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Getting Relief Form Arthritis - A Common Disorder of the Skeletal System

By Liz Barrington, Natural Body Healing


The skeletal system of the body is made up of different types of strong, fibrous tissue called connective tissue.  Bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons are all forms of connective tissue that have different cellular and mineral compositions and characteristics.


A joint or an ‘articulation’ is the place where two bones meet and we have many articulating joints in the body although not all joints are freely movable, such as the skull.  Most joints in the body however are ‘synovial’ joints located where there are two or more adjoining movable bones that have adjacent surfaces covered with a layer of cartilage.  This cartilage is surrounded by a synovial fluid-filled capsule made up of fibrous, tough ligaments which provide additional support to the joints.  Fluid is secreted by a thin membrane - the synovial membrane, which lines the inside of the joint capsule to produce a supply of synovial fluid to fill the joint cavity, lubricate it, and help the movable bones slide smoothly about the joint. 


Joint pain is any pain that occurs in and/or around a joint.  Throughout the UK, the US and Spain, the most common cause is arthritis which affects millions of people of all ages.  Yet, many people with joint pain do not know that they actually have arthritis.  There are more than a hundred different types of arthritis; the most common being Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). 


In healthy joints, the synovial membrane is thin, the cartilage that covers the bones is smooth, and only a thin layer of synovial fluid covers the bone surfaces.  It is evident whenever there is damage to any of these joint areas because the area becomes inflamed.


Inflammation is the immune system’s first reaction against damage or infection; the injured site becomes swollen and red as the flow of blood increases to the area.  However if the inflammation becomes chronic and prolonged, the immune system remains on a state of alert.  This can eventually lead to exhaustion of the immune function, resulting in pain and damaging inflammation that then attacks the joint itself, as is the case in arthritis.


The name osteoarthritis comes from three Greek words meaning bone, joint, and inflammation.  Osteoarthritis results from the degeneration of cartilage within the joints.  Sufferers have a gradual progression of pain that worsens with the use of the joint which can feel inflexible especially first thing in the morning.  Individuals with OA may have joint pain on only one side of the body, usually affecting the hands, the thumb, the hips, knees, spine and the feet; yet it does not migrate from joint to joint.


OA is one of the most common causes of disability due to the limitations of joint movement, particularly in people over 50.  Men tend to develop OA at earlier ages than women and it typically develops gradually over a period of years.


Pain can be relieved by rest, yet made worse by moving the joint or placing weight on it.  During the chronic stages, the individual may experience pain even when the joint is not being used; and he or she may suffer permanent loss of the normal range of motion in that joint.


The causes of OA can include abnormal stresses on weight-bearing joints or normal stresses operating on weakened joints perhaps due to obesity, possible gene mutations, ageing and the cartilage’s inability to repair itself, plus possible triggers such as enzyme disturbances, bone disease, or liver dysfunction.  In addition, OA can also result from chronic or sudden injury to a joint, for example from trauma, including sports injuries, repetitive stress injuries associated with certain occupations, repeated episodes of gout or septic arthritis, poor posture or bone alignment and metabolic disorders.


Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is a chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system starts attacking different parts of the body.  The body’s immune system incorrectly identifies the synovial membrane as being ‘foreign’ to the body.  It therefore attacks the membrane, resulting in inflammation, and subsequent cartilage and tissue damage around the joints.  The damaged tissue is then replaced with scar tissue, forcing the usual spaces between the joints to become narrow and the bones to fuse together, restricting mobility and causing severe pain. 


Unlike Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis often affects multiple joints, and those joints tend to be warm, red, painful and stiff.  RA is abrupt and causes deformity, migrating from joint to joint.  It often affects the fingers and can strike without warning, severely progressing throughout the body and can cause inflammation within the heart, lungs and brain.  The first symptoms are pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints; most commonly involved joints include hands, feet, wrists, elbows, and ankles.  The synovial membranes thicken and the joints swell with redness and tenderness.  Patients frequently experience painful joint stiffness when they first get up in the morning, lasting perhaps an hour. 


Over time, the joints often become deformed.  The joints may be difficult to straighten, and the affected fingers and toes may be permanently bent. The hands and feet may also curve outward in an abnormal way.  Many patients also notice increased fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and sometimes fever.


The onset of joint inflammation is commonly attributed to physical and emotional stress, poor nutrition, food allergies and intolerances, low stomach acid levels and/or bacterial, viral or fungal infection of the joint.


