While we often think of arthritis as a single disease, over 100 different types of arthritis have been identified. An understanding of what arthritis is and some of the myths surrounding the disorder can help you find the right natural therapies
for alleviating the symptoms of existing arthritis and perhaps even prevent it from occurring.
What is Arthritis?
"Arthritis" is derived from two Greek words, "arthro" (joint) and "itis" (inflammation) and basically, that is exactly what it is: joint inflammation. A related word, "rheumatism" is actually not a separate condition, but an older term for essentially the same general condition when it affects a number of areas of the body simultaneously. "Rheumatism" means, "resembling rheumatic fever," a disease that causes crippling joint inflammation.
One of the most misunderstood aspects of arthritis is that it is believed to be an age-related disease only. In fact, according to Arthritis Australia, of the estimated 3.8 million Australians who suffer from a type of the disease, 2.4 million are of working age and juvenile arthritis is not uncommon.
Types of Arthritis
Of the more than 100 types of arthritis, some of the most commonly found forms of the disease include:
- Ankylosing spondylitis: This primarily is felt in the lower back.
- Gout: Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid, which leads to crystal deposits in the joints.
- Lupus, or Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease, one of whose symptoms is joint inflammation.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is another autoimmune disease. Unlike lupus, which can display a number of other symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints only.
As the examples suggest, arthritis can have a number of causes. Often, the causes of even specific types of arthritis are unknown, but are believed to include hereditary factors, viral infections, stress, hormones and even sunlight. Injuries, too, can cause arthritis to occur in specific joints.
Natural Treatments for Arthritis
There are no known allopathic (pharmaceutical) or natural cures for arthritis, but a number of natural treatments have been shown to relieve the painful and debilitating symptoms of the disease:
- Herbalists prescribe a variety of anti-inflammatory herbs, including rose hips, Devil's Claw, willowbark and many others.
- Naturopaths often recommend anti-inflammatory herbs as well as supplements such as glucosamine sulfate, which is high in antioxidants that seem to be particularly effective in the treatment of arthritis.
- Osteopathy includes gentle, yet effective manual manipulation of the affected areas that is said to help relieve inflammation, increase blood flow and help improve mobility.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does not look at arthritis as a specific disease, viewing it as an imbalance to be corrected through herbal treatments, accupuncture and other therapeutic techniques.
Diet, too, is believed to play a large part in the control and treatment of arthritis. A dietician
will formulate a diet for specific forms of arthritis. For example, dairy products are often recommended for gout sufferers, while fruits and green vegetables high in antioxidants are often recommended for sufferers of injury related joint inflammation and other general types of arthritis.
While it cannot be cured, arthritis can be controlled and relief can be found through natural and conventional treatments. If you or someone you know is suffering from the symptoms of arthritis, contact a health professional in your area immediately. Early intervention is the best way to prevent mild arthritis from developing into something more severe.