Osteoarthritis - Symptoms, Treatment, Homeopathic Remedies
Using Homeopathy for Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid, others
Arthritis is a fearsome word: the most common cause of disability in the United States, the bane of aging, a tragedy for afflicted youth, highly resistant to treatment, disfiguring, degenerative. It's a prospect nearly everyone dreads - the inability to open a jar, extreme stiffness getting out of bed in the morning, swollen joints, wincing pain accompanying everyday tasks.
Arthritis is a vast medical subject. There are over 100 different maladies referred to under the "arthritis" umbrella, with great variation in symptoms, causes (etiology), prognoses, appropriate treatments, etc. The term's etymological root denotes "inflamed joints" but some arthritic conditions do not actually involve inflammation. The joint inflammations make movement difficult and cause redness, swelling, and sometimes warmth. Although arthritis can occur in any joint, it most commonly begins in the fingers, knees, and hips.
Arthritis can also be associated with inflammatory bowel disease, in which case the type of arthritis can generally be managed by controlling the intestinal inflammation. Arthritis can also be a symptom of other treatable diseases including lupus, infections, Lyme disease, and Reiter's disease (also called reactive arthritis).
Conventional Treatment Treats the Symptoms Not the Cause
Conventional medicine has no known cure for arthritis. Treatment generally consists of doctors prescribing drugs to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints and to prevent further joint damage and deformities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 46 million adults in the United States have been told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. More than one in five (slightly over 22%) adults in the United States report having doctor diagnosed arthritis. In 2003-2005, 50% of adults 65 years or older reported an arthritis diagnosis. Associated with aging, nevertheless nearly two-thirds of arthritis patients are under 65 years old. Its prevalence is climbing as the Baby Boomer generation ages. By 2030, the number of people with arthritis is expected to rise to 67 million, reflecting a 40% increase. More than 60% of arthritis patients are women.
In 2005 an estimated 27 million adults had osteoarthritis, about 1.3 million adults were affected by rheumatoid arthritis, approximately 3 million adults had gout (and 6.1 million adults have ever had gout), and an estimated 5.0 million adults had fibromyalgia. Of persons aged 18-44, 7.9% (8.7 million) report doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Of persons aged 45-64, 29.3% (20.5 million) report doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Of persons aged 65+, 50.0% (17.2 million) report doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis -This is the type of arthritis people think of as being associated with aging. It affects weight-bearing areas such as the spine, hips, knees, base of the thumbs, and feet, and involves actual structural components in the joints wearing out. Genetics and mechanical factors also play a significant role. Osteoarthritis sometimes follows an injury and is more common among people who have participated in competitive contact sports. When there is a family history of the disease, maintaining an optimal weight has been shown to lower the likelihood of contracting the condition in the knees especially. Symptoms differ greatly among patients, with some people becoming debilitated while others experience relatively little discomfort despite very serious degeneration showing in x-rays.
With this type of arthritis, the joints themselves - especially those in the fingers - can swell and become deformed. But osteoarthritis is less inflammation based than rheumatoid arthritis. Affected joints are cool and hard to the touch rather than warm and spongy as in rheumatoid arthritis. Destruction of the cartilage that surrounds the ends of the bones is also common, following which small bone spurs grow from the bone into the joint and decrease the joint's mobility.
Unlike some forms of arthritic disease that are systemic in nature (like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus) the body's organs are not affected. In some cases patients opt for total knee replacement surgery when their osteoarthritis has progressed beyond the point of causing limping into full-scale disability.
Treatment for osteoarthritis varies widely, but there is a progression from lifestyle changes to medications of increasing strength to surgery. Lifestyle modifications include weight reduction, rest, appropriate exercise (such as swimming), physical and occupational therapy, and avoiding activities that exert excessive stress on the joint cartilage. Even modest amount of weight loss can have a major impact on the level of pain in the weight-bearing joints like the knees and back. Medications may be used topically, taken orally, or injected into the joints to decrease joint inflammation and pain. When conservative measures fail to control pain and improve joint function, surgery can be considered. For some cases, mild pain relievers like aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be sufficient. Spasm-relaxing medicines might be given as well, as well as pain-relieving creams such as capsaicin (Arthricare, Zostrix), salycin (Aspercreme), methyl salicylate (Ben-Gay, Icy Hot), and menthol (Flexall). An anti-inflammatory lotion called diclofenac (Voltaren Gel) and a diclofenac patch (Flector Patch) have been used recently to relieve osteoarthritis pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also used, such as aspirin (Ecotrin), ibuprofen (Motrin), nabumetone (Relafen), and naproxen (Naprosyn). These meds do have side effects, especially for elderly patients, including gastrointestinal distress. Some studies have shown pain relief from the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin, but their use is still quite controversial.
Sometimes when cortisone is injected directly into the inflamed joints it quickly relieves pain and restores function. But such injections can harm tissues and bone, so they're used only when symptoms are at least fairly severe. Another type of joint-injected medication, hyaluronic acid (Synvisc, Hyalgan) sometimes is helpful.
When a patient's osteoarthritis is especially severe and does not respond to any of the above treatments, surgery is then considered. Some of the options include arthroscopy to repair cartilage tears; osteotomy, a bone-removal procedure, to help realign some joint deformity - usually in the knees; fusion (arthrodesis) or replacement with an artificial joint (arthroplasty) - like total hip and total knee replacements - are considered when the severity of the situation calls for it.
Rheumatoid arthritis - This type of arthritis, which can dramatically shorten life expectancy, is the most common inflammatory form of arthritis, affecting about 1% of the population. The prototypical autoimmune form of arthritis, it may do most of its damage in the first year so early diagnosis and aggressive therapy is essential.
