The general term “arthritis” is a label given to more than 100 conditions that tend to worsen over time. The two primary forms are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). You have joints from your head to your toes and arthritis can affect one area or several.
Facts about Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects 1.3 million people in the United States. Doctors do not know what causes it but triggers can be genetics, living conditions, lifestyle, a cold or flu, or an infection. Your immune system mistakes healthy tissue for foreign “invaders,” turns on your body, and attacks it.
If you have it in one wrist, hand, knee, or foot, the body part on your other side is likely to be affected. However, RA is systemic, which means it can affect organs and other tissues near the joints such as your cartilage, tendons, skin, eyes, heart, lungs, and muscles.
The joints of a person with RA are painful, swollen, stiff, and sometimes warm to the touch – especially first thing in the morning. It can start in small joints like your fingers or toes but will gradually spread to larger areas such as the hips and shoulders.
This disease can affect anyone of any age and usually progresses rapidly. Both genders are susceptible but there are more women diagnosed with RA than men. The most common age for diagnosis is between 20 and 60 years of age but even small children are at risk. Currently, more than 300,000 children have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms unrelated to pain in the joints include feelings of fatigue that don’t abate no matter how much rest you get, anemia, unexplained weight loss, and you may consistently feel “under the weather.”
This disease raises your risk of heart attack, stroke, death due to infection, and clinical depression. Within ten years of diagnosis, 60% of patients with RA are permanently disabled and unable to work.
Facts about Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is caused by wear and tear or trauma to the musculoskeletal system such as crushed limbs, dislocations, and impact injuries.
OA is symbolized by deterioration of bone, increased fragility, and a higher risk of bone fractures or breaks. In 1990, there were 1.7 million hip fractures.
It affects the most-used joints and it can take years to progress to a point where they are achy and stiff – especially in the morning. When you move, bend, or twist, you may experience cracking or popping as well as a reduced range of motion over time. Unlike RA, symptoms of osteoarthritis are localized to the affected area and there is very little or no swelling of the joints.
The most common joints affected are digits on the hands or feet or weight-bearing joints such as spine, hips, or knees. Repetitive activity can also affect your wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck. Any place where two bones connect can sustain damage that leads to arthritis.
Most cases of this degenerative disease are diagnosed later in life unless you experience extreme stress to bones and joints in your youth. Ultimately, 80% of those diagnosed with arthritis have limited mobility and more than 25% are unable to perform standard activities of daily life.
What Are Your Options to Treat Arthritis?
The standard drugs used to treat most forms of arthritis are unable to cure it. To date, they only succeed in treating pain, lowering body-wide inflammation, and slowing the progression.
There are natural options that you should consider if you suffer from arthritis.
- Eat foods that lower inflammation! Fatty fish such as salmon, turmeric, garlic and onions, green tea, olive or coconut oil, leafy greens, beets, tomatoes, berries, and nuts are all excellent foods for an anti-inflammatory diet. Work to determine your personal inflammatory “triggers” and avoid them at all costs.
- Losing weight will take much of the stress off weight-bearing joints.
- Exercising regularly using low-impact methods will help to maintain flexibility and preserve muscle mass. Water aerobics and yoga are excellent forms of low-impact exercise.
- Regular massage helps to decrease joint stiffness and relieve pain. Make sure you pick a therapist who specializes in patients with arthritis.
- Alternating between hot and cold therapies in the morning or after physical activity loosens the joints and eases stiffness.
Acupuncture for Arthritis
One of my favorite modalities for diseases that feature chronic pain is acupuncture. A traditional Chinese medicine treatment, acupuncture is the placement of thin needles at meridians or energy sources (which are near nerve centers) within your body to correct imbalances.
Acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system to release endorphins, your body’s natural pain reliever. The effect of these chemicals is similar to morphine. An added benefit is that acupuncture boosts your body’s production of steroids, giving you a drug-free dose of natural chemicals with zero side effects.
The use of acupuncture for arthritis and other chronic pain conditions is gaining popularity and approval from the medical community at last. It is a safe, sterile practice that is two thousand years old – with many success stories to back it up.
Naturally relieving arthritis pain with acupuncture means that you will not build up a tolerance to the treatment as you do with pharmaceutical drugs. It has been successfully proven to relieve the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain due to accident or injury.
In one German study, more than 300,000 people with arthritis pain had a measurable decrease in their pain during three months of acupuncture sessions. Relief lasted three months after sessions ended.
The Western world still utilizes acupuncture for arthritis as a stand-alone complimentary treatment with standard drugs but traditional acupuncture practitioners use it as part of regimen that includes diet, exercise, meditation, and dealing with the health of your whole body.
You Don’t Have to Live with Chronic Pain
You might not know how many natural options there are to treat your pain. I urge you to pick up my book “Natural Pain Relief” right now and discover all the ways you can ease your pain, naturally improve your condition, and take back control of your life!