Arthritis is a chronic progressive degenerative disease which does not have complete cure or reversibility. The aim of management of this condition is to alleviate discomfort, reduce advancement of the disease process and improve quality of life of the sufferers.
Treatment modalities vary depending on the type and manifestation of symptoms. Also, treatment can be simple, primarily aimed at localized symptomatic relief and complex treatment for systemic effects.
Herbal remedies and supplements for arthritis.
Alternatives to orthodox medications have been in use for very long time by native tribes. Although, these natural ingredients may not stop the progress of this disease, relief of symptoms has been registered by users and this has prompted the continual use of these herbs in recent times.
A comprehensive list of herbs and natural ingredients known to produce significant effects on arthritis has been compiled below:
- Eucalyptus oil
- Boswellia resin: obtained from the gum of this an Indian tree, it possesses anti inflammatory properties.
- Aloe Vera extract: this has numerous uses. It boosts the immune system thereby equipping the body with protection to fight infections and rapid healing of damaged tissues in the joints.
- Cherry: cherries are used in treating gouty pain.
- Camphor oil
- White willow bark: known to contain inactive salicylates in form of glycosides. This is a potent pain reliever.
- Black cohosh
- Horsetail Cornucopia
- Piper Methysticum: A strong muscle relaxant.
Caution: Most of the miracle herbal remedies which you can find on TV commercials, online infomercials & social medias etc. contain the same herbal extracts mentioned above in different formulation .
Top 8 food supplements for prevention and treatment of arthritis
The human body is able to produce its nutrient required for effective functioning of body system. Sometimes, deficiency in one or more important supplements can further pose risk of developing certain disease.
Deficiency of nutrients for normal joint tissue repair and replacement can worsen the process of degenerative diseases such as arthritis.
It may not be realistic to obtain most major nutrients needed for healthy joint in the daily food we consume; therefore, we need supplements to complement our daily diet. Also, some important substance may not be produced by the body but will require external supply.
- Omega 3 fatty acids are found abundantly in sea foods and some vegetables and nuts. It is referred to as ‘good fat’ needed for cardiovascular health and healthy functioning of other system such as the musculo-skeletal system. Omega 3 fatty acids have been discovered to limit inflammatory processes probably due to formation of leukotrienes and people suffering from arthritis can benefit from it.
- Glucosamine: is a component of glycoprotein found in the synovial fluid. Its deficiency can increase risk of inflammatory processes in the joints.
- Vitamin D: this is essential for building and maintenance of healthy bones. With vitamin D supplements, the rate of erosion of bones in arthritis can be reduced.
- Vitamin E: fat soluble vitamin which help in maintenance of musculo-skeletal system.
- Vitamin C: aids in rapid repair of worn out bone and synovial tissues and membranes.
- Vitamin B complex
- Calcium: calcium can increase bone density thereby reducing loss of bone tissues.
Prescription DRUGS & OTC Medications
Specific medications are used in the symptomatic treatment of arthritis.
Most of these drugs work by reducing/inhibiting inflammatory processes, checking autoimmune reactions and alleviating pain and suffering for victims. Common drugs used are:
- Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): the basic role of NSAIDs is to reduce inflammatory processes which cause further discomfort. Some examples of NSAIDs are Diclofenac, Ibuprofen, etc.
- Pain Killers: in chronic conditions like arthritis, patients often experience better mood, sound sleeps and are able to carry out daily activities when the pain associated with this disease is reduced. Aspirin is often the most common drug of choice prescribed for arthritis pain.
- Corticosteroids: The use of corticosteroids is approved for treatment of chronic conditions caused by autoimmunity such as rheumatoid arthritis. Also, corticosteroids serve as potent anti inflammatory agents.
- Anti-gout medications: these are often combination of several medications which inhibit/reduce uric acids formation (e.g. allopurinol), elimination of uric acid through the renal system (e.g. probenecid), and reduction of inflammation with potent NSAIDs.
- Topical Ointment: Some over-the-counter medications are made for topical application for temporary relief of pain and inflammation. Some of these ointments contain natural ingredients such as menthol and eucalyptus. They provide soothing relief, comfort, and enable sound sleep and rest for the victims.
- Arthroplasty: when arthritis has advanced and much damage has been done to the bones, the communicating bones may be excised and remodeled. Artificial materials (prosthesis) may be inserted.
2. Osteotomy: involves the removal of affected synovial membranes. This is done to eliminate inflammatory agents that stimulate the continuation of inflammation.
3. Arthrectomy: This is a process involving the surgical excision of painful joints that does not respond to treatment. Anthrectomy is often done as a final option when most other treatments have not been effective.
In most cases, medications may not be sufficient to achieve relief of pain and discomfort; further actions may be carried out in the management of arthritis.
- Hot compress: application of warmth substance to the affected joints help in increasing blood flow to the areas and victims derive certain level of relief from this treatment.
- Massage: Massage stimulate increased blood circulation to affected areas and sooth irritated nerves.
- Range of motion exercise to reduce joint stiffness.
- Use of assistive devices such as braces and walking aids to enhance mobility and achieve independence.
Role of diet and exercise in arthritis
Diet is essential for provision of important nutrients required for healthy growth, body function and repair of worn out tissues. Daily consumption of healthy balanced diet will provide adequate nutrient for joint health and reduce the risk of developing arthritis.
Likewise, consuming adequate amount of balanced nutritious food will ensure an individual maintains a healthy weight to avoid overloading the weight bearing joints which is a major cause of osteoarthritis.
Tip! People suffering from arthritis are also advised to avoid certain foods that can exacerbate the condition; such foods include foods in nightshade family. (ex: tomato, eggplant, potato & peppers)
Physical exercise is important for healthy body. Studies have shown that people who are relatively active in early life rarely develop arthritis.
Exercise is also recommended for people suffering from arthritis to maintain joint flexibility and relieve symptoms. Osteoarthritis pain reduces with increasing physical activities.
With just 10% loss in weight through diet and physical activities, the risk of arthritis can be lowered by 20%! The same applies to obese people suffering from arthritis. Weight loss leads to significant reduction in symptoms and improvement in quality of life.
Finally, it is important to know that physical exercise may cause more harm than good when done in excess. Osteoarthritis can result from repetitive use of joints in extremely active people such as sport men and women.
Tennis elbow, an inflammatory joint condition is common among long term tennis players. Likewise, one study reveals presence of ankle joint arthritis among footballers in later years. Therefore, it is important to implore moderation when participating in sports.
As stated in the beginning of this article, arthritis is a painful & frustrating medical condition without permanent cure. A combinations of drugs, herbs, diet and exercise provides greater relief from pain & discomfort. You are advised to stay away from bogus miracle supplements.
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Rosalba Sigorina is a registered nurse and primary healthcare provider who worked in UAE and Singapore. She is passionate about writing on complex medical issues with thorough research & own experience in simple to read & easy to understand language.