Arthritis by definition means inflammation of the joints and for the most part is divided into Autoimmune arthritis’ (rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis), septic arthritis due to an infection and osteoarthritis (OA).
OA, the most common form of arthritis, is related to aging and the long-term wear and tear on the joints that is seen. Previous injury or other trauma can also impact the severity that OA is experienced by an individual. Unlike the other forms of arthritis, OA is not primarily an inflammatory condition (although there is usually some underlying chronic inflammation present) and has to do more with the loss of the cartilage surrounding the joints. Symptoms can vary greatly from some mild stiffness in the morning to tenderness or severe pain and loss of function or locking of the joint, as well as increased fluid around the joint (an effusion). As the disease progresses, bony calluses can form at the joints leading to more restrictions and pain.
Conventional treatment usually lies in pain management through analgesics. Acetaminophen is your typical first line therapy followed by NSAIDS if the pain relief is not good enough. Weight loss and exercise are also recommended and if the symptoms keep on progressing then a joint replacement surgery might be recommended.
There is so much that can be done from a Naturopathic medicine standpoint, including pain management, reducing inflammation in the body, strengthening current cartilage and preventing its further destruction and overall providing a healthy lifestyle modifications.
These can include:
- Acupuncture to help with pain management
- Exercise prescription
- Manual therapy
- Hydrotherapy and Castor Oil packs
- Nutritional and supplemental interventions
- Many people who increase the good omega-3s in their diets and decrease the omega-6s and trans fats have decreased pain and stiffness
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin can help prevent further degeneration of the cartilage, decreasing the progression of the disease.
- Herbal Remedies
- There are some wonderful herbal remedies that have powerful anti-inflammatory and/or pain relieving effects, and you might even find some in your kitchen!
Another great intervention is Yoga, which helps to increase strength and flexibility, and has been shown to decrease stiffness and pain. There are yoga classes out there for people with different forms of arthritis, or if you talk to your yoga instructor before class they can let you know which poses are safe and which should be avoided.
For more information or to see how Naturopathic Medicine can help with your arthritis symptoms please contact Dr. Joanne, ND.