Arthritis – Rheumatoid
Arthritis - Rheumatoid
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition. This means that the immune system targets the joints as a foreign substance, which in turn creates inflammation and pain. The synovium is the first place affected, which is the outer covering of the joint. This can spread across the joint, which leads to further swelling and pain, as well as changes to joint shape which can cause break down of the bone and cartilage.
Often problems with other tissues and organs in the body can be affected, which is characteristic of autoimmune conditions.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is not a new disease. It is a condition that causes joints to become stiff and painful. It can occur at any age and often as a result of an injury but can be associated with other joint-related conditions. Initially, it affects the joint’s smooth cartilage lining and when this lining begins to roughen and thin out, it puts pressure on the ligaments and tendon to work harder which can cause swelling and bony spurs can form. In severe cases of lost cartilage, bone rubs on bone and alters the shape of the joint. Often this forces the bones out from their normal position.
Throughout the ages people have used herbs with success to manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of it. The management varies from person to person due to the variations of severity of symptoms and the amount of joint damage experienced.
Signs and Symptoms
- Joint tenderness – Any joint can be affected.
- Joint pain and stiffness – Most noticeable in the morning first thing or after a period of prolonged inactivity, however usually resolves after 30 minutes of moving around gently.
- Swelling – Joints can appear slightly larger
- Loss of Muscle bulk – weakness and muscle wasting.
- Bone spurs – Joints can appear more ‘knobbly’ than usual
- Grating or crunching (crepitus) – this sensation in the joints can be heard or it can be felt.
- Limited Movement – a loss of range of movement in joints.
It’s common to affect the knees, hips, and hand in particular the base of the thumb, joints closest to fingertips and middle joints of fingers.
How it affects everyday life
Osteoarthritis often puts a hold on leading a normal active life due to the pain and tiredness even fatigue can be a side effect of pain. Because of this, some people who suffer from it can experience feelings of depression or being pulled down. However with the right support, a healthy and active life is achievable.
The general aims of managing OA using herbal medicine are to reduce pain, stiffness and swelling by reducing inflammation which often helps improve mobility and flexibility. Two herbs that are often helpful particularly with OA to reduce inflammation and manage the pain associated with it are Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and Frankincense (Boswellia serrata). There are many other herbs that can help such as ginger, turmeric, borage oil and capsicum.
Research in 20151 showed early evidence of the natural vegetable extract avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) could be effective in slowing down the progression of OA. Another supplement shown to be helpful are Omega 32 fatty acids.
Introducing a diet that can help reduce inflammation is often of great benefit to any suffer of OA. Eating heart-healthy foods and having a Mediterranean style diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, fatty fish, little red meat and whole grains can be of great benefit. Dark chocolate has antioxidants that may reduce inflammation. Reducing refined sugars and learning to know what can trigger arthritis flares or exacerbate symptoms are all all very helpful ways to reduce pain. Some food thought to trigger arthritic symptoms are dairy, citrus fruits and vegetables from the nightshade family such as tomatoes and mushrooms, however, it really does vary from person to person. Managing a healthy weight through diet and getting enough of exercise can be of great benefit for those who have OA and are overweight.
Taking regular exercise is also important. It helps control weight as well as keeps the body moving therefore reducing stiffness.
How long is the Average Treatment?
It is difficult to determine how long it will take any individual to start seeing results, it usually depends on the following:
- How you react to herbs
- Your compliance to taking the herbs and making the recommended changes
- How long you have had the condition
- The severity of the condition
What you need to do?
Please be prepared that it takes time for the herbs to work. Herbal medicine does not work like pharmaceutical drugs. They often require some time, especially as they tend to work gently and subtly. This is not a quick fix.
Please be willing to work with me, take the medication as prescribed and make the changes which are attainable as well as practical.
How I will help you
Make a treatment plan by creating short term and long terms goals
Identify areas in your life that may be negatively impacting your health.
Give you practical and attainable changes, with lots of support along the way.
Emotional Support along this journey, helping you to help keep on track.
- Christiansen BA, Bhatti S, Goudarzi R, Emami S (2015) Management of Osteoarthritis with Avocado/Soybean Unsaponifiables. Cartilage. Jan:6(1):30-44
- Calder PC (2015) Marine omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: Effects, mechanisms and clinical relevance. Biochim Biophys Acta. Apr;1851(4):469-84.