Natural Strategies for Coping with Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, which is usually just referred to as arthritis, is caused by the breakdown of cartilage—the rubbery tissue—that surrounds the joints. As a result, the bones rub together, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. Because it is caused by the normal ‘wear and tear’ of the aging process, it is a common condition in people in their 60’s and beyond.
Symptoms can make completing everyday tasks difficult, negatively impacting quality of life. If you are interested in exploring natural means to manage your arthritis, either as a complement to standard treatments, or exclusively, there are several that may be beneficial.
Yoga and Tai Chi
While yoga and tai chi have its roots as a spiritual practice, they can be a wonderful form of exercise for people with conditions like arthritis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, some studies have found yoga and tai chi to be beneficial for lessening arthritis pain and improving range of motion. Study participants also reported improvements in overall well-being, less fatigue and reduced stress levels.
While these forms of exercise certainly produce physical benefits, they are also good for the mind, and can help change perceptions of your condition and how you respond to the pain.
Like many alternative treatments, the evidence for the benefits of acupuncture in treating arthritis is not strong enough to recommend as a standard treatment. According to WebMD, a recent review of 16 trials found acupuncture worked better than ‘sham acupuncture’—placing the needles in random points or not inserting them into the skin—but the benefits were often small. People have reported improved joint function and cutting back on pain medications. Like many treatments, it may work better for some people than others, and research suggests it is certainly worth a try. It seems to be particularly beneficial for treating knee pain.
The foods we eat can greatly influence the inflammatory process, and making adjustments to your diet may ease symptoms of arthritis, which are heavily impacted by inflammation.
The first place you want to start is your fats. Saturated fats, trans fats and fats high in omega-6 fatty acids trigger inflammation. The latter is found in sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil and mixed vegetable oil. They are not bad inherently, but just when consumed in large quantities, which is usually the case in the average American’s diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, and are found in salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed and hempseed. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds and avocados are good too.
Curb consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates—they cause insulin surges that trigger an inflammatory response. You know the culprits—cookies, candy, soda, white bread, etc…
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables in a range of colors—they are rich in inflammation-fighting antioxidants. The more variety you consume, the greater your intake of the different ones.
Several supplements may help ease the pain of arthritis, but it is important you be patient with this route. It can take at least a couple of months to determine whether a particular treatment is working for you, so don’t give up when you don’t feel better in a week. You may need to experiment with different ones as well.
SAMe has been shown to relieve arthritis pain in several studies, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, with a couple showing it worked just as well as common pain medications such as Celebrex.
Bromelain, which is an enzyme found in pineapple, is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and is a popular natural treatment for relieving symptoms of inflammatory conditions like arthritis. It may work even better when combined with another powerful anti-inflammatory, turmeric.
Cat’s claw and devil’s claw are both traditionally used to treat arthritis pain. Ginger, which is best known as a spicy food flavoring, has many medicinal uses. It may help ease arthritis symptoms by blocking the production of a particular chemical in the body that causes pain.
By experimenting with the above suggestions, you may be able to find more relief from your symptoms.