Osteoarthritis is a disease caused by the natural wear and tear of the joints over time. Cartilage, which cushions the bones at the point of the joints breaks down over time, leading the bones to rub together. The result is pain, swelling and stiffness. Typically, the range of motion is limited in the affected joints, making day to day activities more difficult. It affects both sexes equally and symptoms tend to surface when people reach their 50s and 60s. It can show up in the younger years as a result of injury or overuse of the joint. There are many holistic strategies that may help manage symptoms and improve range of motion. Here are just a few to consider.
Inflammation is a major contributor to joint pain and anyone with arthritis wants to limit it as much as possible. Diet is a great way to do that. Many foods trigger inflammation in the body, and many foods quell it by aiding in the production of substances that fight inflammation.
The first thing you are going to want to do is cut back on the major culprits of inflammation—refined carbohydrates like white bread, and sugar. The rapid rise in blood sugar that comes from consuming them sets off a chain reaction of processes that culminate in increased inflammation. Animal fats have also been linked to increasing inflammation. You also want to avoid foods made with trans fats.
Foods that fight inflammation best are those rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as cold water fish, walnuts, flax seed and hemp seed. More and more you can find a variety of foods that have been fortified with these fats, such as cereal and granola bars.
Food allergies and sensitivities can also lead to inflammation, and you might want to experiment with cutting out the most common culprits, such as wheat, dairy and corn. You will want to do some reading on elimination diets to best utilize this strategy.
Acupuncture has been studied extensively for arthritis, and many studies have found it to be more effective for pain relief and improved joint function than medications. It may be particularly beneficial for treating knee pain.
Chiropractic care may help treat arthritis according to some research, by improving range of motion, relaxing muscles and improving joint coordination. Bathing in mineral waters rich in sulfur is one of the oldest holistic therapies. Tai chi, a gentle form of exercise, has also been shown to help improve symptoms.
Several supplements may help with arthritis pain, though you should always check with a doctor first. Glucosamine is one of the best and most studied, though you may need to take it for at least a couple of months to see optimal results. SAMe may work as well as pain relievers according to several studies. Bromelain, which comes from pineapples, has very strong anti-inflammatory properties. Herbs that may be beneficial include turmeric, cat’s claw, devil’s claw, ginger and willow bark. Applied topically, capsaicin may help by reducing the amount of a substance that contributes to pain and inflammation.