In the previous post, I discussed the differences between osteoarthritis, which is the gradual degeneration of cartilage and bone at the joints caused by wear and tear, and autoimmune arthritis, which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks normal cells at the lining of joints.
Most people think the default treatment for arthritis is a pain-relieving pill. After all, every case of arthritis involves joint inflammation. A variety of anti-inflammatories can be used to reduce inflammation, and because various forms of arthritis can cause severe pain on a day-to-day basis, pain medication can indeed be part of a treatment plan.
However, medication is not the only treatment option. At Natural Healthcare Center, our goal is to minimize the use of medication and stimulate the body’s natural healing powers, whether we’re treating arthritis or any other condition. Osteoarthritis, like any condition that ends in “itis,” is an inflammatory disorder and should be treated nutritionally with an anti-inflammatory diet.
Not only do we want to eliminate foods and manmade substances that cause inflammation, but we’ll often recommend all-natural, anti-inflammatory supplements like omega-3 fish oil, and herbs like turmeric, ginger and boswellia. In addition to clinical nutrition and supplementation, we treat osteoarthritis with chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture and many lifestyle and postural changes
When it comes to autoimmune arthritis, we’ll choose a treatment option depending on the specific condition. Clinical nutrition is always part of the equation, but not all forms of autoimmune arthritis responds to manual therapy like chiropractic care and physical therapy. It’s important to consult with a trained clinician who knows, for example, when a person with rheumatoid arthritis should or should not start a joint mobilization or physical therapy program.
The right kind of exercise, based on an individual’s specific limitations and physical conditioning, is critically important to effective treatment. I recently went to the gym and saw a pregnant woman working out. I knew this woman, so I approached her and said, “I bet you have sciatica.”
She said, “How did you know? I was up all night with leg sciatica!”
I explained that her sciatica was probably being caused by an exercise routine that wasn’t appropriate for a pregnant woman in her condition. The same principle applies for arthritis. An exercise program must be designed for the individual.
If you have arthritis, you first need to determine what kind of arthritis you have. Osteoarthritis is diagnosed through diagnostic testing such as x-ray, CAT scan and MRI. Autoimmune arthritis may require blood testing. For example, there’s a specific blood test for rheumatoid arthritis. Lupus can be diagnosed through diagnostic testing, but there is also a blood test for detecting lupus.
Once we know exactly what we’re dealing with, we can develop a treatment plan. Keep in mind that treating a chronic condition like arthritis isn’t like treating a heart attack. If someone is having a heart attack, there are no options. You have to save the person’s life.
With arthritis, we can evaluate treatment options. We can take a team approach and closely manage the condition instead of looking for relief in a pill. Medication should be viewed as a short-term treatment, not a way of life.
At the end of the day, medication may be needed. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. But before you go to the pharmacy, let’s take the time to properly diagnose your condition and explore a natural approach to treating arthritis.