The concept of treating arthritic conditions naturally has begun to strike an interest amongst healthcare practitioners and individuals afflicted with arthritis. Therefore, more attention and research has been focused on finding alternatives to drugs. The recent discovery of severe risks involved with taking medications that treat pain associated with joint diseases have been the driving force behind this movement.
More than 50 million people suffer from some form arthritis. This includes the two most common conditions, Degenerative Joint Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Gout is another type of arthritis, which affects an estimated one million people. Onset is usually after the age of forty, except in the case of Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis, which can occur as early as eleven years of age.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a condition in which the immune system attacks multiple joints. It sees the tissues and fluid as foreign to the body and destroys them. This causes inflammation and the formation of fibrous tissue, which decreases joint space, and results in the fusion of bones within the affected joints. Individuals with RA suffer from debilitating pain, stiffness, joint swelling, and fatigue. Additional signs to look for are weight loss, fever, and anemia. In Juvenile RA, the onset is usually triggered by emotional or physical stress with lifelong affects.
Degenerative Joint Disease, also called Osteoarthritis, is caused by overuse or injury, and can occur in one or more joints. It is also believed that an individual can be genetically predisposed to developing this form of arthritis. This occurs when the cartilage within the joints becomes worn down due to wear and tear or a lack of lubrication provided by synovial fluid. This results in bone on bone contact and friction. In response to this, the body tries to lay down more bone to repair the damage it perceives. This is called ossification, which typically leads to the formation of osteophytes – bony protrusions that irritate the surrounding connective tissue causing pain, swelling and joint deformation.
Gout is an inflammatory type of arthritis, which predominantly affects men. It is an acute attack stemming from deposits of crystallized uric acid salt in the joints and surrounding tissue. The joints of the toes are most commonly affected, although it can occur in other areas as well. Drugs that inhibit the production of uric acid are often prescribed to treat Gout. A homeopathic remedy, Colchicum, is known to speed up the healing process and help ease the discomfort. The key is to stay away from red meat during an active case, and avoid alcohol altogether.
Until recent years, the way to treat these conditions was with anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and in some cases steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. When drugs like Vioxx and Celebrex were pulled off the market due to serious health risks, people wanted to find alternative ways to treat their pain. There are indeed effective alternatives available.
First and foremost, the focus is on prevention. Every ten years, one should evaluate their food intake. As our bodies change, we have different requirements. Starting in one's forties, one should begin to pay attention to foods that have anti-inflammatory effects such as fresh pineapple, yucca, flaxseed, fish rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. Foods rich in sulfur are believed to aid in the repair of cartilage and bone such as eggs, asparagus, garlic, and onions. Taking joint benefiting supplements such as, Chondroitin, Glucosamine, MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), Hyaluronic Acid, Shark cartilage, or Feverfew is recommended. They have proven to be effective in both prevention and treatment of arthritic conditions. There are also Homeopathic medicines available that have been scientifically proven to be as effective as the COX 2 inhibitors that are frequently prescribed without the side effects. Herbal formulas can be a good choice of treatment for many as they can improve blood flow to affected areas, as well as reduce pain and inflammation.
It is best to discuss these alternatives with a healthcare professional who is experienced in natural remedies, such as a Nutritionist, Acupuncture Physician, Chiropractor, Doctor of Osteopathy or holistically oriented Medical Doctor. They can help to determine what is correct for you as an individual and recommend the proper amount to take. For some, it may not be feasible to discontinue drug therapy, however, it may be possible to reduce a dosage by incorporating natural alternatives, thus reducing the risk of heart, kidney or liver problems.
Physical treatments are another approach to treating these painful conditions. Heat therapy, cold laser therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic treatments are beneficial with long-term effects. The treatments can be tailored to the individual's specific needs to get optimum results. There are many healthy ways to manage arthritic and painful conditions without jeopardizing one's health.