Arthritis simply means joint inflammation and is a general term referring to any of 200 chronic diseases. The three most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Osteoarthritis (OA) – is a degenerative disease of the joint cartilage, the tissue that cushions and protects the ends of bone joints. There is nothing to protect the joint and this causes bone-on-bone contact, resulting in pain and inflammation. You are most likely to have OA in your hands, neck, lower back, or the large weight-bearing joints of your body, such as knees and hips.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy joints. Initial symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, morning stiffness, pain and loss of function in joints and inflammation of the joint lining called the synovium. As the disease progresses, deformities and changes occur in the joint and it can also attack organs such as the heart, muscles, blood vessels, nervous system and eyes.
Gout – higher than normal levels of uric acid are present in the blood due to a defect in uric acid metabolism. The body may increase the production of uric acid or interferes with the excretion of uric acid. Excess uric acid causes deposits, called uric acid crystals, to form in the fluid lining of the joints. The result is an extremely painful attack of gout with the joint of the big toe mainly being affected.
Why it happens?
- Ageing puts you at risk of OA due to many years of wear and tear to the joints.
- Injuries or overuse may cause OA in joints such as knees, hips, or hands.
- Genetic tendency
- Trauma to the joint such as sporting injuries
- Autoimmune reactions trigger RA
- Obesity – excess weight places extra stress on joints
- Defect in uric acid metabolism
What natural therapies can help?
Glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) – all provide nourishment to the cartilage and other joint structures, thus helping to improve osteoarthritis symptoms such as pain, inflammation and limited movement.
Fish oil – high doses of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on arthritic joints. Look for concentrated fish oil supplements so you can consume large quantities of omega-3s without having to take lots of capsules.
Boron – evidence suggests that boron can help decrease the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Anti-inflammatory herbal remedies may also be beneficial for reducing arthritis pain. Consider turmeric (or its active component curcurmin) or boswellia, which are useful in both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, and the traditional pain relievers devil’s claw and willow bark.
Celery seed is a diuretic herb that’s traditionally been used to relieve gout symptoms and promote urination, and therefore the excretion of uric acid.
The homoeopathic cell salt Nat. Phos. 6x is traditionally used to treat problems associated with excess acidity, including gout. It is sometimes supplemented with Ferrum Phos. 6x to address the inflammation of the joint.
Did you know?
- Take it easy – repetitive stress on a joint may play a role in the development osteoarthritis.
- Daily gentle exercise is important to keep the joints moving and strengthen the muscles around the joints. Stretching maintains flexibility. It may be tempting not to exercise when your joints are so stiff, but keeping still may actually worsen your pain. Tai chi is a particularly good form of exercise for arthritis sufferers because it helps improve balance.
- Controlling or losing weight reduces pressure on joints.
- Eliminate foods that aggravate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The most common offending foods are wheat, corn, dairy products, beef, tomato, potato, eggplants and peppers.
- Reducing foods high in purines can help reduce attacks of gout. When purine rich foods break down, uric acid is the end result. eg organ meats (liver, kidneys, pate), anchovies and shellfish. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and soft drinks too, but maintain a high water intake to flush uric acid from the body.
- Concentrated cherry juice is also believed to be helpful in relieving joint pain in particular gout pain.
- Apply heat or ice to reduce pain and inflammation.