Arthritis, or "joint inflammation" is one of the most common ailments today that can cause excruciating pain in the body. It affects the muscles and specifically the place where two or more bones meet, ie the joint, such as the hip or knee. Arthritis signs and symptoms include joint pain, swelling, stiffness, weakness, deformities, inflammation, and limited movement of joints, which can interfere with the most basic daily tasks such as walking, climbing steps, opening bottles, or brushing your teeth.
There are more than a hundred forms of arthritis and rheumatic diseases. And the four most common types are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia, or "soft tissue rheumatism" refers to pain in the soft fibrous tissues in the body - muscles, ligaments, and tendons. (Ligaments and tendons connect muscles to bones.) People with fibromyalgia may have other symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, morning stiffness, and headaches, poor memory and concentration. Women are at least four times more likely than men to develop fibromyalgia. And fibromyalgia usually occurs in people over age 50.
Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage wears away, causing the bones begin to rub against each other and making movements painful. Cartilage, a slippery and spongy substance, covers and cushions the bones such that it allows a smooth movement of the joints. Osteoarthritis often affects the hands and weight-bearing joints such as the knee, hip and facet joints (in the spine) and occurs as the cartilage degenerates with age. Hence, it is the most common form of arthritis pain amongst the aged.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating disease that affects commonly the hands, wrists, and knees. The immune system mistakenly attacks itself and causes the joint lining to swell. The inflammation then spreads to the surrounding tissues, and can eventually damage cartilage and bone.
Rheumatoid arthritis does not just affect the joints. Tendons are like ropes which run inside lubricated tubes. The lubricating system is very similar to that in the joints themselves, so it is not surprising that tendons can also be affected by rheumatoid arthritis. In a few people, other parts of the body such as the lungs and the blood vessels may become inflamed. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis have difficulty carrying out normal activities of daily living, such as standing, walking, dressing, washing, and using the toilet.
Gout is a painful condition that occurs when the body cannot eliminate a natural substance called uric acid. The excess uric acid forms needle-like crystals in the joints that cause swelling and severe pain. Gout most often affects the big toe, knee and wrist joints. To reduce the risk of urate crystallizing in the joints it is important to drink plenty of water – if possible as much as 3.5 litres a day. According to recent scientific evidence, drinking a glass of skimmed milk every day may be helpful in getting gout arthritis pain relief. But beer or other alcoholic drinks should be avoided as they could make gout worse.
Some of the factors that are linked to the development of arthritis pain are injury (e.g from sports) and complications from other conditions (such as diabetes), heredity and lack of physical activity. Many studies have also identified a link between obesity and arthritis. Excessive body weight puts an extra stress on the weight-bearing joints (back, hips, knees, ankles and feet). Because of the way joints work, the pressure in your knee joints is many times your body weight when you walk. Even a small weight loss can make a big difference to your joints. Too much body fat may also increase inflammation in the body, making your joints more painful. Joints also naturally degenerate overtime with age; hence arthritis is often associated with older people. However, it is also known that children, though relatively rare, can also develop a condition called juvenile idiopathic arthritis. This involves an inflammatory disorder of the connective tissues, characterized by joint swelling and pain or tenderness. It can also affect organs as the skin, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, and eyes.
Generally, arthritis pain relief can be found in a combination of medication, exercise, rest, weight-management, diet and nutrition. From blood tests and X-rays, your doctor would be able to diagnose which type of arthritis you have and recommend the most appropriate course of treatment.
Manuka honey which has been known to have higher antibacterial activity than other types honey is also gaining popularity in treating arthritis pain due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties and healing power. It reduces joint inflammation and provides a natural form of pain relief.
The combination of honey and cider vinegar is also an extremely well known home remedy for arthritis. All over the world, people have so passionately testified about how this cleansing drink has helped them find relief in joint pains. Many nutritionists believe that in this detox drink you can find minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, natural silicon, pectin, and tartaric acids that are effective in fighting body toxins, inhibiting bacteria and helping the body to maintain its vital acid-alkaline balance.
To prepare this health tonic, mix two teaspoons of vinegar and two teaspoons of raw honey into a glass of warm water, and drink this three times a day. It may take several weeks to see the effects. Dr. D.C. Jarvis in his book
Arthritis and Folk Medicine(Galahad Books,1997) also offered the same folk medicine prescription for arthritis pain. He believes that treatment of arthritis, and many other health problems, must begin in the stomach. Jarvis found that when an apple cider vinegar cocktail is taken daily, calcium deposits are released back into solution in the bloodstream to be re-circulated to the bones, thus obtaining arthritis pain relief and preventing osteoporosis.
Some people also recommend soaking arthritic joints in hot apple cider vinegar. To administer, use a quarter cup of vinegar mixed with one and a half cups of water. One can also soak a cloth in this mixture, put it on the affected area, and wrap a towel over the soaked cloth to keep in the heat. Keep the hot mixture on for only ten minutes at a time, and repeat it after the joint cools for another ten minutes.