The term arthritis is a general term that refers to inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.
It is also known as wear and tear arthritis. It is characterized by a breakdown of cartilage in the joints and can occur in nearly any joint in the body.
However, it most commonly occurs in the weight-bearing joints such as spine, hips, and knees. It can also affect the thumb, fingers, big toe, and neck.
Though it can occur in other joints, it typically does not unless there has been an injury, extreme stress, or an underlying cartilage disorder. Osteoarthritis results in the cartilage of a joint becoming stiff, which makes it more likely to be damaged.
Over time, the cartilage wears away, which decreases its ability to act as a shock absorber. As the cartilage degenerates, the tendons and ligaments begin to stretch out, which results in pain. It’s possible for the condition to become so bad that the bones begin to rub against each other.
The symptoms of the condition of osteoarthritis can range from very mild to almost debilitating. The signs and symptoms could include the following:
– Pain- You may have aching pain in your joints or it could be a burning or sharp pain. Some individuals find that the pain comes and goes. If the pain is constant, or keeps you from sleeping, it could be an indication that your arthritis is becoming worse.
– Stiffness- This is typically felt after sleeping or after sitting for a long time. You may experience a stiff, creaky feeling for a short time until you get your joints warmed up.
– Muscle Weakness- This most often occurs with osteoarthritis in the knee, muscles around the joints become weak.
– Swelling- Typically, there is not a lot of swelling associated with osteoarthritis, but if there is, typically it’s in the knee.
– Deformed Joints- Especially as your arthritis gets worse, your joints will begin to deform and take the wrong shape.
– Reduction in range of motion/loss of use– Especially as your arthritis gets worse, you may have difficulty bending, flexing, or extending your joints- or you may not be able to use them at all.
– Creaking/Cracking- You may notice that your joints make creaking, crunching sounds, which could also occur in normal joints. However, this doesn’t typically hurt and doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything wrong.
– Difficulty Sleeping- You may experience trouble sleeping due to the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis. Lack of sleep makes it much more difficult to deal with the pain.
Though the above symptoms typically indicate osteoarthritis, you should also know that there are some medical conditions that have symptoms similar to those of osteoarthritis such as injuries and other types of arthritis.
Naturally Treating Osteoarthritis
There are lots of medical treatments for osteoarthritis, from medications to surgery for the more extreme case. However, more and more people are looking for natural ways to treat their osteoarthritis, due the side effects of the medications and the fact that surgery is a very serious step. There are many natural treatments for osteoarthritis, including the following:
Exercise for Treating Osteoarthritis
Aerobic exercise and gentle weight training is a great way to strengthen the muscles of the affected joint, which offers the joint much more support. You should be aware that every time you take a step, you’re putting around six times your weight on your knees. If you do exercises and strengthen the muscles around your knee, they will be able to absorb some of that shock, which helps to reduce the pain in your knee. Aquatic exercise is an excellent therapy because the buoyancy of the water gets the weight off of your knees while you exercise.
Weight Control for Treating Osteoarthritis
As mentioned above, when you walk, you’re putting around six times your weight on your knees. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re putting lots of pressure, strain, and stress on your hips and your knees, which causes the pain of osteoarthritis to be that much worse. Additionally, losing weight can have a positive impact on physical therapy. To lose weight, count your calories, make sure your diet is healthy, and get as much exercise as possible.
Thermotherapy for Treating Osteoarthritis
Many people swear that thermotherapy- the use of heat and/or ice packs is effective for relieving the pain of osteoarthritis. Heat increases the circulation and relaxes the muscles. Cold cools the nerves and decreases swelling by constriction of blood vessels. Ice massage has proven to be effective for increasing range of motion as well as function in the knees.
Supplements for Treating Osteoarthritis
There are many supplements that have been said to be effective for treating osteoarthritis. A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin is effective for reforming and repairing the wear and tear of cartilage. Omega-3 fatty acids work to reduce inflammation. Additionally, SAMe has been proven to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis. Some studies have shown that Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables, or ASUs, could be effective for slowing down the progression of osteoarthritis.
Anti-inflammatory Foods for Treating Osteoarthritis
Some research has revealed that there are certain foods that reduce swelling and inflammation, which is what causes most of the pain that is associated with osteoarthritis. Some of these foods include: mustard, horseradish, onions, parsley, watercress, garlic, lemon, celery, rose-hip tea, and pickles. Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, seeds, and nuts are also effective at reducing inflammation.
Some studies have shown that acupuncture/acupressure reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis. It is thought that the pain and inflammation is due to blocked energy channels in the body. By unblocking these channels, the pain and inflammation is reduced. Acupuncture involves inserting needles into specific areas, while acupressure involves simply applying pressure to these areas.
Massage Therapy for Treating Osteoarthritis
Some studies have shown that muscles that are inflamed due to osteoarthritis can actually be soothed by using massage therapy. A massage therapist will use light kneading or stroking on the affected muscles, which stimulates the flow of blood and causes the area to become relaxed and warm. However, you should be sure that your massage therapist is familiar with treating osteoarthritis because the joints can be quite sensitive and must be treated very carefully.