Alternative Approaches: Easing Arthritis Pain
Easing Arthritis Pain
by Jennifer LB Leese
Arthritis is not a single disease. Arthritis literally means "joint inflammation" and refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and other conditions that can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.
Any part of your body can become inflamed or painful from arthritis. Some rheumatic conditions can result in debilitating, even life-threatening complications or may affect other parts of the body including the muscles, bones, and internal organs.
The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis can affect anyone at any age, including children.
There is no question that the incidence of arthritis does increase with age, however, nearly three out of every five sufferers are under age 65.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, many types of arthritis can cause irreversible damage to the joints, bones, organs, and skin.
There are over 100 types of arthritis and other related rheumatic conditions. A few include:
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, results from the wear and tear of life. The pressure of gravity causes physical damage to the joints and surrounding tissues, leading to pain, tenderness, swelling, and decreased function.
Juvenile Arthritis is a general term for all types of arthritis that occur in children. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis in children.
Psoriatic Arthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis. About 5% of people with psoriasis, a chronic skin disease, also develop psoriatic arthritis.
Fibromyalgia Syndrome is a painful condition characterized by muscle pain, chronic fatigue, and poor sleep.
Lupus: Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that can involve the skin, kidneys, blood vessels, joints, nervous system, heart, and other internal organs.
Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa sacs. Bursa sacs are the fluid-filled sacs located in the areas where muscles and tendons glide over the bones.
Tendinitis, also spelled tendonitis (either way is correct), is inflammation of a tendon. Tendons connect your muscles to your bones. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition in which pressure on the median nerve at the wrist causes tingling and numbness in the fingers.
Reactive Arthritis, also called Reiter's syndrome involves inflammation in the joints, and sometimes where ligaments and tendons attach to bones.
Osteoporosis results in loss of bone tissue that leaves bones less dense and prone to fracture. Osteoporosis is a silent disease that can often be prevented.
Better ways to manage pain are continually being sought. With pain relief as the goal, sufferers often try a variety of pain management techniques, determining which works best. The success or failure of each type of treatment is individual. What works for one person may not work for another person.
Exercise can help maintain function and lessen pain. People with arthritis should always discuss exercise plans with their doctor. Some exercises may be off-limits for people with a particular type of arthritis or when joints are swollen and inflamed.
Hydrotherapy/Warm Water therapy: Warm water therapy can decrease pain and stiffness. Exercising in a pool, swim spa, or hot tub may be easier because water takes some weight off painful joints. Some also find relief from the heat and movement provided by warm water exercise.
Rest: Pain can also be an indicator of the need for rest. It is important to pay attention to the signal and allow the body the required time to recharge. Inflammation decreases during a restful phase, however too much stillness can lead to muscle weakness. It is essential to strike a balance between rest and exercise.
Massage therapy can hasten pain relief, soothe stiff sore muscles, and reduce inflammation and swelling. As muscle tension is relaxed and circulation is increased, pain is decreased.
Meditation and Relaxation can ease muscle tension and help fight fatigue. Relaxation techniques may reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and sleeping problems.
Deep Breathing involves clearing the mind by breathing in and out, slowly, deeply, and rhythmically. You inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, releasing tension.
Occupational therapy is rooted in physical medicine, psychiatry, and behavioral psychology. The objectives of occupational therapy are to help the pain sufferer determine which activities or behaviors intensify pain; to teach methods for decreasing the amount of time in pain, to use techniques to decrease pain intensity, to help patients become more functional in daily activities and in the workplace, and to introduce a lifestyle based on good health habits.
Heat therapy: Morning stiffness is often relieved by the use of hot showers or baths. The warmth of the water relaxes muscles and eases the stiffness.
Cold therapy also known as cryotherapy, is a preferred treatment for some people as opposed to heat therapy. The cold works to relieve pain by numbing nerve endings in affected areas of the body. It also decreases activity of body cells and slows blood flow, resulting in decreased inflammation. Cold compresses, wrapping a plastic bag filled with ice cubes, or frozen gel packs can be applied locally. People who have Raynaud's phenomenon should not use this method.
Fish oilreduces cardiovascular risk in rheumatoid arthritis patients through various mechanisms, according to a study published in the October 2006 issue of the Journal of Rheumatology.
Cayenne (Capsaicin) Capsaicin the "burning" substance in cayenne creams, has been used topically to relieve pain from osteoarthritis.
