Arthritis, derived from the Greek words arthro, meaning “joint” and itis, meaning “inflammation” is a condition characterized by recurring pain in flexible joints. Though there are over a hundred medical conditions that can be classified as arthritis, the two most common forms are rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease that attacks moveable joints; and osteoarthritis, which results from trauma to the joint or old age.
Not only is arthritis a debilitating condition in that it interferes very much with locomotion and other daily activities, if left unchecked it can lead to serious complications. For example, if enough damage to a hip, knee or elbow joint is accumulated, the joint in question may require replacement at some point. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control recently reported that one of every three adults in the U.S. aged 45 years and up who are stricken with arthritis also suffer from either anxiety or depression.
Numerous prescription medications are on the market to treat arthritis, such as celecoxib, commonly referred to as Celebrex, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID; and Vicodin, a mixture consisting of hydrocodone, a semi-synthetic opiate and acetaminophen, a widely used over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer.
Though prescription medications are often effective in treating arthritis, there can be unwanted side effects which can prove worrisome to arthritis sufferers who are in ill health, particularly ones that are elderly. For example, narcotic painkillers such as vicodin can become habit-forming and lead to liver disease. They also carry such side effects as nausea, vomiting, constipation, and dry mouth.
NSAIDS are also proven to precipitate such things as kidney problems, fluid retention, hypertension and other circulatory complaints that may lead to a stroke or a heart attack. Fortunately, many natural remedies for arthritis are available to provide relief without dangerous health risks.
1. Exercise Daily
One of the best natural remedies for arthritis is to maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise. Each pound of unnecessary weight equals four pounds of extra pressure on the knees, so losing ten to twenty pounds whenever necessary can bring about a noticeable improvement in arthritis symptoms. However, it should go without saying that in the interest of further injuring the affected joint, exercises should not be too strenuous, but vigorous enough to encourage mobility.
Gentle stretching exercises or yoga can hep an arthritis sufferer regain strength and flexibility, and swimming is a relaxing way to relieve the tension of arthritis without further straining the joints. However, in extreme cases, a physical therapist specifically trained in handling arthritis should be present to provide gentle assistance wherever necessary and prevent the affected area from becoming injured.
2. Eat Right And Take Your Vitamins
Dietary changes also may be necessary. For example, as arthritis can result from or be aggravated by deficiencies of vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants, a diet with fruits and vegetables receiving high priority topped off with a daily multivitamin supplement can help improve symptoms.
Additionally, probiotic foods such as kefir, yogurt, cheese, sourdough bread can encourage the growth of healthy bacteria that will provide tremendous aid to the immune system, which is helpful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, daily doses consisting of 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate combined with 1,200 mg of chondroitin have proven to be effective in treating arthritis.
3. Use Topical Solutions
Many health food and natural grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market carry natural lotions infused with menthol, an organic compound obtained from mint oils, which numbs inflamed nerves by provoking cooling sensations on the skin; camphor, a waxy substance obtained from the camphor laurel that offers a similar sensation as menthol; and capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne peppers, which eases the pain of arthritis with a warm, tingling effect.
Pretreated adhesive bandages infused with one or any combination of these substances are also available. However, check with a physician first to diagnose any possible allergies to menthol or capsaicin. Allergic reactions to either of these substances can result in an extreme burning sensation at the application site accompanied by a rash, blisters or hives as well as difficulty breathing or swallowing, tightness in the chest and facial and/or oral swelling. Severe instances of these allergic reactions, although rare, can sometimes be fatal.
4. Zap The Pain Away
A more hypo-allergenic topical therapy method commonly used by several physical therapists to treat arthritis is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, a non-invasive procedure which entails surrounding the affected joint with electrodes and transmitting electromagnetic pulses through the skin. Though scientists have debated the usefulness of this therapy, several studies have demonstrably proven that TENS can suppress pain signals in the brain, which no doubt can provide short-term relief from the pain and stiffness resulting from arthritis.
5. If The Shoe Fits
Orthopedic implements such as canes, splints, braces and shoe inserts can help to take pressure off the affected area. These objects are particularly useful if arthritis has inflamed the ankles, knees, hips or spine. For example, if somebody has developed genu varum, or bow-leggedness caused by having arthritic knees, leg braces and/or shoe inserts can help redistribute weight in a more normal way.