What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a series of more than one hundred joint and connective tissue diseases characterized by an inflammation or pain of the joints. Inflammatory arthritis attacks the synovial membranes surrounding the lubricating fluid in the joints. The cartilage and tissues in and around the joints are destroyed. The body replaces this damaged tissue with scar tissue, causing the spaces between the joints to become narrow, and to fuse together. This can happen anywhere two bones meet, but usually arthritis is found in knees, back, elbows, fingers, or neck.
What are the most common forms of arthritis?
According to the Arthritis Foundation, the most common forms are:
Osteoarthritis: This is the most common form of arthritis and occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones wears down over time. It often affects weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, and spine.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium (the lining of the membranes that surround the joints), causing inflammation, pain, and joint damage. It can affect various joints and other body systems.
Psoriatic Arthritis: Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that develops in some people with psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by red, scaly patches. It can cause joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, along with skin and nail changes.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: This type of arthritis primarily affects the spine, causing inflammation and pain in the lower back and hips. Over time, it can lead to fusion of the spine, resulting in reduced flexibility.
Gout: Gout is caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints, leading to sudden and severe joint pain, usually in the big toe. It can be triggered by dietary factors and genetics.
Juvenile Arthritis: Juvenile arthritis refers to several types of arthritis that affect children and teenagers. Symptoms can vary and may include joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Lupus Arthritis: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint inflammation, skin rashes, fatigue, and various other symptoms.
The symptoms of arthritis can range from mild to severe and can impact daily activities and quality of life. Treatment options for arthritis may include medication, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, surgery. Early diagnosis and appropriate management are crucial in order to slow down the progression of joint damage and minimize discomfort. If you suspect you have arthritis or are experiencing joint pain and stiffness, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
Symptoms of arthritis can vary from pain, and stiffness to deformity and permanent joint damage. Other symptoms include joint swelling, muscle pain, digestive problems, feeling extreme cold in extremities, sleep problems, increased frequency of infections, and extreme fatigue.
If you're considering using Chinese herbal remedies for arthritis, consult a qualified healthcare professional before incorporating them into your routine. Here are some natural Chinese herbal remedies that are often associated with arthritis relief:
Turmeric (Curcuma longa): Known as "Jiang Huang" in TCM, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and is used to alleviate pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
Boswellia (Boswellia serrata): Referred to as "Ru Xiang" in TCM, boswellia is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects that can help reduce joint pain and swelling.
Eucommia Bark (Eucommia ulmoides): Known as "Du Zhong," eucommia bark is used in TCM to strengthen the bones and tendons and is believed to support joint health.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale): Ginger, or "Sheng Jiang," is used in TCM to alleviate pain, improve circulation, and reduce inflammation in arthritis patients.
White Willow Bark (Salix alba): Known as "Bai Liu," white willow bark is believed to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can help with arthritis discomfort.
Acanthopanax Bark (Acanthopanax senticosus): Referred to as "Wu Jia Pi," acanthopanax bark is used in TCM for its potential to relieve pain and promote joint health.
Corydalis Yanhusuo (Corydalis yanhusuo): Known as "Yan Hu Suo," this herb is believed to have analgesic properties and is used in TCM to address pain, including arthritis-related pain.
Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis): Referred to as "Huang Qin," Chinese skullcap has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that can support joint health.
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii): Frankincense, or "Ru Xiang," is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha): Known as "Mo Yao," myrrh is used in TCM to address pain, reduce inflammation, and promote joint health.
These herbs are often used as part of TCM formulations tailored to an individual's specific constitution and condition. It's important to seek guidance from a qualified TCM practitioner or healthcare professional before using these herbs for arthritis relief. Herbal remedies can interact with medications and may not be suitable for everyone. Additionally, a comprehensive approach to arthritis management may involve dietary changes, exercise, and other lifestyle modifications.
What can I do to help manage my pain from arthritis?
If you feel like your symptoms are getting worse, see your doctor. Treatments for arthritis have a huge range, including steroidal injections, meditation, trigger point injection, analgesics, NSAIDs, and acupuncture. If you do have a form of arthritis, there are some things you can do to help mitigate the pain at home.
• Wear the right shoes. Certain types of shoes put undue stress on knee, hip, and ankle joints. Patients that wear flexible shoes show a decrease in pain over a six month period.
• Exercise regularly. Studies show that patients with arthritis report a decrease in overall pain levels when they exercise several times per week. High-impact exercises should be avoided but more gentle exercises like bicycling, walking, or using an elliptical machine may help relieve pain.
• Use heat or cold packs. If you are trying to increase blood flow to an area (like a knee), putting some heat on the area can help. Use a heating pad, heat patch, or even a hot bath. Heat will help to relax muscles. If you are trying to relieve pain, try using an ice pack.
• Avoid certain foods. Some people claim that certain foods aggravate their arthritis. Try to avoid corn, wheat, eggs, coffee, mustard, sodas, eggplant, and/or peppers to see if you can get some relief.
• Check your medications. Sometimes, a side effect of certain medications is arthritis. If one of your medications is causing your arthritis, talk to your health care provider to see if you can change the medication or dosage.
• Add in certain supplements. Certain supplements may help to alleviate pain and symptoms of arthritis. These include MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), flaxseed, calcium, magnesium, and quercetin.
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