Devil's claw (Harpagphytum procumbens) is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
Ginger (zingiber officinale) acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Horsetail: The silicon content of horsetail is believed to exert a connective tissue strengthening and anti-arthritic action in traditional medicine.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is an anti-inflammatory. Long-term use can elevate blood pressure and increase potassium loss.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) acts as an effective anti-inflammatory.
White willow has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. Although the analgesic actions of willow are typically slow-acting, they tend to last longer than aspirin.
Yucca has long been used to reduce arthritic pain.
Cherries, hawthorn berries and blueberries: Cherries, hawthorn berries, blueberries and other dark red-blue berries are rich sources of anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins. These compounds are remarkable in their ability to enhance collagen matrix integrity and structure.
Celery seed extract acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Anxiety disorders have been linked to arthritis and other physical illnesses, according to a new study conducted by the researchers from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada in the October 23, 2006 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Between 1997 and 1999, nearly 4,200 people participated in a German Health Survey where researchers analyzed data from physical examinations, a health questionnaire, a quality of life survey, and psychiatric interviews.
Arthritis Relief Tea
1/2 to 1 tsp dried rhizome of devil's claw, crushed
1 tsp celery seed
1 cup boiling spring water
Directions for one-cup serving:
1. Boil the above herbs in the spring water for 15 minutes. Strain.
2. Drink 2 cups per day for a month to judge if it is effective in reducing your arthritis pain.
Caution: This tea is not suggested during pregnancy or for those with gastric or duodenal ulcers.
Stress-Relief Bath Tea
1 1/2 cup Epsom salts
1 cup sea salt
1 cup lavender
1 cup chamomile
30 drops lavender essential oil
1. Mix above ingredients in a large bowl. (Makes about 14 1/4-cup baths.)
2. Store in jars with small muslin bags or large iron-close tea bags. Use when needed.
Bedtime Bath Jelly
1/2 cup water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup liquid soap
6 drops lavender essential oil
Food coloring 2d red + 1d blue = violet (optional)
1. Heat the water until boiling to dissolve the gelatin.
2. Remove from heat. Stir gently and blend in 1/2 cup liquid soap--do not whip the mixture or it could become foamy.
3. Pour the mixture into a jar.
4. Put in the refrigerator to solidify.
To use, place a small amount of jelly under running bath water for the ultimate relaxing bath.
In a blender or food processor blend:
1 med. pineapple peeled and cored
2 Tbs. Papaya seed powdered
2 cups food grade aloe vera gel
16 pkg. Knox unflavored gelatin
1- 12 oz. can frozen pineapple juice
Blend this all together and allow it to sit for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. It will make about a half gallon but needs to be put into a larger jar. This freezes well so it can be divided into smaller portions.
Take 4 Tbs. at bedtime. Be patient with it. It will be 4 to 6 weeks before you will notice much difference.
(Makes half a gallon)
4 oz. chuchuhuasi
1 1/4 cups arnica flowers
3 cups white oak c/s
1 1/2 cups white willow c/s
2 1/4 cups wild cherry bark c/s
3/4 cup marshmallow root c/s
1/2 cup black walnut hulls c/s
2 1/8 cups devil's claw powder
1/4 c. shave grass c/s
2 cups milk weed root c/s
1/4 cup sarsaprilla root c/s
2 cups cats claw c/s
3 cups yarrow c/s
1 Tbs. oil of wintergreen
1 gal. cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 lbs. bees wax
Put all dry ingredients into a one-gallon bottle and add as much of the olive oil as you can. Put a piece of Saran Wrap over the top and close lid. Put into a sunny window for two weeks, shaking the bottle to "mix" it several times a day. Add more oil as needed. The dry ingredients will soak up some of the oil so more will have to be added.
When two weeks are up, empty the bottle into a colander lined with a layer of muslin and set on top of a large glass bowl or enamel. Allow to drain for 24 hours.
Melt the wax and add to the oil. Add the chuchuhuasi and the wintergreen. Stir with a wooden spoon until mixed and pour into separate jars.
Always be sure to label and date.
You should discuss any drugs you use, including herbal products, with your doctor before taking them. If you experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, insomnia, diarrhea or skin rashes, stop taking the herbal product and notify your doctor immediately. Select brands carefully.
Source: Arthritis: Timely Treatments For An Ageless Disease, FDA Consumer, The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal by David Hoffmann, and Archives of Internal Medicine.