Arthritis is when the joints in the body become inflamed which can result in pain, swelling and even crippling. This inflammation is often caused by a breakdown in the cartilage which protects the joints. Joints are places in the body where two bones meet.
If this breakdown in the cartilage is caused by disease or other factors, then it is important to treat that original cause so that the inflammation is eliminated before any serious damage is done and thus avoiding the onset of arthritis.
However, if the damage is irreversible and arthritis is already a factor, then there is plenty that can be done to ease the pain and discomfort of arthritis. The terms "arthritis" as well as "rheumatic disease" refer to more than 100 diseases that can cause these symptoms of inflammation, pain and limited joint mobility throughout the body - and of course varying in severity from person to person.
Unfortunately all the different forms of arthritis feature pain
Some of the causes for the breakdown of the cartilage, and the subsequent inflammation of the joints, can be:
- Broken bone
- Infection in the area (usually caused by either bacteria or viruses)
- An autoimmune disease (this is where the body attacks itself because the immune system perceives a certain body part to be foreign)
- General wear and tear on joints (possibly from old age, over exercise etc) - so you will see the importance of early treatment to get the best possible chance for the inflammation to go away, which it often does.
If arthritis is the diagnosis, you can help the situation
Research has shown that exercise actually helps your joints stay healthy and this is the key to reducing stiffness and pan as well as increasing your range of motion. Joint movement allows the cartilage that cushions your joints to absorb nutrients and remove waste.
There are three types of exercise to do
- Stretching - arthritis sufferers should stretch daily to improve their range of motion. Good flexibility reduces the chance of injury or strain.
- Strength and endurance - these exercises make the muscles work a little harder in order to build muscle. These should be done every second day using weight machines, hand held weights or simple resistance bands.
- Aerobic - these are the exercises to get your heart pumping and include walking, swimming, golfing, dancing, cycling or aquatic exercises. These should be done every day and you can kill two birds with one stone by using such activities as mowing the lawn, walking the dog, raking the leaves or shoveling snow as part of such exercise.
All such exercise should be done at a comfortable place and you should stop immediately if it causes pain. Avoid getting over-heated or out-of-breath and should your joints hurt two hours after exercising, don't work yourself so hard the next time. Remember too to drink lots of water so you don't get dehydrated.
Apart from exercise, there are other ways to help your condition
- Diet is important - ensure one that is rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin E. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables plus Brewer's yeast, wheat germ, garlic, whole grains, sunflower seeds, flax seed, canola oil, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and Brazil nuts. Plus fish like salmon, mackerel and herring as well as cod liver oil as the fatty acids in these reduces the activity of enzymes that are responsible for damaging the protective cartilage. Some people find vegetables, bananas and cherries particularly beneficial.
- Take glucosamine and chondroitin which are the building blocks of cartilage. Medical studies confirm that these supplements are safe and may improve your arthritis symptoms.
- Learn to relax - stress can make matters worse. Think about listening to relaxing music more often, take up meditation or start yoga classes.
- Think about the positions and movements you take and make - are you holding one position too long or is a certain movement putting stress on your affected joint?
- Physiotherapy will relieve pain and strengthen the muscles around the damaged joint, helping it to work better.
If you have arthritis, you may well need to work closely with your doctor in finding the optimum combination of treatments that will work for you.
Some of the conventional treatments available
Our own natural healing formula made from pure essential oils - H-Arthritis - is very helpful to use as a complementary therapy to relieve arthritis symptoms and to help control future discomfort.
- Paracetamol for pain.
- Anti inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin (in small doses). These also have pain killing qualities but prolonged use of anti-inflammatories can cause stomach problems.
- Steroids - effective in reducing inflammation but there are long term side effect.
- DMARDS - disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs are used for types of arthritis that involve problems with the immune system. They therefore act on the immune system.
- BRMS - biologic response modifiers increasingly used in early disease as they have been shown to be effective in preventing the long term damage to the joints. They are expensive and are administered by either injection or infusion.
- Surgery - if damage to a joint is severe enough and other treatment is not working, your doctor may recommend surgery.
New developments include Cannabidiol (a natural constituent of cannabis that has no mind altering effects in its purified form) which is still at the research stage as a new drug candidate for the treatment of arthritis.
By 2020, it is estimated that 59.4 million or 18.2% of the population in the US will have arthritis with huge costs involved for both medical care and lost productivity.
We always tend to think of arthritis affecting us in old age, and primarily it is a condition of aging, but it is also seen in children and younger adults.