Hip, joint, lower back and bone pain are very common and associated with many different medical conditions including cancers such as primary and secondary bone cancer, advanced cancer with metastasis to the bones, chondrosarcoma and leukemia. Different lab studies and few human trials suggest Omega-3 fatty acids, Curcumin, Vitamin D3 and Glucosamine with Chondroitin as promising supplements that may have the potential to reduce musculoskeletal pain including joint, hip, bone and lower back pain in cancer patients, especially breast cancer. Before randomly taking these dietary supplements for bone pain, cancer patients should discuss with their health care professionals to stay away from undesired interactions with ongoing treatments.
Are bone, hip, joint and lower back pain an indication of Cancer?
Musculoskeletal pain including hip, joint, lower back and bone pain is a very common health problem worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, the lifetime prevalence of non-specific low back pain is around 60% to 70%.
Hip, joint, lower back and bone pain may be associated with many different medical conditions including arthritis, injuries, pinched nerves and cancer.
Musculoskeletal pain including hip, bone and lower back pain is very common in cancers such as:
- Bone cancer : Pain in the cancer affected bone is one of the most common signs of bone cancer (primary and secondary cancers).
- Leukemia or Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) : In cancers such as leukemia and MDS, the bone marrow becomes overcrowded due to uncontrolled production of a type of white blood cells resulting in bone pain which starts initially in the arms and legs and later in the hip.
- Metastatic cancer or advanced cancer : In advanced or metastatic cancers as in case of metastatic prostate or breast cancers, cancer often spreads to the bones of the spine, ribs, hip or pelvis causing hip pain.
- Chondrosarcoma : It is a rare type of cancer which usually begins in the bones or the soft tissue near the bones. The chondrosarcoma tumors mostly affect the pelvis, hip and shoulder regions, however, in some cases the base of the skull is also affected.
- Lung Cancer : If a tumor occurs towards the back side of the lung, the pain can extend till the lower back
Association between Hip Pain and Prostate, Breast and Lung Cancers
More than 60% percent of advanced prostate cancer patients develop bone metastasis and subsequent pain in bones and hip.
In a population based study among the United Kingdom primary care patients done by the researchers from Keele University in the United Kingdom, they highlighted that new back, hip, and neck problems were found to be associated with the later diagnosis of prostate, breast, and lung cancers, especially a year after consultation for back, hip and neck problems. They found that the risk of prostate cancer was five times higher a year later, among those men who consulted for back pain. (Kelvin P Jordan e al, Int J Cancer., 2013)
Association between Hip Pain and Metastatic Breast Cancer
The bone is the most common site of breast cancer metastasis or spread. 70% of all metastatic breast cancer patients have bone as the common site of cancer spread/metastasis.
The spine, ribs, skull, pelvis and upper bones of the arms and legs are often affected during breast cancer metastasis. 13.6% of breast cancer patients diagnosed during stage I-III will develop bone metastasis (spread of cancer) at 15 years of follow-up. (Caroline Goupille et al, Nutrients., 2020)
Potential Nutritional Interventions for Hip and Bone Pain in Cancer
Following are examples of a few promising foods/supplements which may reduce joint, hip, and bone pain in cancer patients.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids may help Reduce Bone Metastasis in Breast Cancer Patients
A study published by researchers from the Centre Hospitalier Régional Universitaire de Tours,in France found that low levels of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids may be associated with bone metastasis in premenopausal women with breast cancer. (Caroline Goupille et al, Nutrients., 2020)
The study indicates that supplementing omega-3 fatty acids may be a promising nutritional intervention to reduce bone metastasis (and possibly secondary bone cancers too) ultimately reducing bone and hip pain in cancer patients, especially in breast cancer patients.
Additionally, use of Omega 3 fatty acids has shown to reduce inflammatory joint pain in rheumatoid arthritis, chronic spinal pain in autoimmune diseases and neuropathic pain.
Omega 3 Rich Food Sources : Fatty fishes like salmon and plant-based foods such as walnuts, vegetable oils and seeds like Chia seeds and flax seeds.
Vitamin D3 may help Reduce Musculoskeletal Pain in Breast Cancer Patients
A study done by the researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Lincoln in the United States, breast cancer patients with low Vitamin D3 levels had reported joint pain and stiffness, bone pain and muscle pain in the neck and back/hip, with the pain significantly increasing with decreasing levels of serum Vitamin D3. (Nancy L Waltman et al, Cancer Nurs., Mar-Apr 2009)
The study indicates that supplementing Vitamin D3 may be a potential nutritional intervention to reduce joint pain and stiffness, bone pain and muscle pain in the neck and back in cancer patients, especially those with breast cancer.
Vitamin D Rich Food Sources : Fatty fishes such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, meat, eggs, dairy products, mushrooms.
Curcumin may have the potential to Inhibit Bone Cancers and Reduce Joint Pain in Cancer Patients
Curcumin is the key active ingredient of the spice Turmeric.
An experimental study done by the researchers from the China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan found that Curcumin could induce apoptosis (cell death) of human chondrosarcoma (cancer that starts in bones) cell lines. (Hsiang-Ping Lee et al, Int Immunopharmacol., 2012)
Due to the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer potential of Curcumin, the City of Hope Medical Center is conducting a clinical trial to investigate how well curcumin works in reducing joint pain in patients who are breast cancer survivors and have joint disease caused by treatment with aromatase inhibitors. (NCT03865992)
Curcumin may be a promising supplement with the potential to inhibit primary and secondary bone cancer and reduce joint pain in cancer patients.
Glucosamine along with Chondroitin may Reduce Aromatase Inhibitor Induced Joint Pain in Breast Cancer Patients
A phase II study done by the Columbia University in the United States evaluated the impact of using glucosamine-sulfate and chondroitin-sulfate for 24 weeks on joint pain/stiffness in postmenopausal women with early stage breast cancer who developed moderate-to-severe joint pain after initiating aromatase inhibitors. The study found that glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation resulted in moderate improvements in aromatase inhibitor-induced joint pain and stiffness, with minimal side effects in breast cancer patients. (Heather Greenlee et al, Support Care Cancer., 2013)
Foods and supplements including Omega-3 fatty acids, Curcumin, Vitamin D3 and Glucosamine with Chondroitin may have the potential to reduce musculoskeletal pain including joint, hip, bone and lower back pain in cancer patients, especially in breast cancer. Larger clinical trials are to be done to confirm these findings. Avoid randomly taking these supplements without consulting your healthcare provider to avoid any undesired interactions with the ongoing cancer treatments.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.