We often see arthritis, joint issues, and mobility challenges as a part of growing older, but our bodies aren’t programmed for illness. Arthritis comes from somewhere, and it’s not just old age. When you know the reason for a particular symptom or condition, you can find the source and remediate it. Arthritis is no different.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term referring to disorders affecting the joints in the body. Joints are where two or more bones meet, allowing for movement and flexibility. Arthritis involves inflammation of one or more joints, leading to pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. The condition can vary in severity from mild discomfort to chronic pain, significantly affecting a person’s quality of life.
According to the Arthritis Foundation: 
Arthritis isn’t a single disease; the term refers to joint pain or joint disease, and there are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. People of all ages, races and sexes live with arthritis, and it is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. It’s most common among women, and although it’s not a disease of aging, some types of arthritis occur in older people more than younger people.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is believed to occur due to wear and tear on the joints over time. The protective cartilage cushioning the ends of bones gradually breaks down, leading to pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis typically affects weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips, and spine, as well as the hands and fingers. However, it can damage any joint, including those in the neck.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that often affects joints on both sides of the body, such as the wrists, knees, and fingers. Other forms of arthritis include gout, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, among others. Each type of arthritis has its own underlying causes, risk factors, and treatment approaches.
This article will focus on osteoarthritis, often just called “arthritis.”
Symptoms of Arthritis
The symptoms of osteoarthritis center around pain and reduced mobility of the joints. Some common arthritis symptoms include:
- Painful joints
- Hand, hip, or knee pain
- Decreased range of motion
- Bone spurs
These symptoms often come on gradually and worsen over time. Arthritis may also accompany other health conditions like Lyme disease, lupus, and even psoriasis (psoriatic arthritis).
How is Arthritis Diagnosed?
Diagnosing osteoarthritis typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, imaging, and sometimes laboratory tests.  Here’s how the process usually unfolds:
Medical History: Your healthcare provider will begin by asking you about your symptoms, including the location and nature of pain, stiffness, and any other discomfort. They’ll also ask about any risk factors you might have, like a history of joint injuries, a family history of arthritis, and any activities that might contribute to joint stress.
Physical Examination: A physical examination helps the doctor check the affected joint(s) for signs of arthritis. They’ll check for joint tenderness, swelling, range of motion, and any visible deformities. They may also look for signs of joint instability and muscle weakness.
Imaging: Imaging can show damage and other joint changes, including calcification and bone spurs. Some imaging methods commonly used for arthritis include:
- X-rays: X-rays are commonly used to diagnose osteoarthritis. They can show changes in the joint space, bone spurs, and other degenerative changes.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): An MRI provides more detailed images of soft tissues, including cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. It can help decide the extent of joint damage and assess the condition of the surrounding structures.
- CT Scan (Computed Tomography): CT scans can also supply detailed images of the joints and bones, giving doctors a more comprehensive understanding of the joint’s condition.
Lab Tests: While there’s no one blood test to diagnose osteoarthritis, a doctor may order specific blood tests to rule out other conditions that may cause joint pain and inflammation.
Joint Fluid Analysis (Arthrocentesis): In some cases, a doctor might do a joint fluid analysis. This involves extracting a small amount of fluid from the affected joint using a needle and examining it for signs of inflammation, crystals (as in gout), or infections.
These procedures can help find out whether a dis-ease process is taking place. However, that’s only the first step. Next, it’s time to figure out what’s behind the chronic inflammation and arthritis.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we talk about the mainstream perspective on healthcare versus our perspective and methods as the “fireman approach” or the “carpenter approach.”
Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools (treatment options) for caring for people: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out in a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.
The Wellness Way doctors are more like carpenters. They assess the current state of the body with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild using nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are additional natural therapies that help with healing.
While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or even “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness in healing.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Arthritis
Mainstream medicine looks at arthritis as a disease of old age that’s based on genetics. Their treatment plan usually centers around relieving pain, aiding mobility, and improving range of motion.
Common Medications Given for Arthritis
The medications given for arthritis are generally for reducing pain and improving lubrication and cushioning of the joints. 
- OTC Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain-relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen sodium (Aleve) may temporarily lower inflammation and pain. However, long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and others can increase the risk of developing other conditions over time. 
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids like prednisone and methylprednisolone can help reduce inflammation and pain in the joints. They can be taken as oral medications or as an injection. These injections can provide temporary relief, and their frequency of use is generally limited due to potential side effects.
- Disease-Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs (DMOADs): These medications aim to slow down the progression of osteoarthritis by targeting the underlying disease process. Examples include methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and leflunomide.
