The term arthritis actually refers to a broad category of conditions including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, juvenile arthritis, and more. Typically arthritis will cause pain in the joints though the underlying source is quite different between the various forms.
For example, osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that is most often associated with the body’s natural aging process. As the protective cartilage between joints wears down over time, it can cause the bones of the joint to rub together in a painful way. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder which means that the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues the same way it attacks diseases or infections. With this condition the immune system targets the tissues between joints causing inflammation and pain.
Because there is no single arthritis diagnosis, arthritis treatments are also varied depending on the specific condition, how it affects the individual, and how it responds to intervention. Because arthritis can cause intense pain during flare-ups it is important that individuals living with the condition have multiple techniques to alleviate the pain in order to live a full, productive, and healthy life. Approaching arthritis treatments from a holistic standpoint is essential to maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
Let’s take a closer look at some common and effective treatments for various forms of arthritis.
Many home remedies are steeped in history and have quite a bit of good old-fashioned common sense behind them. There are many things you can do at home that will help relieve the pain caused by multiple forms of arthritis. These arthritis treatments include:
- Heat: Keeping the joints warm when you’re experiencing pain can help alleviate the symptoms. Use a heating pad or wrap the joint with a scarf to keep warm.
- Epsom salts: The magnesium sulfate in Epsom salt can help provide relief for aching joints. For pain in your hips or knees, run a warm bath and add a half cup of Epsom salts to the water.
- Olive oil: It may sound crazy but rubbing cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil into your aching joints can actually help reduce pain and swelling. Gently massage the oil into each joint twice a day. You can also replace other fats in your diet, such as butter, with olive oil to gain more health benefits.
What you eat absolutely has an effect on your overall health. Some foods increase inflammation in the body while others help reduce pain and swelling. Some healthier food choices for arthritis are:
- Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids are great for reducing inflammation in the body. Choose fatty fish such as salmon or tuna to add to your diet several times a week.
- Dairy: Vitamin D and calcium are also essential building blocks for areas around the joints. The easiest way to get these in your diet is through dairy foods, but if that doesn’t work because of lactose intolerance, consider leafy green vegetables as another way to get these nutrients.
- Whole grains: Skip the white bread and rice and switch to whole-grains. You can easily replace these items with whole-wheat breads and brown rice to get the added benefits of the whole-grain’s anti-inflammatory properties.
In spite of the fact that movement sometimes causes pain in affected joints, individuals dealing with the effects of arthritis should keep moving. Exercising and strengthening the muscles can help increase the body’s ability to compensate for the pain in the joint. However, don’t feel like you have to push yourself to do things that increase the pain.
Exercises that are great arthritis treatments are:
- Yoga: Incorporating gentle yoga poses into your exercise routine will allow you to stretch your muscles to relieve pain in your joints. As an added bonus, yoga is also a meditative practice that can provide the foundation for healthy balance.
- Walking: A simple walk around the block can be enough to stimulate the muscles and provide you with extra energy. Walking is low impact and can be done at your own pace without much effort. Continuously increase the length and speed of your walks as you gain stamina.
- Water workouts: Swimming and water aerobics are great for individuals dealing with the effects of arthritis. Because our bodies are buoyant in water it keeps pressure off the affected joints while the resistance helps the muscles get a full workout.
Even after you incorporate a balanced and healthy diet into your life it is still important to ensure that you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals. Supplements can help. Some supplements that can act as arthritis treatments include:
- Vitamin C: This vitamin is essential for building up the connective tissue around joints. While you can get it through eating citrus fruits you may wish to add a supplement to stay healthy.
- Turmeric: A popular spice in India and used in many curries this may be the most delicious anti-inflammatory supplement you can add to your diet.
- Bromelain: This nutrient is found in pineapples and is another anti-inflammatory agent. Rather than eating extra pineapple you can add this as a supplement to your daily regimen.
Sometimes the acute pain that is the result of a flare-up of arthritis can be treated with medications such as over-the-counter and prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). More intense pain or chronic symptoms may need stronger medications.
Some medications for arthritis include:
- NSAIDs: These include medications like ibuprofen, neproxen, or celecoxib. Talk with your doctor about whether or not any of these drugs will be effective for your condition.
- Topical creams: Capsaicin, the compound found in peppers that creates heat, can be used as a topical treatment for aching joints. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
- Steroids: Some forms of arthritis, such as lupus, require a more long term anti-inflammatory medication such as steroid. Educate yourself on the risks before taking this medication.
Interventional arthritis treatments
Even after making the right lifestyle changes and treating the pain of flare-ups some arthritis patients need additional arthritis treatments. Interventional arthritis treatments may include:
- Joint injections: Injecting medications directly into the affecting joints can reduce the pain and help with long-term inflammation.
- Surgery: Since arthritis can affect the joint long term and lead to lasting damage which intensifies the pain, some patients will need to seek surgery as a treatment.
Before making any lifestyle changes or considering medications or interventional procedures, patients with arthritis are encouraged to speak with their medical specialists to determine the right combination of treatments for the condition.
What changes have you made in your life to alleviate painful symptoms of arthritis? Have any specific arthritis treatments helped you?
Image by Matthias Rhomberg via Flickr