Arthritis refers to the inflammation of one or more of your joints. Pain, stiffness, and hard to move joints and bones are characteristics of this joint disorder. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and according to statistics, this unpleasant condition affects more than 50 million Americans.
The most common form of arthritis affecting the population is osteoarthritis. This form of arthritis occurs when the cartilage between bones and joints begins to wear down. Made of collagen and other proteins, cartilage offers a cushion to the ends of the bones. It also helps to make connective tissue both flexible and strong. Once the breakdown of cartilage occurs, the loss of protection and cushion results in the bones rubbing together. Soon it becomes increasingly painful and difficult to carry out simple, everyday tasks.
Another common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This form of arthritis occurs as a result of chronic inflammation, which then causes the immune system to attack the joints and other parts of the body.
Arthritis can cause a number of complications. These include bone death, stress fractures, and bleeding inside the joints.
What are the causes of arthritis?
Experts aren’t completely sure what exactly causes arthritis. However, they do agree that degenerative joint disease usually occurs as a result of a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors.
Existing medical conditions
Diabetes, an autoimmune disorder as well as metabolic disorders, may raise one’s risk for arthritis.
According to the World Journal of Orthopedics reports, individuals who are battling osteoarthritis might have a genetic defect that affects the production of collagen. Furthermore, other people might also have genes that may result in slight malformations of bones and joints.
Some infections bring forth organisms that may cause inflammation of the joints and tissues.
Food poisoning and contamination involve salmonella and shigella. Both of these organisms have been linked to joint infections. Sexually transmitted diseases, particularly gonorrhea, have also been linked to joint pain and inflammation.
Any form of trauma or injury to the joints may trigger the deterioration of cartilage. Additionally, over-training and opting out of rest days may also do the same.
Poor gut health
Gut health is incredibly paramount to our general well-being. Thus, any upset to the delicate balance of gut bacteria may result in serious health problems. For one, a study published in the journal eLife found a link between gut microbes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Obesity or being overweight increases your risk of arthritis because excess weight puts added pressure on your joints. The CDC found that while one in five Americans has been diagnosed with arthritis, the number jumps to more than one in three amongst obese people (1).
Symptoms of arthritis
The most common symptoms include:
- Decreased range of motion
- Loss of flexibility
- Joint pain
- Stiffness (lasting longer than an hour)
Over time, you will soon notice that the above symptoms are making it increasingly difficult to walk and sit down. It will be hard to lift and hold objects, climb the stairs and even lift your legs.
Arthritis is conventionally treated by rheumatologists. They usually prescribe pharmaceutical drugs that are aimed at managing the pain. These drugs are referred to as analgesics and the most common ones include percocet, darvocet, oxycontin, duragesic, and acetaminophen. They help alleviate pain by blocking receptors on nerve cells. However, they don’t help to treat the inflammation.
Unfortunately, like most pharmaceutical drugs, these medications may pose serious side effects, and they can also be potentially addictive.
That said, some individuals were looking to avoid the risk and side effects of prescription painkilling drugs. As a result, they’ve sought out alternative natural treatments for arthritis that can help control their pain and help manage the condition.
Natural remedies for arthritis
Despite medical intervention and prescription medication, arthritis symptoms can still be debilitating and prevent you from carrying out everyday activities. That said, in an effort to get relief, people with arthritis are seeking a natural approach by using natural remedies.
Some remedies take the form of herbs and spices, both of which contain anti-inflammatory properties, while others include practices that serve to alleviate both pain and inflammation. It’s important to first discuss all arthritis treatment options with your doctor. Also, as effective as some of these remedies may be, do not stop taking prescribed medications unless instructed.
The practice involves inserting thin needles into specific points on your body in an effort to correct the imbalances of QI, which is essentially the body’s energy. It is thought that this effort to restore balance may help to alleviate pain, including arthritis pain (2). It’s important to find a licensed and certified acupuncturist if you want to have the treatment.
For individuals battling painful joints, it’s important to stay fit and active. A recommended form of exercise is aquatic exercise as it helps to reduce the impact on the joints all whilst improving circulation and offering pain relief.
