Haims: New research on treating arthritis
Arthritis: If you’ve got it, you’re all too aware of how disabling can be. If you’ve heard about it or know people with it, but don’t really know much about it, read on. And, if you’re living a physically active and demanding lifestyle here in the mountains, you may want to be aware that odds are, you’re gonna experience it.
Arthritis is an inflammatory joint disease that affects people of all ages and sexes. If you thought it may only affect you when you get older, you are wrong.
Frequently, symptoms of arthritis include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. While modern expensive medications relieve the symptom, they do not eradicate the arthritic diseases that destroy the bone and cartilage within the joints.
Because there are so many types of arthritis, diagnosing which type someone may have can require the help of a specialist. Rheumatologists are specialists who have received additional formal training in musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions that involve bones, muscles and joints.
Here in our local mountain towns, to the best of my knowledge, we do not have any board-certified providers of rheumatology. However, should you feel that you may have some of the following symptoms, a great place to start looking into this is with your primary care physician.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, “Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go. They can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years but can progress or get worse over time. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs.”
To make an accurate diagnosis, a health care provider may ask you about your medical history and current symptoms. In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, it is not uncommon for redness and warmth to occur at the joint, swelling, stiffness in the joint when you wake up, and sharp pains.
Based upon a medical provider’s clinical assessment, that provider may suggest further diagnosis utilizing X-rays, and other imaging tests such as an ultrasound or MRI. In some cases, the provider may also suggest a simple extraction of synovial fluid from a joint capsule. This is a simple extraction often performed in the doctor’s office utilizing a syringe. Fluid obtained from the joint is then tested for white cell count, crystals, proteins, glucose, as well as cultured to detect infection.
Treating the symptoms of arthritis often varies depending on the type of arthritis. Commonly used arthritis medications include painkillers (tramadol, oxycodone, OxyContin, Roxicodone) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs commonly referred to as NSAIDs.
Unfortunately, we all know the problems associated with painkillers. This kind of creates a double edge sword — pain and addiction. As for NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) and those available only by prescription, a possible problem for some people could be risk of stomach irritation and increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
For some people, medications may be a must and their side effects should be carefully weighed. However, you may want to ask your medical provider if other options could be tried. Within the past few years, there has been substantial research from very credible medical institutions about diet, supplements, physical therapy, and their ability to assist in the management of arthritis.
Dr. John Davis III, a Mayo Clinic rheumatologist believes that, “Some foods can increase inflammation levels and contribute to symptoms of arthritis, especially really fatty foods –– simple sugars or carbohydrates, lots of salt, or salty food.” As with so much of our health outcomes, food is at the core.
Foods thought to help reduce inflammation and pain consist of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, whole grains and fish.
Herbal remedies have also shown promise for treating arthritis. Herbs like avocado soybean unsaponifiables, turmeric, ginger, Boswellia serrata, capsaicin (chili peppers) devil’s claw, willow bark extract and feverfew are a few believed to help with symptoms
Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s without side effects. Some supplements can cause harmful side effects or interact with medicines you take. For example, ginger and chamomile may increase your bleeding risk, which could be a problem if you take blood-thinning medicines like warfarin (Coumadin).
It is always best to include your medical provider in your choices to address your health concerns on your own. While your provider may not always approve or believe in the efficacy of your choices, they can at least educate you on possible concerns.
If you would like to learn more about arthritis research, the Arthritis Foundation, Rheumatoid Arthritis Advisor, and the Arthritis National Research Foundation are excellent places to start. If you would like to learn more about how biomedicine research is playing a part of addressing arthritis, check out, BioMed Central, Nature Research by typing in “arthritis” in the search box.