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Natural alternative remedies for arthritis

Exercise is in fact crucial for people with arthritis, increasing joint strength and flexibility, reducing joint pain, and strengthening the muscles around the joints.

Exercise is in fact crucial for people with arthritis, increasing joint strength and flexibility, reducing joint pain, and strengthening the muscles around the joints.

Afflicting one out of two people by the age of 85 years, arthritis is easily one of the world’s most common medical conditions.  Commonly associated with such symptoms as joint inflammation, joint pain (arthralgia), and joint swelling or stiffness, arthritis may be a source of discomfort for most people. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to help mitigate and alleviate the effects of this condition. Some of these don’t even require the use of pharmaceuticals and may even be done within the comforts of one’s home. These natural alternative remedies for arthritis, however, only serve to augment and complement the treatment regimen prescribed by one’s doctor. Hence, instead of replacing them, they must be sought together with the prescribed medications and therapy for arthritis.

1. Weight loss

The most effective remedy for arthritis is also the most difficult. Dr. Susan Bartlett of John Hopkins University affirms that arthritis is strongly associated with body weight. The reason behind this is quite obvious. As your body weight increases, so does the force exerted on the joints, consequently hastening the breakdown of cartilage. Being only 10 pounds overweight increases the force exerted on the knee by 30 to 60 pounds with each step you take. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Roy Altman of the University of California, Los Angeles has encountered several arthritis patients whose symptoms eventually disappeared after shedding 10 to 20 pounds.

There are a variety of ways to lose weight naturally. Among these include reducing fat, sugar, and sodium intake in one’s diet; replacing processed, preserved, and high-carb meals with natural ones; and exercising regularly.

2. Regular exercise

People used to think that exercise made arthritis worse. We now know, however, that the opposite actually holds true. As Mayo Clinic reports, exercise is in fact crucial for people with arthritis, increasing joint strength and flexibility, reducing joint pain, and strengthening the muscles around the joints. Lack of exercise can actually weaken the joints and their supporting muscles.

Before doing any form of exercise, however, one must first discuss with one’s doctor the most appropriate and effective exercise plan that is tailor-fit to one’s condition. Orthopedic doctors and physical therapists usually recommend the following exercises: range-of-motion exercises (e.g. simply raising your arms over your head, rolling your shoulders back-and-forth), strengthening exercises, and low-impact aerobic exercises (e.g. walking around one’s house for older people or taking a few laps in the pool if you’re younger).

3. Acupuncture

Several anecdotal evidence points to acupuncture as an effective therapy for managing arthritic pain. Acupuncture, an alternative remedy popularized by Chinese medicine, makes use of fine needles to stimulate so-called “major meridians” or energy-carrying channels. When stimulated, these acu-points send a message to the brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that block the sensation of pain.

Acupuncture’s pain-relieving property seems to have worked its wonders for numerous patients with arthritis. A study published in the 2006 issue of the journal Rheumatology concludes that, “Considering its favourable safety profile, acupuncture seems an option worthy of consideration.” Dr. Roy Altman also adds that, “Several trials show acupuncture to be helpful for many people with osteoarthritis.” The procedure should not be thought of as a cure-all, however. Dr. Altman likewise places a note of caution that, “It’s not helpful in everybody.” Nonetheless, if one has already discussed this with one’s doctor, it’s certainly worth a shot.

4.Topical treatments

Not all creams, gels, or rubs that promise fast-acting and long-lasting relief from joint pain work the way they promise. Some topical remedies feel good and warm on the skin but actually produce no effect on the affected joint. However, Mayo Clinic notes that there are several rubs whose active ingredients have proven to be quite effective in managing pain. Topical medications that contain capsaicin (a substance that causes a burning sensation associated with chili peppers), for example, deplete nerve cells of a chemical that helps in the transmission of pain impulses. Examples of capsaicin-containing rubs include Capzasin and Zostrix. Some topical medications- such as Bengay and Aspercreme- have salicylates, containing the pain-relieving substance found in aspirin. Others, on the other hand, have menthol as their active ingredient. By producing a sensation of heat or cold, menthol may temporarily interfere with your body’s ability to feel arthritic pain.

Though not as popular here in the Philippines than in Europe or in the United States, there are a few topical remedies for arthritis available by prescription. Creams or gels with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have a lower risk of irritating the stomach while still being as effective as their oral counterparts. A commonly prescribed NSAID topical remedy is Diclofenac gel, sold as Voltaren Gel or Pennsaid. The doctor may also prescribe patches containing diclofenac or lidocaine (Lidoderm) that are placed on the skin over the affected joint for 12 hours at a time.

5. Assistive devices

An indispensable but often-neglected step to reduce arthritic pain is to use assistive devices. Assistive devices, such as canes, braces, walkers, splints, and shoe inserts aid in balance and redistribute one’s body weight. They, thus, lessen the force exerted on the affected joints which could consequently reduce the pain emanating from them. Some patients with arthritis even have raised toilet seats in their homes. The benefit of assistive devices is that they greatly help in one’s ability to perform everyday tasks.

In a succeeding article, I will discuss some herbs, plant products, and foodstuff that are reportedly efficacious in managing arthritis-related pain. The good news for people with arthritis is that it is never too late to mitigate the condition. Aside from pharmaceuticals, numerous alternative remedies abound. s