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Natural Treatments for Arthritis

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Dear Natural Choice Journal
What are some of the natural treatments for Arthritis and is exercise good for it?
Ellen Doiron, Charlottetown

We asked Naturopathic Doctor, Carolyn Galvin, ND of Fredericton about natural treatments.

Because naturopathic medicine takes a holistic approach, there may be many botanical medicines in long term treatment plan for arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis treatment is not only directed toward pain relief but also to underlying defects such as food sensitivities, increased gut permeability, detoxification and an overly reactive immune system. I will limit my discussion to those plant medicines that are used primarily for symptom management.

Devil's Claw, has a history of use as an anti-inflammatory although studies suggest that this may not be the mechanism behind its beneficial effects on pain. It may cause stomach irritation and those with peptic ulcers should avoid it.

Curcumin, an extract form Tumeric, has an anti-inflammatory effect comparable to hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone. It may cause stomach irritation with prolonged use, but not peptic ulcers like NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory, like Ibuprofen) can. It should be avoided with gallstones, pregnancy or nursing.

Willow is used for pain relief due to its salicin content which is converted by the liver to an aspirin-like compound. Side effects are rare but it can cause nausea, digestive upset or headache. It should be avoided by those with asthma, diabetes, gout, hemophilia, liver or kidney disease, active ulcers or by those with a sensitivity to aspirin.

The best part about Ginger as an anti-inflammatory is that instead of irritating the stomach like NSAIDs and many botanicals, it protects the stomach. Avoid it if taking heart medications or blood thinners or with diabetes or gallstones. Pregnant women should limit the dosage to 1g daily. There are many other examples, like Bleuplurum, Dong Quai, Feverfew and Meadowsweet but the above are easy to find in stores. Keep in mind when using botanical medicines that most require a longer trial period then pharmaceutical drug therapy. Give them at least 2 months before deciding whether or not they are working for you.

We asked Chiropractor, Dr. Melissa Wicks MacRae of Charlottetown about arthritis and exercise.

In a short answer, yes, exercise is good for those with arthritis. Of course, this answer doesn't come without qualifying it. The type of exercise that would be most beneficial depends on the type of arthritis, its severity and the joints involved. You should consult your health care provider to guide you toward an appropriate exercise program that suits your particular condition and ability. In general, movement of a joint is essential for the health of the joint tissues. The cartilage that lines many of your joints gets its nutrition from the nutrient rich synovial fluid that bathes your joint. Moving your joint through its normal range of motion helps to "pump" this nutrient rich fluid over the surface of the cartilage, in a sense "feeding" it. This fluid also removes waste materials produced by the joint. So, when it comes to joints, the saying, "if you don't use it, you'll lose it" holds true.

Exercise can help with pain control, increase mobility & flexibility, decrease fatigue, increase stamina and strengthen muscles and bones. A typical exercise program would include a range of motion exercises, strengthening and endurance activities, and body awareness exercises (for balance and co-ordination). For a detailed plan, appropriate for your specific condition, please consult your health care provider.

We asked Whyatt Inman, of Charlottetown, PEI

A review of recent literature suggest that most forms of joint disease respond favourably to physical activity. However, given the breadth and scope of the varied forms of joint disease, I am just going to discuss the two most common forms, Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). These have been shown to have a significant positive relationship with regular physical activity. Exercise is a proven method for improving function, endurance, and mood in patients with either RA or OA. However, when one considers the type and degree of exercise intensity suitable for someone with arthritis, there are basic parameters to follow (see table). With Rheumatoid Arthritis, one must recognize the warning signs of an acute flare-up including redness, inflammation, pain, and stiffness. These symptoms should dictate the amount of activity one participates in (eg. more pain - less activity, less pain - potential for more activity that day). The most common form of chronic arthritis, Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, seems to respond positively to exercise particularly in the hips and knees. Refer to the attached table for a rough summary of guidelines for exercise and arthritis. For a detailed plan, appropriate for your specific condition, I would recommend you see your physician for further advice.

Disease Status Recommendations
RA Acute flare-up active gentle ROM exercises for involved joints 2-5 repetitions/joint/day
RA Subacute: (getting better but still sore) 8-10 reps of active ROM/joint/day
Stable or inactive disease: active ROM daily may attempt some light strength training (static if still unstable, dynamic if stable)
OA No/Mild Pain: active ROM (10 reps), 3-5 reps of stretching strengthening 15 reps/3 sets/3 days weekly
Moderate Pain: static and dynamic ROM 3-5 reps with no resistance pool activities
Severe Pain: no impact aerobic pool activities
Bone-on-Bone: same as severe, but fewer to no repetitions of moving exercises out of water
Aerobic Activity: 15-20 minutes 3-5 time weekly. Use pain to dictate your exercise intensity or effort. There is potential for longer sessions when your pain levels are low


Dear Natural Choice Journal Is fluorescent lighting healthy????

We asked Nicholas G. Harmon of Verilux, Inc.to answer the question.

There is widespread dissatisfaction with ordinary fluorescent lighting. Ordinary fluorescent lighting is unbalanced and unnatural in color. In addition, older lighting systems have magnetic ballasts that can flicker and hum. Additionally, if your lighting system is old, try changing the ballast to the newer "electronic ballast" which operates at a much higher frequency and does not have visible flicker or an audible hum.
The solution to your problem may be to change your fluorescent tubes to full spectrum lighting. Full spectrum lighting can also promote alertness; minimize symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression and jet lag; trigger vitamin D development necessary for the bones to absorb calcium; reduce hyperactivity in children; help regulate the body's natural biological rhythms which control sleep; increase feelings of well being; and reduce glare. Glare can result in eye-strain, headaches and loss of productivity.

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