Did you know that arthritis and chronic joint pains affect nearly one-third, or about 70 million Americans, making it one of the most disabling diseases? Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States; double the amount of heart issues, triple the amount of respiratory issues, five times more than diabetes, and more than six times than stroke!
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is basically inflammation of the joints and there have been over 100 forms of arthritis discovered, mainly because there are many causes of inflammation. Joint pain from arthritis is referred to as “arthralgia,” but joints aren’t the only parts of the body susceptible to arthritis; muscles, tissues, and organs are vulnerable as well. As a matter of fact, arthritis has been known to affect the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver too. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
Osteoarthritis is caused by degenerative joint disease, or simply “wear and tear” on the cartilage of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease, where the body’s overactive immune system attacks its own cells and tissues. Gout is the oldest known form of arthritis and is caused by high levels of uric acid that leaves crystals deposited into the joints.
Signs and symptoms of arthritis vary, though some of the first indicators are similar very easily recognizable. Increased stiffness in the joints, swelling, cracking, soreness, and joints with a slight red appearance are signs common to all forms of arthritis.
Many people believe that arthritis is a disease that only affects the elderly, but truthfully it generally afflicts people between the ages of 20-50 and in rare cases, even infants have been diagnosed with the disease. If not properly managed, arthritis will only worsen over time and become an unbearable condition that causes chronic pain and weakness. Not only does arthritis result in a loss of quality of life, but it also results in financial loss as well. It’s estimated that an average of $150,000 is lost over the course of a lifetime due to the cost of medications and care, as well as lost wages from the inability to work.
Managing Arthritis Pain
The pressure to use drugs for relief is overwhelming, but before you rush to purchase arthritis medications, you should consider the harmful side effects that many drugs come with. Some of the most common arthritis medications and their side effects are:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Edema (swelling of the feet) heartburn, stomach upset and stomach ulcers and possibly increased
riskof blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.
- Corticosteroids. Cataracts, elevated blood fats
andblood sugar levels, increased appetite and bone loss.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Stomach upset and increased susceptibility to infection. Other side effects vary by drug.
- Biologic agents. Injection site reactions, including redness and swelling; infusion reactions (difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, rapid or weak pulse) and increased risk of serious infections. Other side effects vary by drug.
Not only do these medications come with harmful side effects, but they also don’t actually solve the problem. Instead, these medications only serve to ease the symptoms for a period of time. This means that you’ll always be reliant on them and never experience true relief.
Natural Remedies for Arthritis
If you suffer from arthritis, don’t give up. There are many people who are discovering they can live better, healthier, and pain-free lives through natural causes. Some steps and treatments include:
1. Losing Weight. Excess weight puts unneeded pressure on the joints, especially the hips, knees, and ankles, and can have a big impact on the amount of pain experienced from arthritis. By losing weight, the pressure on your joints will be reduced – improving mobility, decreasing pain, and preventing further damage to the joints.
2. Exercise. Exercise doesn’t just aid in weight loss, but it also helps to increase flexibility and strength in weakened joints. For arthritis sufferers, low-impact exercises such as swimming or biking are best, as high-impact exercises like running can cause greater pressure on the joints and be damaging. Gentle, stress-free exercises such as stretching and yoga are also great for improving arthritis pain.
3. Reducing Stress (both physical and emotional). Meditation and brainwave entrainment techniques have been proven to reduce stress and help cope with pain better. Researchers have found that people suffering from depression and arthritis benefited the most from meditation. Inflammation is a result of stress on the body and mind, thus when stress levels drop, so does inflammation.
4. Acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that involves sticking very thin needles into specific points on the body, which dislodges stuck energies and restores balance to the body. Acupuncture is the most researched alternative therapy and is recommended by the World Health Organization for treatment of over 100 different conditions, including arthritis.
5. Hot and Cold Therapies. Hot and cold treatments can offer a quick solution for when immediate relief is needed. Long warm showers or a heating pad can help ease stiffness in the joints while cold treatments such as ice packs are best for relieving joint pain, swelling, and inflammation.
6. Include More Fatty Acids in Your Diet. Fatty acids such as omega-3’s and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) are key to a well-oiled machine. You should find it no coincidence then, that many oils (olive, avocado, fish, hemp, etc.) contain fatty acids as their main constituents.
7. Massage. Massage helps to rearrange tense and knotted muscle tissues which trap toxins and causes poor blood flow and inflammation; the very causes of arthritis. Regular massage can help reduce the pain and stiffness from arthritis and improve your range of motion. When you can’t get to a massage therapist, learning self-massage is an excellent secondary option.
8. Get More Magnesium. Magnesium is something our bodies can’t make themselves, but require it for over 300 different biomechanical functions. It relaxes muscles and nerve endings, relieving stiffness and pain, and even helps make the heart beat. In addition, magnesium also helps bones to mineralize, which is essential for those with osteoarthritis. Studies done by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that those who had higher magnesium intake also had greater bone density.
9. Take Herbal Supplements. There are many kinds of herbal supplements that are able to reduce inflammation and joint pain. Although most are safe to take without harmful side effects, some of them may interact negatively with certain prescription medications, so talk to your doctor about taking them. Keep in mind that many doctors are inclined to keep you on your prescription meds because it’s their livelihood, but as I mentioned earlier, many prescriptions come with harmful side effects. Besides, many modern day medications are originally derived from natural counterparts, like opioids from poppies for instance, or aspirin from white willow bark. If you’d like to switch to more natural medications, I encourage you to find a doctor that will help you come up with a plan to do just that. Some of the herbs known to reduce inflammation and arthritis pain include: