Arthritis is one of the most common sources of joint pain. When deciding how to address your arthritis, first you should find out which type of arthritis you have: rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. While you should get a diagnosis from a doctor, here is a quick guide to the difference between rheumatoid and osteoarthritis:
|Degenerative condition caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints||Autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the joints, causing inflammation and pain|
|Usually begins later in life||Can begin at any age|
|Joints ache and feel tender but have little to no swelling||Joints are painful, swollen, and stiff|
|Symptoms usually begin on one side of the body and may spread; often limited to one set of joints (such as finger joints, hips, knees, or spine)||Often affects joints on both sides of the body symmetrically|
|Morning stiffness usually lasts less than 1 hour and returns at the end of the day or after activity||Morning stiffness lasts longer than 1 hour|
|No whole body symptoms; only affects joints||Frequent fatigue, general sense of being ill, may have other autoimmune conditions as well|
So now that you know the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, check out our top remedies! Most of these can be used for either type of arthritis. Anti-inflammatory herbs, such as turmeric and boswellia, can help reduce pain for either condition, but will be especially useful in rheumatoid arthritis, since systemic and local inflammation are major symptoms of R.A.. MSM, collagen, and hyaluronic acid supplements might be more helpful for people with osteoarthritis, since they focus on maintaining joint integrity, and osteoarthritis is marked by degradation of joint tissues.
Boswellia serrata, also known as Indian Frankincense, is a tree containing a resin that is used as an herbal medicine. Boswellia has been shown to have similar actions to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without the negative side effects (which can include stomach ulcers, stomach pain, heartburn, headaches, dizziness, liver and kidney problems). Boswellia inhibits the synthesis of pro-inflammatory enzymes. Studies have found that it improves symptoms of osteoarthritis and other conditions associated with inflammation. Boswellia can be taken internally and/or applied topically. For topical use, dilute frankincense essential oil (about 12 drops to each ounce of carrier oil) in your favorite carrier oil (such as almond, coconut, grapeseed, jojoba, etc.) and massage on the painful joints.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is one of the best-known herbal anti-inflammatories on the market today. It has been used as a medicinal and culinary spice for thousands of years, particularly in India. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties are linked to a reduction in an increasingly long list of diseases. Extracts from the bright yellow turmeric root can help decrease pain, reduce stiffness, and improve physical functioning. Like boswellia, turmeric is also used for inflammatory stomach and bowel conditions, so it is not only safer than NSAIDs, it actually may have protective benefits!
MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is an organic sulfur compound that plays a role in collagen synthesis, oxidant defense, and has been found to reduce the stiffness associated with arthritis. There are mixed opinions on whether or not MSM is an effective way to reverse arthritis, but many people do experience relief from arthritis pain while using it.
Collagen is high in the amino acids proline and glycine, both of which play a role in rebuilding connective tissue. People use collagen for rebuilding cartilage in joints, so it could be helpful for people who have normal degradation of joint tissue. Some people find that collagen also improves the condition of their skin, nails, and hair.
5. Hyuralonic Acid
Hyuralonic acid is a type of polysaccharide that is abundant in connective, skin, and nerve tissue. It is a major component of synovial fluid and helps keep joints lubricated. While some people have experienced pain reduction from hyaluronic acid injections, many others take hyaluronic acid as a supplement to support joint health. While researchers think hyaluronic acid plays a role in lubrication and shock absorption in the joint, they suspect hyaluronic acid plays other roles too, such as interfering with the actions of pro-inflammatory compounds. People who are allergic to eggs should avoid hyaluronic acid supplements.
In addition to natural supplements, consider how your lifestyle and physical fitness can affect your symptoms. Performed regularly, these lifestyle changes can be very helpful for arthritis:
- Exercise: Gentle, low-impact movement helps to keep joints lubricated and flexible, which can translate to better range of motion, less stiffness, and even less pain. Try low-impact exercises like swimming, water aerobics, elliptical machines, tai chi, yoga, biking, and resistance training are all excellent choices to maintain cardiovascular health and lean body mass without damaging the joints. Always remember to listen to your body. Start slow and work your way up to more movement if it’s been a while since you exercised. Never push through a workout if your joints are hurting. It’s better to stop, maybe do some gentle stretching instead, and get back on the workout schedule when you feel up to it.
- Hot and Cold Therapy: Temperatures can be used to relieve discomfort. A heating pad or hot water bottle can relieve morning stiffness, and an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel can soothe hot, inflamed, painful joints.
- Body Work: Massage, acupuncture, shiatsu, and other therapies can be helpful for relieving pain, re-balancing the body, and relaxing muscles that contribute to pain.
- Quality Sleep: Getting a good night’s rest can help reduce pain, improve mood, and allow the body to repair damaged tissue. Sleep is absolutely essential for repair and restoration of your entire body, including your joints. Lack of sleep is associated with increased inflammation and a number of different diseases. If your sleep habits could use some work, check out our blog posts about blue light causing sleep disruption, creating a healthy bedtime routine, and herbs and supplements for sleep.