Many conditions bear the generic name arthritis. The dictionary definition of arthritis is inflammation of the joints, but the differences between each arthritic condition can and does vary. Ask any individual diagnosed with arthritis and they will tell you what they understand; their joints hurt!
The old fashioned term yet more fitting is rheumatism. The term implies structures besides the bones that make up the joints such as connective tissue, muscles, tendons; bursae and other fibrous tissue surrounding the joint are affected by the pain and destruction of this chronic degenerative disease.
What causes arthritis? The answer is complex and it depends on whom you ask. A medical doctor may say its just old age and over use and that answer is correct, but only in part. Arthritis traced backwards from its early beginnings in the body will reveal many other organ systems besides the musculoskeletal system are involved.
What are the most common types of arthritis? The American Rheumatic Association and The Arthritis Foundation have named thirteen separate conditions as arthritic. The two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis with fibromyalgia beginning to be a close second.
Osteoarthritis usually effects people over the age of 30 and is believed by age 70 to be a universal condition. Although the cause in not fully understood, it is most often associated with continuos over use of the joint or joints. Old injury can also play a part along with osteoporosis, poor diet, smoking, heavy alcohol use and genetics.
The etiology of Rheumatoid arthritis is also poorly understood. It is thought to be autoimmune in nature and causes chronic inflammation of the connective tissue throughout the body including lungs, heart, blood vessels and internal organs. It can be bacterial and is sometimes Lyme disease in disguise. It strikes infants as well as elderly and everyone in between. Women are more frequently and more seriously affected. It is an aggressive disease and more seriously debilitating than osteoarthritis. Natural therapies are beneficial but this disease is best managed under the care of a physician.
Firbromyalgia (FM) is not really a new disorder, few things that plague mankind are. The name is new and the rising number of new cases is directly related to our Western life style of poor nutrition, obesity and other environmental pollutants. Doctors are diagnosing everyone, especially women with this disorder many times without the exacting criteria agreed upon in studies done by the Arthritis Foundation.
People suffering with FM complain of everything from sore muscles and trigger points to bouts of irritable bowel and low-grade fever. This opportunistic disorder attacks when immunity is low due to poor health habits and is sometimes coupled with hidden bacterial or viral infection.
Many individuals use NSAIDS (non steroidal antinflamatmories) to control their symptoms, and what else they can do. Massage can be a valuable adjunct to treatment programs. It is the single best muscle relaxant, sleep inducer and healing hands on therapy known to man. It increases the flow of synovial fluid in the joints while breaking up exudate that settles in and around the joints bringing freedom of movement. Massage makes it easier to begin and stick with an exercise program to be an invaluable tool in the fight against painful joints.
A clean diet of more limited amounts of protein, especially animal protein is beneficial. Limit highly processed foods, coffee, and pop. Instead drink clean water and herbal teas. Some arthritics find avoiding nightshade plants to be helpful- tomato, potato, green pepper, eggplant.
Food supplements important for joint health- glucosamine sulfate, the essential fatty acids in fish oil, flax, or primrose oil, B vitamins, magnesium and MSM which is beneficial in some cases. Use a high quality B vitamin. Malic Acid another food supplement found in the skins of apples has also proven to be helpful. When you try a new supplement, try one thing at a time so you can sure what is working or what may be making you feel worse.
One final note, any chronic degenerative disease can prove to be discouraging, including arthritis. Knowing that your condition can be improved upon always brings hope. If you have not tried some of the more natural therapies, diet, food supplementation, appropriate exercise maybe now is the time.
Till next time, Rebecca.