Living With Arthritis Day by Day - Meds and Natural Alternatives

Side effects of Arthritis medications & alternative treatments.

Author: Christin Sander, Health Writer

Arthritis is a condition faced by millions. The two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is most prevalent. It develops with age and usually affects fingers, knees and hips. Sometimes it occurs after an injury to a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is the more serious form. It is an autoimmune disorder that can affect internal organs as well as the joints, and is most often experienced in the feet and hands.

Arthritis symptoms include pain and stiffness in the affected joints. Other symptoms may include low-grade fever, skin rash, swelling and unexplained weight loss

Inflammation of the tissue surrounding the joints is what leads to arthritis. Reducing inflammation in the body can help ease the symptoms.  This is achieved through diet modifications, lifestyle changes, medications and supplements.

A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods includes five or more servings daily of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. Wild salmon, raw flax seed and extra virgin olive oil all have excellent anti-inflammatory benefits. A high fiber diet is also recommended. Inflammation can further be reduced by eliminating sugar, refined foods, and white rice and potatoes. Animal products should be greatly reduced or eliminated; they contain a pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid that may increase arthritic symptoms.

Proper hydration is also vital to reducing inflammation and aiding joint lubrication. Avoid excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol that dehydrate the body. 

Weight reduction and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to live with arthritis. Carrying around extra pounds leads to inflammation in the body and puts extra stress on the joints, particularly the knees and hips.  

Exercise daily for increased mobility and other benefits. Regular stretching helps muscles and joints stay flexible and eases stiffness. It is important to consult a doctor before starting any exercise regimen, but most will recommend low impact activities that don't stress the joints like walking and swimming.

Many doctors recommend a warm shower in the mornings to ease mobility throughout the day. Joint pain can be remedied by heat, ice or a combination of the two. This will depend on the type of arthritis and where it is located. Other suggestions for managing arthritis are to use larger muscles for some tasks. For example use your shoulder to push open a heavy door to prevent extra stress on your hands and wrists.   

Medicines including NSAIDs and corticosteroids may be prescribed to ease pain and inflammation. These medications have a range of potential side effects. Prolonged use of NSAIDs has been linked to gastrointestinal issues like bleeding ulcers and even kidney failure. The FDA has stated that prolonged use of NSAIDs increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Corticosteroids are used for acute symptoms and are used in shorter duration, but still have a wide array of side effects including muscle weakness, swelling, edema, high blood pressure and diabetes. 

The seriousness of potential side effects lead many to look for natural solutions to ease pain and reduce inflammation. There are natural remedies that can offer support for arthritis without side effects. Glucosamine is well-known for improving mobility and supporting joint health. Glucosamine is manufactured in the body, but not in large enough quantities. Supplementing is beneficial to provide the body with what it needs to repair cartilage and support the joints naturally.  

Homeopathic remedies are also useful for decreasing symptoms and improving quality of life. Arnica supports joint and bone health. Dulcamara addresses swelling of the joints and bryonia addresses inflammation accompanied by pain and is used for stiff joints that are swollen and hot.

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