According to a scientific review published in the journal Therapeutic Recreation Journal, older adults with osteoarthritis who participated in an aquatic exercise program experienced a short-term reduction in arthritis pain as well as an improved range of motion, improved mood, and quality of life.
It’s advisable to perform 40–60 minutes of aquatic exercise three times a week.
Another low-impact exercise that may help to improve arthritis symptoms is Tai chi. This ancient discipline is easy on the joints and it helps to improve flexibility and muscle strength.
Black pepper contains the compound pipeline. This compound is not only responsible for providing black pepper with its strong flavor, but it also possesses anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects.
One study found that piperine is quite effective at helping alleviate painful symptoms associated with arthritis.
Frankincense is an extract from the resin of the Boswellia tree. It appears that both Boswellia supplements and frankincense oil possess anti-inflammatory properties, which serve to protect the health of your joints.
According to a study published in the journal Minerva Medica, arthritis patients who took Boswellia extract supplements reportedly experienced greater improvement in their symptoms. Additionally, a separate study found that frankincense oil helped alleviate arthritis pain by combating inflammation and delaying reactions to sensitivities (3).
When using pure frankincense oil, it’s important to always combine it with a carrier oil (such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, and olive oil). You can then apply it to the painful area on a daily basis.
Good news for chili lovers!
The chili and hot taste associated with Cayenne pepper can be credited to the active ingredient is capsaicin. Capsaicin contains anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, it may help to ease some of the painful symptoms associated with arthritis.
As opposed to making a trip to the local pharmacy, you can create your own cayenne mixing a few drops of ground cayenne pepper with 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil. You can then apply the mixture with a gaze to your painful joints.
The cannabis plant contains various cannabinoids. Recently, CBD has been linked to pain relief.
A study published in the journal Pain found that in individuals battling osteoarthritis, CBD oil helped to decrease joint inflammation. Furthermore, a number of animal studies have found that CBD oil may help to manage arthritis by relieving the associated inflammatory pain.
Preliminary studies have found that ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help manage arthritis pain.
Ginger gets its flavor from the compound gingerol. According to studies, gingerol reduces the actions of T cells, which then helps to reduce systemic inflammation (4).
Hot and cold therapy
Heat and cold treatments are two effective methods for helping to alleviate arthritis pain.
The cold serves to reduce joint swelling and inflammation as well as numb the pain. On the other hand, the heat relaxes the muscles and promotes blood flow. One way to apply the therapy is by alter starting the day with a warm bath or shower to relieve stiffness or by placing a heating pad or hot water bottle on aching joints. You can also submerge the painful joints in ice water or use a cold pack.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, regularly massaging the muscles and joints can help to ease the pain associated with arthritis (5).
A study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that people with rheumatoid arthritis who received moderate-pressure massages over a four-week period reportedly experienced less pain, better grip strength, and a greater range of motion in their affected limbs.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation where individuals attempt to focus their attention on their feelings and what their body is experiencing in the present moment. The National Institutes of Health reported that mindfulness meditation may help people battling painful joints.
According to one study, people with rheumatoid arthritis who practiced mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) exhibited a reduction in symptoms, including pain, early morning stiffness, and a number of tender and swollen joints.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil, can help to reduce inflammation and as a result, studies have linked them to improving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms (6).
Additionally, extra virgin olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthal, which, according to one 2014 study, also helps to decrease inflammation.
A common staple in Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is an extremely effective anti-inflammatory herb, particularly in regards to one particularly effective compound – curcumin.
A 2012 study found that turmeric supplements helped ease symptoms in people battling rheumatoid arthritis.
Yoga is associated with a number of health benefits, one of them being its ability to ease joint pain and improve flexibility.
One particular form of yoga, Iyengar yoga, may serve to relieve both tension and inflammation. A study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain found that young women with rheumatoid arthritis who partook in two 1.5-hour yoga classes over a six-week period reportedly experienced significant improvements in health, mood, quality of life, and the ability to cope with chronic pain.
Arthritis is a progressive condition that causes pain and stiffness in the joints. Many different medication interventions are available, but using home remedies alongside these may be more effective at relieving pain and increasing mobility. That said, it’s important to always work with the advice of your doctor so that they can help you decide on an effective and safe course of treatment.