Arthritis – Part 1

Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from arthritis and because it is a condition that is commonly believed to be incurable, the standard medical response is to prescribe medicines that reduce only the symptoms.

It has been my clinical experience that many of the symptoms of osteoarthritis can be reduced and alleviated through diet, exercise and stress reduction; and that cartliage can be rebuilt through the use of certain supplements.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that consists of an inflammation of the joints and the surrounding tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

Cartilage, which is found between the bones, serves an important role in joint function. Its gel-like nature provides protection to the ends of joints by acting as a shock absorber. The onset of osteoarthritis may be subtle. Primary osteoarthritis is reflective of the wear and tear process of aging. It usually starts as joint pain and stiffness after age fifty. The cumulative effects of decades of use and stress to the cartilage lead to these degenerative changes. If the degeneration is strong enough it can lead to bone rubbing against bone.

Another cause of degeneration results when the number and activity of the important repair enzymes of the cartilage are greatly reduced.

Secondary arthritis is caused by some other predisposing factors such as trauma or structural abnormalities.

Symptoms can affect any part of the body – the feet, knees, back, shoulders, fingers, etc. The particular symptoms often include stiffness, pain worsening on joint use, loss of joint function, tenderness, swelling, creaking, and cracking.

It always amazes me that people think this degenerative disease is inevitable. With naturopathic care, it can be prevented and even reversed.

As I said, osteoarthritis is most often caused by the natural aging process. Age, excess weight, wear and tear, a lifetime of inadequate diet, nutritional deficiencies, and lack of exercise are often cited as factors. Skeletal defects, genetic factors, and hormonal deficiencies can also be factors in this disease.

Conventional medical treatment of osteoarthritis consists of stopping the inflammation with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). While these drugs can help to decrease the inflammation of the joints, the common side effects are well known – gastro-intestinal upset, headaches, and dizziness. A less well known side effect is that these drugs can actually add to the further degeneration of the joint cartilage. Clinical studies have shown that aspirin and other NSAIDS inhibit cartilage synthesis and accelerate cartilage destruction..

Another interesting fact about osteoarthritis is that there is often a lack of correlation between the severity of the degenerative changes and the amount of pain. Some people with little deformity have much pain while some with a great amount of degeneration experience little pain.

Stay tuned for my next article when I talk about solutions – how, by altering the lifestyle and the processes that contribute to arthritis, you can stop the pain and the degeneration and even reverse the process in many cases.

Dr. Paulette Roscoe is a naturopathic physician who practices in Nanaimo. She welcomes your calls at 754-1733.