Every creak, ache or pain is tipped into the ‘arthritis’ basket. That’s a pity, because it’s a frightening diagnosis for the owner, and not terribly helpful. Many times, the discomfort is not from a disease condition at all, and just needs some lifestyle changes. It’s sometimes easily dealt with by diet, exercise or some other simple treatment.
What is Arthritis?
According to the Australian Arthritis Foundation website, arthritis “is an umbrella term for more than 100 medical conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, specifically joints where two or more bones meet.” The site goes on to say that a staggering 3.85million Australians are affected by it, and that it costs the economy around $23.9 billion each year.
We’re talking specifically about osteo-arthritis. Other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, while sharing the name, are a completely different disease.
The symptoms that are most common are pain, stiffness, swollen joints and loss of range of movement. Often there will be secondary symptoms caused by the original ones such as loss of sleep, weight gain and even gastro-intestinal troubles due to the drug treatment.
The symptoms found in arthritis are common to many other conditions, and the same treatments can work well for them all.
Exercise educes pain by increasing circulation, toning muscles and improving flexibility. It should be moderate or even gentle to start with, in keeping with the quality of the pain. It will also improve sleep, and increase energy.
- Tai chi is a perfect form of gentle effective exercise that’s easy on joints.
- Water exercise, hydrotherapy, aerobics or gentle swimming work well because the water provides support for tender joints, so making it easier to exercise. Even better when the water is heated as this adds to joint comfort.
- Walking is a simple form of exercise that needs no equipment, and can be done in short periods of time when it suits you.
- Yoga is very good for joint mobility, but needs to be done carefully. Depending on the severity of your condition, you might need to have a trained teacher.
Weight gain is often a problem in arthritis because of the pain and loss of movement, so paying serious attention to diet is crucial. The emphasis should be on lots of vegetables and fruit, with small amounts of meat, grains and dairy.
Food sensitivities may play a role in arthritis. They are different for everyone, so it’s a good idea to pay close attention to when pain and stiffness occur and see if you can find any links. Keep a food diary .
- Laughter groups are a really good form of both therapy and support. Unlike many support groups, you won’t spend the time focused on your discomfort. Instead, you’ll be able to enjoy fun time free from responsibility. Or funny videos will work nearly as well. Studies show that laughter produces endorphins or happy hormones which not only make us feel good but also reduce pain.
- Social life is important, and if you don’t have any or much, join something. Take up mahjong, magic, macramé or music – anything that takes your fancy, gets you away from your normal routine, and has other people that you can interact with.
Especially with aromatherapy, massage helps to relieve pain and improve movement. It also makes you feel fantastic and will help improve sleep.
Aromatherapy offers a number of essential oils which will help with painful joints.
- To ease stiffness and inflammation, 2 drops each of ginger, juniper and black pepper can be added to 10mls carrier oil to be gently massaged around sore joints
- To ease pain, 2 drops each of lavender, rosemary and chamomile can be added to 10mls of carrier oil and massaged into the painful area
Hot showers are often a good way to get the joints moving at the beginning of the day.
Warm baths, with the addition of Epsom salts, plain salt and/or essential oils are comforting and sleep inducing
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices can be beneficial for treating arthritis. They can be used in food or may be prescribed by a herbalist or naturopath. Ginger root, turmeric and boswellia are just some of them. Your therapist can prescribe a mix and a strength to suit your particular needs.
Arthritis is found through the whole population; it’s not a simple, consistent condition, except that the joints are lacking in lubrication. People are often unwilling to move because they fear that they may damage joints or cause more pain. But without movement and lubrication they seize up even faster, and become stiffer and more painful.
A therapist can be a great help in managing arthritis, because there are many useful natural alternatives which can make your life much more comfortable.
For professional help with your arthritis, find a naturopath
in your area.