Natural Treatment For Arthritis
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|Complementary & Alternative Therapies
Many people with arthritis combine complementary and alternative therapies with conventional drugs prescribed by their doctor (see arthritis treatment). It needs to be noted that what may work for one person with arthritis, may not work for another. These sorts of therapies work by helping to ease joint pain and stiffness, as well as helping a person introduce lifestyle changes which may help improve depression. Some of the most popular therapies include: -
Studies show that acupuncture is particularly helpful for dealing with arthritis of the knee. It is an ancient technique where fine needles are inserted into parts of the body with the aim of suppressing pain and releasing feel-good endorphins. It works on the basis that there are 20 invisible energy channels running through the body called meridians. When the flow of this energy is blocked, illness and pain occurs. There are over 2,000 acupuncture points which connect to the meridian and stimulating these points with a needle helps release the flow of energy again. The additional benefit is that acupuncture focuses the body on where to heal. When you cut a finger with a knife, the body immediately sends antibodies and other healing agents to the finger. In the same way, when an acupuncturist inserts a needle, the body pays attention to the micro-trauma caused by the insertion and sends healing agents to the area. A recent German study was carried out with over 300,000 osteoarthritis patients who received 15 sessions of acupuncture over a 3 month period in combination with their usual medical care. Those who received acupuncture reported significant improvement in pain, stiffness and movement compared to those who did not. Benefits lasted at least 3 months after the last treatment. It indicates that those with osteoarthritis may benefit from acupuncture. Unfortunately Medicare does not cover the cost of treatment, but some private insurers do. Alternatively check out communityacupuncturenetwork.org, which is a non-profit based organization offering treatments for $15-40.
Similar to traditional acupuncture, the needles are inserted in the same way. However with this method, the needles are attached to a device which delivers continuous electrical impulses. Researchers at the Army Medical College Rawalpindi in Pakistan carried out a study with adults who had osteoarthritis of the knee. Those patients who received a 30 minute electro-acupuncture session over 10 consecutive days reported greater pain improvement than those who received a 'sham' version of the therapy. It suggests that the therapy may offer short term pain relief benefits.
Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) was one of the first therapies in the electro-stimulation area. Now, a new broader category of electrical stimulation for relieving pain has been developed. Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) works by stimulating muscles, so they become stronger and offer more support to the joints. A number of studies have been carried out around the world which indicates that NMES is particularly effective on those with osteoarthritis of the knee. One American study involved participants wearing an FDA approved electrical stimulation device for 6-10 hours a day, usually while sleeping. Results showed that 62 percent those who wore the device were able to postpone knee replacement surgery for 4 years longer than those who did not. Digital NMES devices can be purchased for about $100 online but a prescription may be necessary. Always discuss alternative therapies with your doctor first.
Both of these gentle types of exercises may improve joint and muscle flexibility and range of movement. In particular those who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis of the ankle and knee, as well as hip arthritis may benefit the most. A recent study also found that tai chi seems to be a safe, effective way of maintaining bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.
Meditation can help improve mood, reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation. According to one study published in the Arthritis Care and Research (2007), patients with rheumatoid arthritis who meditated 45 minutes a day, 6 days a week for 6 months reduced psychological distress by a third. Another study carried out by an institute at the Massachusetts General Hospital showed that chronic pain patients reduced their clinic visits by 36 percent when they practiced meditation techniques for 30 minutes a day for at least 2 years. As chronic pain is one of the most common symptoms of arthritis, the benefits seem clear. However meditation needs to be practiced on a regular basis and over a long period of time. Consider starting with a local class or ordering a meditation DVD online.
Massage is a wonderful way to relax, tone the muscles and to improve blood flow to the joints. If a therapist or a partner is not available, self massage is always possible. To self massage: Apply some massage oil (or cream) to the affected area and using your fingertips, make circular movements for about 5 minutes once a day. Always massage around an inflamed joint, not on it, and stop if pain worsens. Another alternative is to knead the muscles with both hands. Squeeze, then release. Repeat and continue kneading for up to 15 minutes a day.
