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Self-Help For Arthritis

Arthritis comes from the Greek word ‘arthron’ meaning joint. Arthritis literally means ‘joint inflammation’.   The two most common forms of ‘arthritis’ are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Nutritional self-help:

  • Cut down on fatty foods and reduce the amount of dairy products and animal fats.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids found in flax and alfalfa seeds produce prostaglandins, which reduce inflammation.   Cod liver oil is a tailor-made supplement for arthritis as it cuts both pain and joint degeneration.
  • Ginger is beneficial in relieving arthritis as it contains the enzyme zingibain which has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Cayenne pepper or red pepper is an excellent circulatory stimulant. It may be used externally for poor circulation and pains associated with arthritis and lumbago. You can add a few drops of cayenne tincture to an ointment.   Cayenne also contains capsaicin, a pain-relieving chemical which can trigger endorphins, your body’s nature’s opiate.
  • Turmeric has been used to reduce inflammation for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic medicine.
  • Both garlic and ginkgo biloba have been shown to help with circulation and improve blood flow in arthritis, helping bring oxygen to the affected area and removing harmful deposits which build up.
  • Bromelain, a proteclytic enzyme present in pineapples can prevent inflammation and helps the body get rid of compounds that are present inflicted in some arthritic conditions.   Other fruits containing this substance include kiwi, paw paw and figs.
  • Calcium is always needed by the body and especially to aid in the prevention of osteoporosis. Food and herbs high in calcium are: alfalfa, liquorice, chamomile, chives, coltsfoot, dandelion, nettle, plantain, watercress, cabbage, thyme and basil.
  • Losing a few pounds can make a big difference in the amount of stress you place on your weight-bearing joints e.g. hips and knees.  Excessive weight on joints means we are putting significant pressure through our hips, knees and ankles when we run, squat, and climb stairs, causing pain and accelerating arthritis in the process.
  • Devils claw is a tuber found in South Africa contains a glycoside called harpagoside that helps to reduce inflammation in joints (best taken in tincture form).

More self-help:

  • Massage and stretching can help to increase blood flow and flexibility.
  • With hip and knee arthritis, it can be helpful to sleep with a pillow under your knees or between your legs for comfort.
  • Cinnamon oil makes a great topical treatment for sore muscles and joints. You can make this aromatic oil by filling a jar with cinnamon sticks and olive oil, and infusing them on a bright windowsill for two to three weeks. When pain strikes, dampen and wring a towel. Microwave it for 5 seconds, and spread just a few drops of cinnamon oil on the towel. Reheat for another 5-10 seconds. Apply the towel as a warm wrap.
  • Heat increases blood flow to muscles, minimizing cramps and joint stiffness.  Hot baths or showers and warm clothes go a long way toward keeping your joints supple and pain-free. To combat intense pain in a large area such as your lower back use a heating pad.
  • Exercise can help relieve the pain of arthritis as it increases blood flow to cartilage, bringing it the nutrients for health.  In addition, specific exercises will strengthen the muscles that surround your joints. The stronger your muscles are, the more weight they can handle. As a result, the bones in your joints carry less weight, and your damaged cartilage is better protected.
  • Consider joining a gym where a heated pool is available to do aquatherapy.   Eliminating gravity helps to decrease the pressure on your weight bearing joints, giving you temporary pain relief and allowing you to strengthen your joints safely.
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