by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
May is National Arthritis Awareness Month. It is the time to bring national awareness to this debilitating disorder.
Arthritis: which means “joint inflammation” is a general term for over 100 different joint disorders with symptoms ranging from mild aches and pains to severe swelling and crippling pain. Your joints, remarkable and elaborate hinges, are cushioned by cartilage. They’re held together with various other tissues, including muscles and tendons. Lubrication is in the form of called synovial fluid, which is released by the synovial lining of the joints. Thinning cartilage between the bone results in the bones rubbing together and becoming inflamed. This, in turn, inflames the surrounding tissues, tendons and muscles.
Treatment of arthritis depends on the particular cause, a persons individual needs, which joints are affected, the severity of the arthritis and how the condition affects your daily lifestyle. Your age and occupation will also be taken into consideration when your practitioner works with you to create a treatment plan.
The goal in treating arthritis is to focus on eliminating the underlying (root) cause of the arthritis. However, the cause is NOT necessarily curable, as this is often a degenerative disease often associated with aging. The treatment goal, should address the reducing of pain and discomfort and preventing further disability. It is possible to greatly improve symptoms and other long-term types of arthritis without medications. In fact, making lifestyle changes without medications is preferable for osteoarthritis and other forms of joint inflammation. If needed, medications should be used in addition to lifestyle changes.
1. Acupuncture: Acupuncture has been shown to be extremely affective for long term problems with arthritis. Acupuncture is a therapeutic modality that has shown good benefits in the outcome measurements of pain relief for arthritis. Electroacupuncture had shown even greater results with pain threshold, regional pain scoring and sleep quality. A combination of both high frequencies, associated with serotonin release – short-term effects and low frequencies, associated with endorphin release – cumulative effects are optimal for pain relief.
2. Exercise: Exercise conditioning and stretching can improve certain pains with stretching such as painful, stiff muscles and joints by increasing blood flow to these areas. Walking and weight baring exercises are beneficial for improving strength , bone density and circulation. Restoring movement and normal function to an injured area is critical. Learn to stretch to improve your flexibility.
3. Proper Diet: A poor diet can be a nutrition zapper that robs the body of proper vitamins, mineral and sufficient amino acids that are important for energy product. A balance of fresh vegetables, complexed carbs, whole grain, as well as, fruits, nuts, seeds and protein are very important for maintaining proper energy levels. A diet consisting mainly of plant based foods like fruits and NON-night shade vegetables (eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes…) have shown great results with those suffering from arthritis. Avoiding fried foods and refined carbohydrates are a must. Difficulties with the digestive tract such as thirst, gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux are symptoms of poor assimilation of food. The delicate balance of our digestive system can affect our whole system in so many ways. Decrease your intake of excess protein, carbonated drinks and coffee.
4. Reducing Stress: People who have things in their lives under control will be better pain managers than people who don’t. Recent research confirms the importance of psychological attitude on arthritis pain relief. It is no secret, if you are hurting and you are tense, you hurt more. Look at your attitudes and emotions. The mental and emotional aspects of healing have a direct connection between you and what you are experiencing. A positive mental and emotional attitude and can be created and maintained by focusing on your purpose for being healed. Idle joints can become painful joints. If you focus on pain, it hurts more, but if you are doing things that are important to you, or focused on you, then you are less likely to feel it.
5. Supplementing: Take additional vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements can help to supplement major deficiencies. Deficiencies of vitamins and minerals in our diet have proven to be the culprit of much pain and suffering. We often do not get enough of the required amounts of calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc and essential fatty acids. Asian herbal formulas have also been an extremely important key to restoring balance in the body.
6. Work with herbal remedies: There are great herbal solutions to relieving pain naturally, improving circulation, elimination and assimilation. There are great herbs to help you sleep and regulate your entire body system. The herbal remedies are even more helpful when the arthritis is further divided into location of pain, worse with cold/damp or damp heat or if it is more affected by wind. (see Chinese medicine).
7. Topical Care: 89% of patients suffer from some type of morning stiffness. Apply a muscle ointment at night before going to bed will relax the musculature around the joints, decrease inflammation as it gives you a psychological boost as well. This boost tends to help people with arthritis to feel much better all day if they aren’t stiff when they wake up in the morning. Consider such topical creams such as Zeel, Chinese massage oil, UI Oil, White Flower Oil, Taoist Oil or Wind Cream.
8. Touch Therapies: have shown helpful in studies on arthritis. Massage therapy improves circulation and joint mobility. Massage strengthens the immune system, treats musculoskeletal problems, reduces blood pressure, helps relieve tension-related headaches and effects of eye-strain. Massage therapy promotes deeper and easier breathing, improves circulation of blood and movement of lymph fluids. Osteopathic or chiropractic treatments are recommended to relieve any pressures that may be hindering circulation and decreasing eliminations. This is vital , your spine and its nerve pathways can have an enormous influence on how you feel and the functioning of your body.
9. Hydrotherapy: has a number of uses. Warm water will relax spasm, while cool can decrease inflammation. Studies have shown that floating in specially designed flotation tanks, also known as isolation tanks, can relieve arthritic pain. Moist heat can be helpful when feeling stiff or having pain. Hydrotherapy has been useful in treating such conditions as muscular strains and sprains, muscular fatigue, joint swelling and arthritis.
10. Improving Elimination results when food moves too slowly through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Poor elimination is usually diagnosed when bowel movements occur fewer than three times per week on an ongoing basis. Other signs occur when the stool is hard, dry or there is excessive straining. Many people don’t realize that the gastrointestinal tract contains the largest immune system in the body. The immune system is the body’s natural defense against foreign invaders, and it is somehow altered in people who have these conditions.
Some researchers believe that the long-lasting inflammation found in the intestines of people with IBD( Irritable Bowel Disease) damages the bowel, which in turn may allow bacteria to enter the damaged bowel wall and circulate through the blood stream. The body’s reaction to these bacteria may cause other problems including inflammation in the joints and/or spine, skin sores and inflammation of the eyes. Start with a healthy detox. Detoxifying is the process of releasing accumulated toxins and waste products that build up throughout our system. Our body does much of the detoxification process through urination, defecation and perspiration. As our bodies age and our immune systems weaken from illness, poor diet and/or addictive substances, we sometimes need to give our system an extra helping hand. That is why conscious detoxing is a great way back to optimum health.