- Hyaluronic acid injections: Hyaluronic acid is a critical joint fluid that may break down in osteoarthritis. Injections of synthetic hyaluronic acid into the joint can supply lubrication and cushioning, potentially reducing pain and improving joint function. However, the effectiveness of this treatment is variable and debated.
While medications may alleviate some uncomfortable symptoms by synthetically suppressing inflammation, they all have side effects. Those side effects are often why people seek out natural treatments or home remedies for arthritis and joint pain.
Other Treatments for Arthritis
- Assistive devices: Healthcare practitioners may also recommend various assistive devices like canes, braces, grabbing or gripping tools, or shoe inserts, depending on which joints are affected.
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist can help patients increase their range of motion and improve joint function. Strengthening exercises help support and stabilize the joint, while stretching exercises improve flexibility and range of motion. These exercises can alleviate pain and improve function over time.
- Joint injections: A doctor may recommend cortisone or hyaluronic injections to relieve pain. However, the pain relief is temporary, and the injections may be limited to a few times yearly.
- Surgery: If other treatments aren’t working, doctors may recommend surgery to place joints. Plastic and metal parts replace joint surfaces to create an artificial joint. A downside is the risk of infections and blood clots. Artificial joints may also need to be repaired or replaced.
It’s important to consult a healthcare professional before adding assistive devices or other programs. They can help you decide the right course of treatment based on your situation.
What Causes Arthritis?
People tend to believe that time and overuse are what cause arthritis. After all, we primarily see arthritis in older people. However, young children can also get arthritis, and some older adults will never get it. But if it’s a matter of time and overuse, why doesn’t everyone develop arthritis? How do young children get it? Something is missing from our understanding.
What is Missing? The 3 T’s
The body isn’t programmed for illness. While certain genetics may make you more likely to develop one type of illness or another, it’s only one factor. At The Wellness Way, we always return to the “three Ts” (traumas, toxins, and thoughts) as the environmental factors that stress the nervous system and lead to illness. Genes “load the gun,” but the environment “pulls the trigger.” Those environmental factors are described in the chiropractic field as traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute or chronic. Chronic subluxations in the spine can inhibit nerve and blood flow to the joints, disrupting their ability to repair. There’s even a such thing as post-traumatic arthritis.  Examples of traumas that may contribute to arthritis include:
- A fall
- A car accident
- A sports injury
- Physical abuse
Just because a joint has been injured doesn’t mean it will automatically develop into arthritis. It also depends on how that traumatized joint is treated. Manual adjustments and proper nutrients can help the joint heal and return to normal function.
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
There are ingredients and substances in everyday products and foods that are toxic to the body. Toxins can show up in medications, foods, and as chemicals in hair products, hidden plastics, and more. Here are some toxins that have been linked to arthritis:
- Medications – The body is like a Swiss watch –each system, like a gear, affects all the others. Any medication can alter the gastrointestinal, nervous, or musculoskeletal system, altering the immune response and creating inflammation and pain. Long-term use of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), for example, can reduce stomach acid and increase the risk of inflammatory arthritis, known as enteropathic arthritis. Other medications are known to cause drug-induced lupus, which can lead to joint pain and arthritis. 
- Sugar – Sugar increases inflammation throughout the body, including the joints. Researchers are finding more links between sugar and joint pain. 
- Food allergies – Foods can act like toxins, causing inflammation in the joints and elsewhere if you’re allergic to them. 
- Metal toxicity – The accumulation of certain metals in the body can also contribute to inflamed joints and arthritis. 
Anything that compromises the integrity of the gut lining, leading to a “leaky gut,” can lead to chronic inflammation and arthritis. Traumas and toxins are made worse by negative thought patterns and emotional stress.
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Don’t underestimate the power of your thoughts. Emotional stress is just as powerful (or more powerful) than physical and biochemical stressors in triggering pain and inflammation. Our emotional stress can be influenced by the following:
- Relationship issues
- Financial stress
- Watching the news (fear/worry)
- A feeling of overwhelm due to significant life changes, like a recent marriage, a new baby, graduation, a divorce, or even moving to a new city.
- Holding a grudge/pent-up anger
- Grief/feelings of loss
The cumulative effect of these traumas, toxins, and thoughts can create inflammation and increase the risk of dis-ease in the body and brain.
The Wellness Way Approach to Osteoarthritis
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We don’t just address symptoms; we run tests to find out what’s going on behind the scenes.
Important Tests for Assessing Your Gut, Hormone, and Immune Health
When there’s joint inflammation and pain, it means the immune system is involved. Food allergies and gut health may be reasons for an elevated immune response. Infections and autoimmunity may be additional reasons for the elevated immune response. That’s why Wellness Way practitioners will often recommend these tests:
Your Wellness Way practitioner will order more tests based on what he or she considers most relevant based on your health history.