While regular exercise has many benefits, some arthritis patients may find it simply too painful. Hydrotherapy offers an alternative way to exercise the muscles and joints without putting as much stress on the body. During hydrotherapy a person is submerged in warm water (heated to 35 C/95 F) and instructed by a hydrotherapist on the types of movements appropriate for their condition. It seems to have particular benefits for those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis as the warm water soothes joints and joint inflammation and makes exercise easier. It can also help by increasing blood flow, delivering oxygen to areas of the body that need it. According to some studies hydrotherapy shows benefits for those with osteoarthritis of the knee as well as those with back or neck pain, fibromyalgia symptoms, repetitive strain injury and any muscle injuries.
Aromatherapy may help alleviate pain by stimulating the emotional center of the brain by scent. The scent of essential oils can also aid relaxation and rejuvenation. Mix 15 drops of essential oil such as chamomile or lavender with 2 tablespoons of carrier oil (almond, jojoba or avocado oil) and rub into the skin. Alternatively rub directly onto affected areas, several times a day. Essential oils most associated with arthritis include lavender, chamomile, eucalyptus, lemon, juniper, ginger, origanum, benzoe, thyme and rosemary. Another way to use aromatherapy for relieving pain and inflammation is with a hot compress. Fill a bowl with hot water. Apply 6 drops of essential oil. Insert a clean cotton cloth, remove and squeeze out the excess water. Apply to the affected area until the cloth has cooled. Repeat 3 times. Then wrap the affected area in a warm towel or blanket and rest for 15 minutes.
It is suggested that high-powered magnet worn over an affected joint can cause pain relief. Studies however are inconclusive, so it is more a matter of buyer beware.
For some people, with advanced arthritis and limited range of mobility, every day tasks can be difficult. Fortunately there is now a wide range of arthritis equipment or 'assisted devices' available which can help make these tasks easier. Occupational therapists can advice on the most suitable devices for a patient’s requirements. It is also possible to buy many items on line such as arthritis kitchen openers, adapted knives and utensils, adapted gardening tools, office and mobility aids.
There is still much debate as to whether diet is one of the causes of arthritis. Research is in this area is quite complicated and needs to be carried out over a long period of time. In the meantime, if you notice that some foods seem to trigger a flare up, it makes sense to avoid them. If you do choose to follow a particular type of diet, just ensure that it includes the full range of nutrients that you need, and never start a diet which first requires you to stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first.
Foods to Avoid
• Common trigger foods include: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes. Orange juice and oranges can make symptoms worse in some people.
• Reduce your intake of acid forming foods such as: cow’s milk, cheese, red meat, fried foods and chocolate.
• Gluten which is found in wheat products (such as bread), barley, oats and whey cause a problem for many people with arthritis.
• Anyone suffering from gout should avoid foods which contain purines as they breakdown in the body to form uric acid. Foods to avoid include red meat, offal, shellfish, lentils, alcohol, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and mackerel.
• Coffee, strawberries, rhubarb, peanuts, spinach and beetroot are all high in oxalic acid which can aggravate those with rheumatoid arthritis.
• Avoid all processed food with artificial food colorings and flavorings. These often aggravate arthritis pain.
Foods to Include in Diet
• Pineapple is high in bromelain, which is anti-inflammatory. It is best eaten before a meal.
• As an alternative to potato, try: sweet potatoes, papaya, carrots and pumpkin.
• Replace wheat products with millet, barley, buckwheat or quinoa. Buy gluten free breads.
• Fresh ginger is one of nature’s natural pain-remedies. As an alternative to regular tea, add a chunk of fresh ginger to some boiling water and sweeten with a teaspoon of honey.
• Add a tablespoon of flaxseeds (linseeds) to salads, breakfast cereals or bio yogurts daily. Linseeds, along with walnuts, cashew nuts, almonds and hazelnuts are full of essential fats which help to nourish the joints.
• Add the Indian spices turmeric and cayenne pepper to meals – both are naturally anti-inflammatory.
Dietary Supplements & Remedies
Glucosamine Sulphate: Some studies show that taking 1500mg daily of this supplement can greatly reduce pain and increase mobility. When symptoms improve the dosage can be reduced to 500mg a day. Glucosamine sulphate is usually derived from crab shells, so avoid if you have a shellfish allergy.
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