If you wake up every morning with achy and stiff knees, hands, back, neck or other joints, you may be suffering from arthritis.
There are two main types of arthritis:
osteoarthritis, which is often caused by old age, and rheumatoid arthritis,
which is caused by an autoimmune disorder. But no matter which type you have,
the end result is that the cartilage between your joints gets worn away,
causing your bones to rub against each other, causing pain.
As the pain increases over time, people often rely on medications and daily dosages of NSAIDs (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) to keep the symptoms at bay.
However, long-term use of NSAIDs can additional problems, such as gastrointestinal issues, heartburn, liver and kidney problems and more. And taking brand-name arthritis medications can be costly and have their own side effects as well.
That’s why many Americans are increasingly looking for holistic approaches to lessen their arthritis symptoms and even reverse some of its effects. Here are a few holistic approaches you can try that don’t involve medication:
- Warm yourself up
If you’re looking for a simple, home remedy to ease your stiff joints, find ways to warm yourself up. The Arthritis Foundation recommends starting your day with a warm shower or bath to ease morning stiffness or head to the gym and relax in a hot tub. Try applying a heating pad for up to 20 minutes (just make sure you use a cloth barrier so you don’t burn yourself), or for an even cheaper option, just put a wet washcloth in a freezer bag, heat it up in the microwave, and wrap it in a towel before applying for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Apply cold
If you are experiencing more acute pain, rather than joint stiffness, you might want to try cold therapy instead. Cold packs will reduce swelling and numb nerve endings, which should help dull pain. You can buy a gel cold pack at the drugstore and put it in the freezer so it’s ready when you need it. (These usually come with straps that make it easier to wrap around your joints). Or you can make your own ice packs using frozen vegetables or ice in a plastic bag, covered by a towel to protect the skin. And just like heat, keep the pack on for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Adjust your diet
Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system starts attacking its own cells, a process called inflammation. So one of the best ways to counteract this type of arthritis is to focus on eating anti-inflammatory foods.
“Awareness of inflammatory foods is important for people with arthritis,” says Patricia DeAngelis, a functional medicine practitioner at the Center. “What we eat can trigger arthritis symptoms.”
She recommends eating lots of fresh vegetables and limited fruits, as well as foods that provide omega 3 fats. “Eat organic as much possible,” DeAngelis says. “Use the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists as a guide for choosing healthy produce.”
Some good foods to eat include:
- Wild-caught fish (salmon, mackerel, cod, tuna, and sardines)
- Grass-fed lamb and buffalo meat
- Almonds, walnuts, and flax
- Dark, leafy green vegetables
- Red and blue-colored fruits and vegetables
- Extra virgin olive oil and olives
- Spices such as tumeric, ginger, oregano, garlic, rosemary, cayenne, cloves, and cinnamon
DeAngelis also recommends avoiding trans fats, refined sugar, high glycemic foods, food with high omega 6 oils (such as refined vegetable oils), gluten, saturated animal fats from grain-fed red meats, dairy, and high-temperature cooking.
However, everyone’s response to foods can vary slightly, so DeAngelis recommends using an elimination diet to determine which foods trigger your symptoms.
4. Try Spinal Decompression Therapy
If your arthritis is causing back pain, one good option to try is spinal decompression therapy. Spinal Decompression Therapy is a safe and comfortable treatment that involves lying down on a special table and putting your spine in its proper position. This creates more space within each individual vertebra, which decompresses the joints and alleviates the pain of spinal arthritis.
What’s more, Dr. Mitchell Katz, a chiropractor at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says several studies have shown that spinal arthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) can actually be reversed through the use of Spinal Decompression Therapy. “If you or anyone that you know is suffering from the pain and discomfort of spinal arthritis, Spinal Decompression Therapy might be extremely helpful,” he says.
5. Try Naprapathy
Another technique for relieving compression on joints is naprapathy. Usually, muscles and soft tissues become tight from overuse, and that tension can cause compression on the joints, making the bones rub together even more. By manually manipulating the soft tissue that surrounds the joints, naprapathy helps reduce that compression and relieve pain.
Dr. Richard Bisceglie, who practices naprapathy at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says he also gives patients suggestions for stretches and exercises they can do at home to help relieve pain, too.
6. Use Lasers
Cold laser therapy and infrared light therapies are another safe, non-medical way of reducing the pain associated with arthritis. “Both are frequency-based therapies that reduce inflammation between the joints,” explains Dr. Bisceglie, who administers both treatments at the Center. Both cold lasers and infrared lasers are FDA-approved medical devices that a medical professional holds over your affected area to sends photons of light through the skin. The light helps injured cells restore their mitochondrial function, resulting in reduced inflammation and a reduction in pain.
7. Try Acupuncture
According to Chinese medicine, pain is caused by energy blockages throughout your body, and Kenji Aoki, a licensed acupuncturist at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says acupuncture is extremely effective at reducing the pain of osteoarthritis simply by opening up all of your meridians and balancing your energy.
However, However, Aoki says we must distinguish the treatment for osteoarthritis from that for rheumatoid arthritis because the root causes are different. Just recently, Aoki attended a training in Japan on a new technique used to treat rheumatoid arthritis that has shown amazing results. In this technique, Aoki inserts an extremely tiny needle (0.3 mm) in a specific acupuncture point and then the patient wears the needle in their body for one week until they return back for a follow-up visit.
“Rheumatoid arthritis is a very deep issue, and the energy imbalance isn’t easy to correct,” he says. “So this technique is a very, very delicate treatment, but it is very, very effective.”
At the Center for Holistic Medicine, we believe that a combination of holistic treatments can often provide the best results. If you come in for pain relief, we usually suggest meeting with DeAngelis first, who can use blood testing to determine the root cause of your problems. She will then make suggestions about which other pain relief treatments may be best for you.