May is Arthritis Awareness month. The hope is to educate, encourage prevention and recognize the many thousands of Americans who suffer daily from its chronic pain. For many, arthritis is debilitating and interferes with daily activities. Arthritis is a kind of catch-all term that basically mеаnѕ inflammation of the lining of a joint which causes it to swell, with the two most common types being rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Inflammation causes the joint to look and feel swollen and may also affect the tendons and ligaments within the joint. Arthritis can also lead to damage on the surface of a joint (the cartilage) and the bone itself. When a person’s joint becomes inflamed, painful and stiff it is referred to as a “flare”. The joint may also be warm to the touch.
What joints are most affected?
Osteoarthritis of the knee (Gonarthrosis) is the most common location of osteoarthritis. It most often affects women after the age of 40. The symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee are usually:
Osteoarthritis pain covers every level of intensity from very moderate to unbearable. It is generally located in the affected area, on the inside or outside of the knee, but sometimes it also seems to have no precise connection with the affected area, in particular, when it is located in the shallow depression located at the back of the knew-joint (known as the popliteal fossa). Osteoarthritis pain is essentially linked to activity, walking and going up and down stairs. It is accentuated by excess weight and carrying heavy loads. It generally diminishes with rest and when sitting or lying down. It is sometimes accompanied by inflammation and while at rest, may wake a person up during the night.
Swelling or synovial effusion
The synovial membrane of the knee, irritated by the cartilage and the many inflammatory products released during osteoarthritis increases the production of the intra articular lubricant known as synovial fluid.
It can sometimes be produced in a very large quantity and lead to severe pain due to the hyper pressure it is responsible for, in particular in the back of the knee. When there is significant synovial effusion joint aspiration may be necessary.
This is the second most common location of osteoarthritis. Without a congenital skeletal abnormality osteoarthritis of the hip generally sets in at around 60 years of age and is facilitated by excess weight and hard labor. A hereditary factor may also be found in some families.
Secondary osteoarthritis appears at around 45 years of age and is due to acquired or congenital malformations of the hip articulation. These malformations must be detected early on by x-ray because they may require corrective surgery (with a preventive aim). Osteoarthritis of the hip pain settles in the fold of the groin or buttocks and may irradiate down to the front of the thigh and descend right down to the knee. Sometimes the pain is only felt in the knee.
This location is predominant in women during menopause. The risk factors are genetic, hormonal and micro-traumatic. It is necessary to make a distinction between osteoarthritis of the fingers and osteoarthritis of the thumb.
It generally affects the last joint in the finger and develops slowly. In general, the symptoms consist in either an unattractive deformation or a painful flare-up. The main sign is the appearance of nodes (swelling) on the joint nearest the fingertip, appearing at first on the index and middle fingers, then moving sideways and extending to the other fingers.
The pain settles in the base of the thumb. It is provoked by pinching or tightening motions. It may be limited to a simple pain for firm movements, but can also lead to painful stiffening of the joint. As it evolves, the lesions may end in deformation of the first phalange of the thumb (the trapezo-metacarpal joint shifts, the tow bones of the joint are no longer in correct alignment with one another).
X-rays showing osteoarthritis of the spinal column are frequent, but very often there are no symptoms. It affects three regions of the spinal column: The cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions and is usually caused by degeneration of the discs from use over time.
Certain factors have been shown to be associated with a greater risk of arthritis. Risk factors for arthritis include:
Age: The risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.
Gender: Most types of arthritis are more common in women; 60 percent of all people with arthritis are women. Gout is more common in men.
Overweight and obesity: Carrying excess weight puts stress on joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine.
Joint injuries: People, who have insured a joint, perhaps while playing a sport, are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in the joint.
Infection: Many microbial agents can infect joints and potentially cause the development of certain forms of arthritis.
Occupation: Certain occupations involving repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.
National and Holistic Treatments and Therapies
A recent clinical trial showed that acupuncture, when used along with conventional therapy, improved function and reduced pain in osteoarthritis of the knee.
Biofeedback can help people with arthritis learn to relax their muscles. In this case, an electronic device amplifies the sound of a muscle contracting, so the arthritis patient knows that the muscle is not relaxed.
Some studies suggest that the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate provide a level of pain relief similar to the level of relief provided by NSAIDS such as aspirin and ibuprofen for individuals suffering from mild to moderate arthritis pain. There is some evidence, according to the Arthritis Foundation, that these nutritional supplements may slow cartilage damage caused by osteoarthritis.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA)
Several clinical trials found that eating 3g of fish fats a day relieved the joint paint, swelling, and morning stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and reduced the need for drugs. Fish oil seems to cut the inflammation that causes RA symptoms.
Green tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and has even been used to reduce inflammation in the body. It is possible that green tea can be used to treat arthritis inflammation in the form of beverages, tablets, or tinctures. The NCCAM found in a 2010 study that green tea might help both osteoarthritis and RA patients. Many more studies are need to prove the potential benefits of green tea.
Thunder God Vine
Thunder god vine is one of the oldest herbs used in Chinese medicine. Extracts from skinned roots are known for suppressing an overactive immune system, making thunder god vine a possible alternative candidate for treatment of autoimmune diseases such as RA. It is best used in topical form applied directly to the skin. Thunder god vine may work best when used with conventional RA medications. Use extreme caution with this herb as it can be poisonous if extracts are derived from other areas of the vine.
I have personal knowledge of arthritis and the negative impact it can have on your day to day life. I began to develop nodes on my index fingers in my early forties and it's gone downhill since. I have limited movement in two of my fingers as well as an inability to make a full fist with either hand. I've tried many supplements and what seems to work for me to minimize the chronic pain is a combination of collagen and a herb derived pain reliever that I take in the evening when the stiffness is the worst overnight. I also use chiropractic care and an acupuncturist as well. I think genetics and poor diet played a huge component to my development of arthritis so I've been reading Sondi Bruner's book on how to improve my diet and eat foods that minimize arthritis inflammation and restore my immune system. One last great resource that I have found useful and is packed with a lot of great information is a video on natural arthritis treatments.
Finally, arthritis is a very common condition, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. With some lifestyle changes and holistic therapies, you can effectively control and manage the condition and continue to live a healthy and productive life!
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