What is Arthritis?
Roughly 350 million people worldwide have arthritis, and nearly 40 million of those 350 million are in the United States. So you might be thinking, What is Arthritis?
Arthritis: is painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. whether it’s your knees, fingers, back or feet.
It is very common for people to be diagnosed with Arthritis nowadays although the illness is not well understood. No one is safe from its grasp. People of all ages can be diagnosed with Arthritis and it’s actually the leading cause of disability in the United States. A lot of people think that Arthritis is a disease that only old people get since their joints are deteriorating but this is false because nearly 300,000 American Children have some type of Arthritis.
What Causes Arthritis?
We all know as we get old our bodies deteriorate and the cartilage between our bones naturally break down. Cartilage is the firm connective tissue between our joints. It protects the joints by absorbing the pressure and shock created when you move and put stress on them. When this cartilage is reduced it causes inflammation and a lot of pain. This is normal and very common, the risk is also made higher if arthritis runs in the family. With that being said there are two common types of Arthritis:
This is the most common form of arthritis. This happens when your cartilage breaks down, causing the bones within the joint to rub together which causes extreme discomfort, and not to mention it lasts a lifetime. OA occurs most often in old people, although it can occur in young adults. The way OA can occur in young people is through joint damage, whether it’s through heavy physical activity or past injuries. It can also be caused by joint malformation, obesity, and poor posture.
Autoimmune Disease (Rheumatoid Arthritis)
This is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body and it affects around 23 million Americans a year. The immune system normally guards against germs and bacteria and helps defend your body against them. Usually, your Immune system can tell the difference between your cells and foreign cells but when someone is diagnosed with autoimmune disease your body releases proteins called antibodies and they attack your joints. This type of Arthritis can start as early as your late 20s.
Is Arthritis curable?
Is arthritis curable? The answer is simply, no. Once you have been diagnosed with Arthritis there is nothing you can do, This is because once your cartilage has deteriorated there is nothing you can do. although there isn’t a cure never fear as with the right treatment you can greatly reduce your pain. In addition to these treatments, you can also make a lot of changes in your life that can prove very beneficial to your diagnosis.
How Can I Prevent Arthritis?
Although Arthritis isn’t curable it is preventable. Some factors such as increasing age, family history, and gender are not in your control but there are a few healthy habits you can practice to reduce your risk of developing painful joints. Consider the following:
Remember there is no “magic food” but obviously having a healthy diet can benefit your body greatly. Foods such as fish are best at preventing Arthritis. Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which have numerous health benefits and can reduce inflammation in the body. Fish such as Salmon, Trout, Mackerel, and Sardines are the best. Other foods good for reducing inflammation and strengthening your joints include:
- Brussel Sprouts
Do Daily Exercise
This not only takes the stress away from your joints, but it also takes the stress away from your life in general. It can strengthen the muscles around the joints and stabilize them. To maximize the benefits of your exercise program, try walking, or swimming. You can also add strength training to maintain flexibility of your joints. Some exercises that can benefit include:
Bench pressing (take a day off after to reduce stress)
The range of Motion exercises (jumping jacks, lunges, etc..)
Over time your joints wear out we all know this, but when you injure yourself through sports or exercise you can damage the cartilage between your bones and cause it to wear out more quickly. To avoid injury you should always try to be safe and use proper safety equipment while playing sports. Using the right techniques when sitting, lifting and working can also help to protect your joints from everyday stress.
How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?
Having a quick diagnosis can lead to more successful treatments. you’re probably wondering “How do doctors diagnose Arthritis?” This can be very simple, but not always. There are many stages of tests your doctor might have in store for you. Your doctor will examine your symptoms, and perform a physical exam to check for swollen joints or loss of motion. He may also use blood samples if he has the suspicion of you having Rheumatoid Arthritis. X-rays can also confirm his diagnosis since it is the easiest way to view your joints.
What Tests Do I Need?
The examination of different types of body fluids can help diagnose what type of arthritis you may have. This includes blood, urine, and joint fluid. To collect a sample of your joint fluid, your doctor will cleanse and numb the area before inserting a needle into your joint to remove some fluid (Thank god for anesthesia). Besides this, there are numerous other tests that can help detect problems within your joint that can be causing your symptoms. For example:
- X-rays. Using low levels of radiation to see right down to the bone, X-rays can show cartilage loss and bone damage. X-rays won’t be able to see the early stages of arthritis, but they are used to track the progression of the disease.
- Computerized tomography (CT). CT scanners take X-rays from many different angles and combine the information to create a cross-section view of your bones. CTs can see both bone and the surrounding tissue.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Combining radio waves with a magnetic field, MRI’s can produce a more accurate cross-sectional image of cartilage, tendons, and bone.
- Ultrasound. This technology uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of our cartilage. Ultrasound also is used to guide the needle placement for when the doctor needs to extract joint juice.
How Is Arthritis Treated?
There is a lot of treatments made available to us to ease the pain of Arthritis patients. Treatment generally includes physical therapy, exercise, drugs, and in extreme measures surgery! The main focus is on relieving the symptoms and improving the function of the patient’s joints. Your doctor might ask you to try different treatments as different people benefit from different treatments. The most common treatment being medications. The medication can vary from person to person and it also depends on the type of Arthritis. Never fear there is more than enough options to choose from! Consider the following:
- Prescribed painkillers: These types of medication help reduce pain, but have no effect on inflammation. For Example medication such as acetaminophen, oxycodone, or hydrocodone.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These medications reduce both pain and inflammation. These are really great because you can get them over-the-counter such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin etc..) Other types of NSAIDs are only made available by your doctors using a prescription.
