Research on Histamine and Joint Pain

In 2006, scientists from Joslin Diabetes Center and Massachusetts General Hospital developed a microscopic imaging procedure to watch changes in blood vessels. They found that histamine is a central player in the changing permeability of blood vessels and the resultant inflammation and joint pain. They were surprised to find that other blood vessels in the body didn't become leaky with the application of antibodies; they believe that blood vessels in the joints have some unique characteristic that makes them more vulnerable to the actions of histamine and inflammation. They theorise that medications might be designed for patients with rheumatoid arthritis that prevent those joint blood vessels from becoming leaky.

In 2010, a collection of scientists published the results of their work on histamine blockers in "Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior." JNJ7777120 is a medicine that blocks histamine receptors and greatly reduced acute inflammatory pain and osteoarthritic joint pain in animal studies.

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About the Author

Sumei FitzGerald has been writing professionally since 2008 on health, nutrition, medicine and science topics. She has published work on doctors' websites such as Colon Cancer Resource, psychology sites such as Webpsykologen and environmental websites such as Supergreenme. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Connecticut where she also studied life sciences.