Rheumatoid arthritis involves inflammation of the synovial membrane - the synovial spaces, filled with fluid, separate the actual bones in joints. The inflammation creates additional tissue that causes visible distortion of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis' joint inflammation is caused by the body's own improperly functioning immune system. It usually produces symptoms in several joints - very commonly in the wrists. The inflammation can also affect the heart, lungs, and brain. Sometimes an attack of rheumatoid arthritis is set off by emotional or physical stress.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are typically used for rheumatoid arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis - Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis often associated with psoriasis that can cause serious problems.
Polymyalgia rheumatica -Found in people over the age of 50, this type of arthritis entails severe stiffness and aching in the neck, shoulders, and hips, and is considered highly treatable. The trick is to get an accurate diagnosis because many other conditions resemble it.
Ankylosing spondylitis - This inflammatory form of arthritis affects the spine and the sacroiliac joints. Because its primary symptom is often low back pain, it is often misdiagnosed. With this very treatable form of arthritis, accurate diagnosis is key - as is aggressive therapy.
Reactive arthritis - This type of arthritis, which often affects young adults, comes on after infections, usual intestinal or genitourinary. Treatment is usually very effective.
Gout - This common type of arthritis (over two million Americans have it), which targets kidneys along with joints, is due to deposits of monosodium urate (MSU) crystals in the joints. Both dietary modifications and medication can be effective in treating gout; for example, plentiful coffee drinking appears to lower its incidence in men.
Symptoms begin, generally at night, with throbbing joint pain. The joints are often warm, red, and tender. Pain generally subsides within several days. If the attacks become chronic, however, it could lead to joint deformity and limited motion. After many years, deposits of uric acid, called tophi, accumulate in tendons, cartilage, and soft tissue - and sometimes in the kidneys, which can induce kidney failure.
Chronic gouty arthritis is generally treated with drugs to help reduce uric acid levels, medications such as Allopurinol (the most commonly used), Probenecid, and Sulfinpyrazone. Colchicine also can be used, to prevent further acute attacks.
Pseudogout - This difficult-to-diagnose type of arthritis, which can mimic other forms such as gout and rheumatoid, also involves crystal deposits in the joints: usually calcium pyrophosphate or hydroxyapatite.
Systemic lupus erythematosus - Early diagnosis and management of this potentially life-threatening and relatively common autoimmune disease is essential. Lupus strikes mostly women in their child-bearing years, and can damage numerous internal organs.
Polymyositis - Not arthritis in itself, this inflammatory muscle disease is associated with arthritic conditions. Aggressive medical treatment is essential because it affects all muscles of the body, including those controlling vital functions such as breathing and the working of the heart.
Fibromyalgia - Fibromyalgia is considered an arthritis-related condition but not arthritis per se - i.e., it does not cause inflammation in the joints, muscles, or other tissues or damage them. But it can (like arthritis) cause great pain and fatigue and it interfere with life activities. It is due to defective neurotransmitter function in the brain, and because these neurotransmitters regulate many sensory functions fibromyalgia symptoms can be bizarre. But it is essential to first rule out other forms of arthritic conditions.
Homeopathy Matches Your Individual Symptoms to a Homeopathic Remedy So You Feel Better Right Away
Among the holistic, herbal, alternative and integrative treatments for arthritis are the following: Cayenne, various other peppers, Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis), Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum), cooked Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), Ginger (Zingiber officinacle), Broccoli, Devil's Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), Green Tea (Camellia sinensis), Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), Oregano, Rosemary, Tumeric (Curcuma longa), Yucca (Yucca brevifolia), Brazil nut, Willow (Salix alba), Boswellia (Boswellia serrata), Vitamin C, and Pineapple (Ananas comosus). One interesting method -called urtication - with some adherents and folkloric authority is to use the live stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioica) and manually sting the stiff, swollen arthritic joints.
There are countless arthritis remedies and cures espoused by self-proclaimed authorities of every stripe, and the arthritis sufferer should proceed carefully and realistically when seeking relief through such channels as, for example, shark cartilage. Among its other attributes, arthritis is a huge industry, and many far-fetched claims for miracle cures should carry a large caveat emptor sticker. Many people with long-standing cases of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other varieties of this disease have tried virtually everything conceivable and still are suffering. But the homeopathic approach has been especially successful at alleviating the pain and swelling associated with arthritis, because of its unique methodology and strongly empirical basis.
A skillful homeopath will select a homeopathic remedy that will reduce the severity and frequency of the arthritic symptoms after thoroughly evaluating the precise complaints and constitutional disposition of the patient. Some of the factors involved in choosing an effective remedy include the nature of the pain - if the onset is sudden, where is it located, is it sensitive to touch, is it worse at night, does cold or heat affect it, does it worsen when moved, etc. Plus, whether there is bruising, whether the patient is depressed, and numerous other variables.
Among the many useful homeopathic remedies for the arthritic family of maladies are the following: Colchicum, Urtica urens, Natrium muriaticum, Magnesium phosphoricum, Natrium sulphuricum, Silicea terra, Ledum, and Rhododendron chrysanthum. Rhus toxicodendron and Bryonia can be useful for joint stiffness and immediate pain. Some other remedies include Aconitum, Actea spic, Apis mellifica, Arctium, Arnica Montana, Belladonna, Berberis vulgaris, Calcarea carlionica-ostrearum, Chamomilla, Cimicifuga racemosa, Dulcamarta, Hepar sulphurls calcareum, Kalmia latifolia, Mercurius sulphuricus, and Pulsatilla nigricans.