- Counterirritants: These are creams and ointments, most of these ointments contain menthol or capsaicin, the ingredient that makes peppers hot. Rubbing these products on the skin over your aching joint may help stop the pain from the joints.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These are only used to treat rheumatoid arthritis because they slow your immune system from attacking your joints.
- Biologic response modifiers: These are typically used with DMARDs mentioned above, these are genetically engineered drugs that target various protein molecules that are involved with the immune system.
- Corticosteroids: Commonly known as cortisone, these reduce inflammation and suppresses the immune system. Corticosteroids can be taken orally or be injected directly into the joint/joints.
What Surgeries Are Available?
- Arthroscopy: This is a surgical procedure that is performed by surgeons to see damaged or deteriorated joints. A small incision is made to be used as a point of entry, this is way more convenient for surgeons that “open” surgery so this might be your doctor’s first option. A little camera called an arthroscope is then inserted through the small incision which allows the surgeon to see the interior of the joint and see the damage. With this information, your doctors can perform the correct surgery needed.
- Joint Replacement: Joint replacement surgery does exactly what you think, surgeons replace a deteriorated joint with a solid metal one. This procedure usually takes a few hours and takes place in a hospital or in a surgery center. During the surgery, the damaged joints and bones are removed and replaced with metal ones. For example, a hip is replaced with a metal ball attached to a metal stem that is fitted into the femur, and a plastic socket is implanted into the pelvis, replacing the damaged socket.
- Joint Fusion: Also known Arthrodesis, A fusion is usually done as a last resort after medications and other pain treatments don’t work. The extreme pain which favors fusion surgery is felt when bone rubs on the bone after cartilage has significantly worn away. At this point in the disease, there is damage clearly visible on the bones which causes extreme pain.
Is There Natural Remedies?
Yes, there are herbs that help with Arthritis pain, consider the following:
History: Angelica has always been named “Angelica” for thousands of years! It was once considered one of the most powerful plants used for herbal remedies, for this reason, it was given the nickname of “root of the holy ghost.” Historically, Angelica was thought to be under the protection of Michael the Archangel because it blooms on his holy day. Others gave it this holy name due to its seeming ability to cure anything. For both reasons, it was considered to be a great defense against evil spirits, witches, spells and the plague.
Overview: The roots, seeds, and fruit are ALL used to make medicine. It can be used for heartburn, flatulence, loss of appetite, arthritis, and trouble sleeping. But most importantly some people apply angelica directly to the skin for nerve pain, and joint pain. It is used in most natural pain relieving capsules.
History: Typically found in southern China, and Indochina. It has been used in China as early as 3000 BC and was introduced into Europe via spice routes from the East. It was mentioned in the Bible and used by Egyptian pharaohs.
Overview: Cassia is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine for its ability to relieve pain symptoms when congested. Just because it’s considered an herb for pain doesn’t mean it comes with its drawbacks. Cassia is actually very controversial in the sense that it contains a substance called coumarin, which is a natural blood thinner. Because of this European and American health agencies warn us against consuming a high amount of cassia as it might cause severe liver damage.
History: Peony is a very interesting herb because it has such sentimental value to people around the world. There are stories that have been told about peony for thousands of years. in one of the tales, the peonies get their name from the Greek word Paeon. In Greek mythology, Paeon was the doctor to the gods who angered his teacher Asclepius after he extracted a milky liquid from the root of a peony that cured Pluto. Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing. He threatened to kill Paeon out of jealousy because he was outsmarting his teacher. Zeus saved him by turning him into a beautiful flower, the peony itself.
Overview: like I mentioned before peony has a lot of sentimental meaning all around the world. Let’s take a look at some of the meanings:
With its importance as the official emblem of China, the flower plays a large role in holidays and traditions like the Chinese New Year. The Chinese name for “most beautiful” translates to peony.The peony has a strong tie to royalty and honor in Eastern culture. In contrast, the peony gained a reputation for bashfulness because legend had it that nymphs would hide their naked forms by turning into peonies. In the Victorian ages, it was considered unlucky to dig up a peony. If you did, Victorians believed fairies would curse you.The peony is also the Indiana state flower.
History: Now you guys are really in for a treat with this herb. If you guys thought Chinese peony was interesting, then you’ll love the quince! People are drawn to beautiful herbs and the quince is one of those. blooming it’s scarlet leaves every beginning of spring this herb is breathtaking. Originating in Asia minor the cradle of civilization, there it spread to the Mediterranean, fascinating the Greeks and Romans with its tart, delicate flavor and powerful aroma. Because apples weren’t discovered yet in this time, it is actually said that the “apple” from the Adam n Eve story was actually a Quince!
Overview: The Quince is very nutritious and has a lot of healing effects to it. It is a great source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The fruit also contains a very high concentration of vitamin C. And is a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and copper. People often take the fruit and make powders out of it to mix in with teas, this is perfect for intestinal pain, or diarrhea. People also use quince in creams to apply directly to injuries for instant relief of swollen joints, or soreness.
History: Since ancient times hundreds if not thousands of years ago, the Achyranthes occupied a huge role in Indian culture, it was used for almost any disorder. Commonly called the “Devil’s horsewhip” due to its appearance, it frequently grows in waste areas and along roadsides, walking paths, and railroads. With this being said it is no wonder it is considered a “weed” but don’t let its appearance fool you.
Overview: It is often used to treat toothaches, headaches, and dizziness, it is believed to cause blood to move downward from the head to your chest. Achyranthes root is used to improve circulation in your body. Due to its function of increasing blood circulation, it is used for high blood pressure, painful menstruation cycles, and or causing your menstruation cycle. It is beneficial to joints and bones and is used for pain and soreness of the lower back and knees. It has the ability to clear painful urination and it lowers blood cholesterol levels.