Dietary Changes for Those with Osteoarthritis
When considering the dietary impact on arthritis, we must first focus on lowering inflammation in the body. That means avoiding food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as recommended by the Wellness Way practitioner. Here are some additional guidelines for those with osteoarthritis:
- No sugar or processed foods – Both increase inflammation.
- Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, contributing to chronic inflammation in the gut and brain. A gluten-free diet may help lower pain and inflammation in the joints and allow the gut to heal. 
- Consume an overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods, which supply nutrients, antioxidants, and food for a healthy gut microbiome.
- No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated –and even beneficial for lowering inflammation in the gut, which makes up a large part of the immune response. 
- Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory.  Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm oil or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
- Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program based on your food allergy test results.
- Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Add Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for enhanced nutrition. Liver is nature’s multivitamin, according to Dr. Flynn.
- Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, and other botanicals high in polyphenols can help keep inflammation under control. 
- Eat omega-3-rich foods – Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. 
Following a healthy diet is essential for reducing inflammation in the body, but supplements can support gut healing and joint repair.
Supplements For Those with Osteoarthritis
Herbal medicine and other dietary supplements can be incredibly supportive for those with arthritis. They can help the body lower pain and inflammation and improve a person’s overall sense of well-being. Here are some natural remedies for arthritis:
- Rehmannia – This herb may be considered “nature’s corticosteroid.” Rehmannia is supportive of a balanced immune response and reduces inflammation. 
- Turmeric – Curcumin is the main active constituent in turmeric, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. 
- Boswellia – Boswellia serrata is also known as Indian frankincense. Boswellia has anti-inflammatory properties that have shown promise for joint pain and arthritis. 
- Albizia – Albizia herb has a strong anti-inflammatory effect and may help lower inflammation and joint pain associated with arthritis. 
- Green tea extract – Green tea extract may have a protective effect on cartilage, the tissue that cushions joints. It could slow down the breakdown of cartilage seen in osteoarthritis. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds may also support pain relief. 
- CBD – CBD (cannabidiol), a compound in cannabis plants, may help osteoarthritis by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system and regulating pain, inflammation, and immune responses. 
- Cat’s Claw – Cat’s claw bark is another herb that specifically helps osteoarthritis. Cat’s claw is also known for its positive effects on Lyme disease. 
- Glucosamine – Glucosamine is a natural compound found in cartilage. Taking glucosamine supplements may reduce osteoarthritis symptoms like pain and stiffness by supplying compounds needed for healing. 
- Chondroitin – Chondroitin sulfate, a component of cartilage, is often used as a dietary supplement to alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis. It’s believed to promote water retention and elasticity in cartilage, providing cushioning for joints. 
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a nutrient needed for collagen production and cartilage repair. 
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D3 with its co-nutrient, K2, is also important for musculoskeletal conditions and a healthy inflammatory response. Low vitamin D levels were associated with higher joint pain scores in postmenopausal women. 
- Fish oil – The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can help lower inflammation and reduce arthritis pain. 
Each person is different – herbal remedies that work for one individual may not work for another. Part of that is due to body chemistry, including genetics and allergenic responses, and part is due to differences in the contributing causes of arthritis.
Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies for Those with Osteoarthritis
- Regular chiropractic care – If your joints are out of proper alignment, it puts more stress on them. Getting the joints adjusted and back into proper alignment may help with the inflammation and pain. 
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture may stimulate the release of endorphins and other natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body. This boost in natural opioids can lead to pain relief for individuals with osteoarthritis. Some studies also show improved blood flow, reduced inflammation, and other benefits. 
- Physical activity – Low-impact aerobic exercise like walking, biking, swimming, tai chi, or yoga can also help the joints stay loose and flexible. 
- Weight loss – Achieving a healthy body weight can lower stress on hips and knees, allowing them to heal. 
- Natural topical creams – Capsaicin is an anti-inflammatory compound derived from hot chili peppers. Capsaicin-based creams were shown to be moderately effective in reducing pain in arthritic joints for up to 20 weeks. 
- Vibration plate – Using a vibe plate regularly can help strengthen bones and joints by challenging your sense of balance and movement. 
Be a well-informed patient! Here are some resources for learning more about osteoarthritis.
Educational Resources for Osteoarthritis
Videos & Webinars Related to Osteoarthritis
Articles to Support Those with Osteoarthritis
CONNECT WITH US!
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. To learn how best to support your body in overcoming arthritis, reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today. We are here to help!
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