How to Identify and Treat Arthritis with Natural Methods

Suddenly, one morning, something is not right. Movements that once came easily now cause pain, and formerly flexible joints are swollen, stiff and sore. There's an obvious problem, but what could it be?

The Nature of Arthritis

Connected by ligaments, cushioned by cartilage and lubricated by synovial fluid, the joints make it possible for the body to move at all: that is, until something goes wrong. That "something" is often arthritis, and those who have experienced it know how debilitating it can be.

The word itself translates to "inflammation of the joints," and arthritis can potentially occur at any location in the body where two bones meet. Of over 100 identified types, four are the best known.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, by far the most common type, occurs when the protective cartilage that normally cushions the ends of the bones begins to erode. A painful stretching of the ligaments and tendons can follow, and as the cartilage continues to deteriorate, the resultant rubbing of one bone against another causes extreme discomfort.

Whether due to injury, overuse or the normal aging process, any breakdown of cartilage between the joints will nearly always eventuate in osteoarthritis. Although any location where bone meets bone can be a target, osteoarthritis occurs most often in the hips, knees and hands as well as the facet joints in the spine.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Painful joints that are tender when pressed.
  • Stiffness, particularly in the morning.
  • Occasional grating sensations.
  • Lumps or bone spurs around the affected joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis results from inflammation that attacks the lubricating fluid in the synovial membrane. If left untreated, the painful swelling that ensues can lead to deformity.

Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly affects the arms, legs, wrists and fingers. Women are significantly more susceptible, and while it generally strikes those between the ages of 40 and 60, its appearance in children and the very old is not unheard of.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Tender, inflamed and swollen joints.
  • Stiffness that is worse in the morning.
  • Red, puffy hands.
  • Rheumatoid nodules on the arms.
  • Fatigue and possible weight loss.

Treating Arthritis the Natural Way

Over 16,000 Americans die every year from the side effects of arthritis medication. Any drug whose label devotes more space to its potential dangers than it does to its benefits might not be one you'd want to take. Fortunately, many natural remedies can produce excellent results with far less risk.

Several OTC supplements in particular have proven themselves quite effective in treating arthritis. They are:

Glucosamine/Chondroitin. Possibly the best known and most popular of the natural arthritis remedies, the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin has proven effective in relieving moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis pain. Studies have shown that when these two components are taken together, their effectiveness approaches that of NSAIDs without the dangerous side effects.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These assist in forming leukotrienes that help quell inflammation. Sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis are the most likely to benefit.

Vitamin C. While this popular antioxidant helps the body produce the collagen that aids joints directly, it also eliminates the free radicals that contribute to their destruction.

Vitamin D. In addition to assisting in collagen production, this vitamin protects joints from further damage.

Vitamin E. Although believed less effective than vitamins C and D, vitamin E will also rid the body of free radicals and prevent existing damage from worsening.

B vitamins. Studies have found that arthritis sufferers are often deficient in vitamin B6 and folate. Since inflammation will rapidly deplete the body's supply of B vitamins, supplementation is never a bad idea.

Vitamin K. Its ability to assist with depositing minerals into bone makes this vitamin particularly beneficial to sufferers of osteoarthritis.

Other Natural Remedies

In addition to supplements, a sufferer can try other things. For relieving pain and stiffness, many have obtained relief from:

Exercise and gentle stretching. Sitting quietly is possibly the worst thing an arthritis sufferer could do. Exercise and gentle stretches performed on a daily basis will not only strengthen the muscles around sore joints but also greatly alleviate pain and morning stiffness.

Squeezing balls. Gentle manipulation of a soft rubber ball can reduce pain and increase flexibility. Combining the squeezes with finger stretches will magnify the effect.

Paraffin wax treatments. Dipping the hands into a warm mixture of mineral oil and melted paraffin wax will serve as a proven balm to sore arthritic joints.

The diagnosis of arthritis need not be devastating. It's comforting to know that natural treatments can help, and taking action early on can go a long way toward alleviating the disease's symptoms and slowing its progression.