Leading researchers are also examining the possibility that exposure to a parasitic organism (a bacteria or virus) may be the first event in the development of RA.  An imbalance of body pH acidity/alkalinity levels creates a favourable condition for bacteria growth, yeast and other harmful organisms.  The body's normal response is to produce cells that can attack and kill the organism, protecting the body from the foreign invader.  These immune cells then produce a variety of chemicals that injure and destroy parts of the body.  Many health specialists believe we must consider the importance of pH balance as the first line of defence against sickness and disease.


RA exists all over the world and affects men and women of all races.  Women are three times more likely than men to have RA.  About 80% of people with RA are diagnosed between the ages of 35 and 50 and the number of sufferers under the age of 40 is dramatically rising.  RA appears to run in families, although certain factors in the environment may also influence the development of the disease.


Given the known genetic factors involved in RA, some researchers have suggested that an outside event occurs and triggers the disease cycle in a person with a particular genetic makeup.  Recent research has also shown that several autoimmune diseases, including RA, share a common genetic link which can become activated through certain traumas and stress triggers.  


There is no cure available for RA.  However, treatment for both RA and OA is available to combat the inflammation in order to prevent destruction of the joints and other complications of the disease. 


Research has now shown that anti-inflammatory drugs not only have considerable side-effects, such as ulceration, heart disease and stroke, but they actually accelerate the rate at which joint degeneration occurs.  Efforts should also be made to provide natural relief from the symptoms whilst maintaining maximum flexibility and mobility of the joints.


Recommended Dietary and Lifestyle Changes

Your diet can have a significant influence on your level of joint discomfort and the body’s ability to repair damage.  Here is a list of recommended changes that you should look to incorporate into your lifestyle and dietary regime.


  • Limit the amount of dairy, red meat, sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, sugar, salt, cakes and biscuits, processed and fried foods that you eat.  These foods are highly ‘acidic’ and can therefore exacerbate inflammation.  Consuming an alkaline-forming diet will help considerably with arthritic conditions.

  • Increase the amount of fruit and mainly vegetable servings to at least 5, preferably 8 portions a day, especially those that are high in bioflavonoids (all berries plus red, orange, and purple fruits such as cherries, blueberries, hawthorn berries, blackberries, mangosteen and black cherries, and vegetables).  Citrus fruits should also be avoided, as they may promote swelling.  The enzyme bromelain, found in pineapples has also been found to have significant anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Use olive oil on your vegetables/salads.

  • Eat one heaped teaspoon of seeds a day ie. Sunflower, sesame, flax and pumpkin.

  • Try to exclude members of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of vegetables from your diet for at least 2 weeks.  This includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and aubergines/eggplants – research shows that this benefits up to 60% of sufferers.

  • If you can, try to adopt a more vegetarian diet low in animal products to decrease both inflammation and pain.

  • Consume a diet that consists of high-fibre, wholesome, unprocessed foods such as wholegrains, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and full of complex-carbohydrate foods.

  • Eat 2-3 portions per week of cold water oily fish such as sardines, salmon, herring, kippers, and mackerel.

  • Identify, eliminate and control any food allergies or intolerances to prevent flare-ups and recurrences.

  • Drink plenty of water, 6-8 glasses a day, at least.

  • Yes, you’ve heard it before - but being overweight puts undue stress on your joints, so try to keep your weight at a healthy level.

  • Gentle daily exercise such as walking, yoga, pilates, tai chi, aqua aerobics, swimming, gentle dancing or light weight-bearing exercise help to keep the joints in good order.


Highly Recommended Nutritional Supplements

The real key to reversing joint damage and improving pain and mobility is to use specific natural supplements.  There is considerable evidence that natural supplements are not only as effective for treating joint problems and helping with joint pain as medications, but they have NO side effects.  In the past several years, a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate has been proposed as a dietary supplement that helps the body maintain and repair cartilage.  Studies conducted in Europe have shown the effectiveness of this treatment but effects may not be evident until a month after initiating this regime.  These substances are non-toxic and do not require prescriptions.  Any of the following supplements are recommended for joint disorders:


  • A high potency multi-vitamin mineral - to provide the body and joints with all the nutrients they need to repair themselves, increase mobility and reduce inflammation.

  • Vitamin C - a natural pain-killer and antioxidant.  Take 1,000mg daily. 

  • Essential Fatty Acids: Omega 3 Fish Oils or Flaxseed Oil are natural anti-inflammatory and shown to reduce the level of pain stimulators and slow down the destruction and damage to cartilage and joints.

  • Zambroza – the world’s most powerful antioxidant drink containing mangosteen, green tea, goji or wolfberry, raspberry, blueberries, grapeseed, and apple which help reduce inflammation, improve immunity and encourage healing.  Vitamin A, C, E, selenium, and zinc are also natural antioxidants with a protective effect on joints and that have the ability to regulate the immune response system.

