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The Joints Are Jumping

old message The Joints Are Jumping Darrell Miller 06/11/05


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Date: June 11, 2005 04:56 PM
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Subject: The Joints Are Jumping

The Joints Are Jumping by Rachel Alexander Energy Times, October 8, 2003

It usually starts with a twinge in your back or an ache in your knees: Knee stiffness, back pain and joint inflammation can signal the beginning of arthritis.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, arthritis affects over 42 million Americans-that's 1 in every 3 adults-and costs the economy nearly $65 billion annually. But as common as arthritis is, it doesn't have to extract a high cost from your joints.

Who's At Risk?

Arthritis literally means an "inflammation of the joints" and can affect anyone-from small children to 80-year-olds. Some groups are more prone to certain types of arthritis; for instance, those over 40 are at greater risk for developing osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition of the joints.

According to Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, more than 50% of all individuals over the age of 40 have x-ray signs of osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints (such as those in the knees and hips), and nearly half of those over 65 have measurable symptoms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is often caused by overuse, age, excess weight or genetics, or by a combination of these factors.

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is a disease of the immune system that affects the joints, which can make it harder to diagnose because early symptoms-fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite and low-grade fever-can mimic other chronic conditions.

Stiffness and pain may or may not accompany the initial symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, joints eventually become inflamed and swollen. Although less common that osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 2 million Americans.

Covering Up the Signs

Treating arthritis can involve the use of both conventional and non-conventional therapies.

"In osteoarthritis specifically, conventional medicine has just been focused on covering up the symptoms," says Jason Theodosakis, MD, author of The Arthritis Cure (St. Martin's Press). "In the history of medicine, this approach has been considered primitive."

But Dr. Theodosakis points out that treatment often depends on the type of arthritis involved: "Rheumatoid arthritis patients should be taking prescription drugs that are known to prevent the disease from progressing. [Use] alternative medicine as an adjunct..."

Conventional therapies often involve the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicines, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. The chief drawback of NSAIDs is the toll these treatments extort from the gastrointestinal system.

In fact, a 2002 study conducted by researchers at the University of South Florida, Tampa, found that more than 15% of patients developed digestive problems after a five-week course of ibuprofen. In addition, ibuprofen may increase blood pressure.

Newer prescription NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors, which work by suppressing the body's inflammatory response, also carry risks of side effects ranging from diarrhea and fluid retention to liver damage and kidney problems. In addition, people with asthma or chronic allergies (including to aspirin) should not take these medicines.

Corticosteroids-another treatment option that has been used to lessen inflammation-can cause side effects such as increased appetite, mood changes and even immune system breakdown.

Natural Answers

A growing body of evidence shows that nutrients such as glucosamine and MSM, coupled with lifestyle changes, can help decrease or eliminate some of the aches and pains of arthritis. Glucosamine is a natural chemical that helps build joints. When the cartilage in joints deteriorates due to age or other factors, studies indicate that glucosamine provides the necessary building blocks for rebuilding and repairing this tissue.

In one investigation (Archives of Internal Medicine 2002; 162:2113-23), scientists discovered that glucosamine slowed the progression of osteoarthritis and improved symptoms for over 200 patients. Another study, conducted by researchers in the Netherlands, demonstrated that a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin holds promise for conditions such as spinal disc degeneration.

To date, several studies have confirmed glucosamine's ability to help the symptoms of arthritis, and the National Institutes of Health is currently supporting research to further study the benefits of glucosamine.

Other Joint Aids

MSM is often an adjunct therapy as it does not work directly on joints, but provides the raw materials, in this case sulfur, to help rebuild cartilage in the joint matrix. Studies indicate that sulfur has a protective effect and may interact with magnesium, an essential bone nutrient.

Traditionally, the herb horsetail (Equisetum arvense) has been used to supply silica, a mineral component of nails, bones and joints. Its support of these structures can help in the fight against arthritis.

As the body ages, it may lose much of its silica reserves. Resupplying much of this mineral may help support joints. In addition, experts believe, silica can help the body use calcium more effectively and support bone health.

Since rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic affliction, you should work with a trained health professional in treating it. Complementary care practitioners often use antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, to reduce free radical damage, along with pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) to lessen morning stiffness.

A Joint Project

According to Dr. Theodosakis, exercise is the key to dealing with arthritis: "[Start with] an individualized exercise program that strengthens the joints without causing more damage...and an eating program to control your weight if you are currently overweight." To limit the effects of arthritis, you should quit smoking, since smoking generates free radicals that can harm the tissues which make up joints. In addition, a strict vegan diet may help alleviate some of the pains of rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Theodosakis also recommends looking for hidden causes of symptoms, such as food allergies, that may contribute to arthritis.

Heat helps ease arthritis pain and encourages both blood flow and tissue repair. A plain, old-fashioned hot water bottle works quite well. Or you can use one of the newer heat-generating wraps, which are thin enough to be worn under clothing and don't have to be constantly reheated.

You can't always avoid arthritis, especially as you get older. But you don't have to let it get the better of you.



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