How Caffeine Affects the Joints

Joints are located where two bones meet, with a primary responsibility of supporting skeleton flexibility. Some are hinge joints, such as ones in elbows and knees. Others are the ball-and-socket type such as in shoulders and hips. The nutrients you consume have a direct effect on the health and functionality of your joints. Caffeine, a common stimulant found in coffee and sodas, has been shown in preliminary studies to reduce pain associated with certain forms of joint pain and possibly delay or prevent rheumatoid arthritis, or RA.

Types of Joint Pain

Pain in your joints can result from a variety of conditions or injuries. Arthritis, defined as an inflammation in a joint, is a common cause of joint pain. This inflammation results in joint stiffness, limited movement and swelling. More than 100 different types of arthritis have been identified, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Overexertion and exercise can cause temporary or acute joint pain. Joint pain may also result from an injury such as a fracture or an infectious disease such as lyme, hepatitis, influenza, rheumatic fever or chickenpox.

Acute Joint Pain

Acute joint pain typically occurs during a strenuous activity or exercise, and initial research shows caffeine may actually prevent and reduce acute joint pain 3. As caffeine enters the body, it works to hinder the adenosine neuromodulatory system found in the brain and spinal cord 4. The adenosine system is responsible for pain processing. When adenosine is inhibited from working properly, caffeine can reduce acute joint pain as well as other forms of pain, according to University of Illinois researchers. While these findings are promising, researchers must do further testing to pinpoint the exact value caffeine has on acute joint pain.

Caffeine and Arthritis Prevention

Caffeine may, or may not, influence the development of arthritis. The January 2002 issue of “Arthritis and Rheumatism” journal found participants who consumed less than 4 cups of decaffeinated coffee per day had an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis 2. Participants who consumed at least 3 cups of caffeinated tea per day showed a decreased risk of developing RA. These findings suggest caffeine may possibly stop or delay the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. However, the November 2003 issue of “Arthritis and Rheumatism” outlines a large-scale study that found little to no evidence linking caffeine and RA risk, which suggests caffeine may not have a direct effect on the development of certain forms of arthritis or joint pain. Further investigation is required to verify the connection of caffeine and arthritis 2.

Daily Intake

Since caffeine is a stimulant, you must carefully monitor your daily consumption to avoid side effects. suggests consuming no more than 250 milligrams of caffeine daily — the equivalent of 2 to 3 cups of brewed coffee 4. If you consume more than 500 milligrams of caffeine daily, you increase your chances of developing side effects such as:

  • insomnia
  • upset stomach
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • muscle tremors
  • rapid heartbeat

Talk with your doctor about caffeine use if you are on medications or suffer from anxiety disorders, since caffeine can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.