  • Everflex – this potent supplement offers the benefits of glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM in one convenient tablet.

    • Glucosamine hydrochloride - important for the development of cartilage, bone, ligaments, nails, hair, and skin.  Acts by normalising cartilage metabolism while stopping its breakdown and lubricating and repairing joint tissue.

    • Chondroitin Sulphate - a major constituent of cartilage that can relieve symptoms of Osteoarthritis.  Good joint ‘protector’, naturally lubricating the cartilage and providing its elasticity, maintaining hydration between the joints.

    • MSM (Methyl Sulphonyl Methane) - MSM is an organic form of sulphur that plays essential roles in human health and is a necessary building block for proteins, especially those found in the hair, muscles, and connective tissue of the joints and skin.  MSM stabilises the connective tissue matrix of cartilage, tendons and ligaments, reducing scar tissue and muscle spasms. 


Other useful herbs to help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa) - Turmeric contains both potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory curcuminoids. These reduce pain by blocking the enzymes that cause inflammation but without the side effects. It is also thought to stimulate the production of cortisone from the adrenal glands, which can indirectly aid the healing process.  Can be taken in food, as a supplement or applied topically to the joint as a poultice.

  • Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) – this contains the essential fatty acid GLA which has an effect on inflammation and may significantly help arthritic pain.

  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – Used traditionally in India to treat arthritis.  Do not take high doses of ginger if you suffer from diabetes, bleeding problems or heart problems. 

  • Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) – this contains compounds called polyphenols that may help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium) – can help with inflammation, relief for headache and has also been used for arthritis.

  • Yucca (Yucca brevifolia) – studies show that extract of yucca reduces swelling, pain and stiffness of arthritis.

  • Willow Bark (Salix alba) – this is the oldest herb known to treat pain and inflammation; the inner bark contains salicin which is changed to salicylic acid in the body (a compound which aspirin is derived from).

  • Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) – As a traditional ayurvedic remedy, studies in India document its usefulness in arthritis.

  • Bromelain – An enzyme compound derived from fresh pineapple that contains anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Green Lipped Mussel - Derived from New Zealand shellfish and is also shown to inhibit inflammation in cases of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

  • Other helpful natural supplements include: Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) berries; and Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) and Cramp Bark (Vibernum opulus) can be applied topically to the affected joints.



Useful Complementary Therapies

If you suffer from OA, some useful treatments to consider taking include hydrotherapy, deep-heat therapy, homeopathy, daily acupressure, Traditional Chinese Medicine such as suction cups, massage, acupuncture and moxibustion, plus the use of powerful visualisation techniques.  Electromagnetic field therapy in the form of Magnet Therapy Products and/or Magnet Field Therapy Devices can dramatically increase blood flow and oxygen exchange to enhance the body's natural healing processes and magnets may be worn within a shoe insole, anklet, bracelet, or back support.


Meditation, hypnosis, guided imagery, relaxation, and reflexology techniques have also been used effectively to control pain.  Any work on the pressure points should be done daily in combination with other therapies.  Bodywork can be soothing and is thought to improve and restore chemical balance within the body.


Physical therapy may also include massage, moist hot packs, or soaking in a hot tub.  A massage with rosemary and chamomile is highly beneficial, or soaking in a warm bath with these essential oils, can provide extra relief.  Stiff joints may also be loosened up with a warm sesame oil massage, followed by a hot shower to further heat the oil and allow entry into the pores. Hydrotherapy can help to greatly reduce pain and inflammation. Moist heat is more effective than dry heat, and cold packs are useful during acute flare-ups.  


Movement therapies like yoga, pilates, T'ai Chi, and QiGong also help to loosen up the joints and increase flexibility.  Yoga has been used for RA patients to promote relaxation, relieve stress, and improve flexibility.


Each of us is at risk of developing joint inflammation if we do not look after our bodies, especially those of us who use our joints more than the average, such as those who undertake regular strenuous exercise such as ‘high-impact’ aerobic and intensive sports, running, weight-lifting etc. 


Moderate exercise is a great way of keeping joint cartilage lubricated to increase balance, flexibility, and range of motion.  The most suitable activities could include walking, swimming and other water exercises, yoga and other stretching exercises. 


Preventative measures for joint inflammation are the most effective; don’t wait for the pain to set in.  Taking care of your joints right from an early age is important especially with the daily wear and tear we put our bodies through.  At the first sign of inflammation treat it; please do not wait for it to get worse.

The nutritional supplement product links stated in this article can only be purchased from this website in UK and in Europe; however all other health product links stated on this page are available worldwide from Natural Body Healing.  

The above information should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.




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