According to the CDC, an estimated 78.4 million adults will have some form of physician-diagnosed arthritis (one in four of the population) by the year 2040 with about 35 million adults reporting arthritis-attributed activity limitations. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that caps the bones in your joints is degraded whereas in rheumatoid arthritis, the membrane that protects and lubricates the joints is inflamed which leads to joint erosion.
I’ll share some movement tips and herbs for managing the discomfort and pain associated with arthritis in the first blog of this series. Also, check out my earlier blog on natural options to manage pain.
Regular exercise and movement can alleviate arthritis pain, decrease stiffness of joints, improve flexibility and may help you reduce your prescription or over-the-counter medication. Although the thought of exercising when in pain may not be appealing, it is a necessity for maintaining healthy weight and lubricating our joints. You can start with just 15 minutes of exercise and gradually ramp up intensity and duration based on your body’s response.
Did you know that strength training can enhance the benefits of your aerobic exercise program? The great thing about strength training is that it can be done without any high impact aerobic activity and builds muscles to keep your body and metabolic rate strong. According to this analysis of 17 clinical trials, strength training exercises were effective in reducing discomfort and pain of participants with rheumatoid arthritis based on two metrics: Disease activity score measuring level of pain; and blood ESR measuring levels of inflammation.
Yoga-based mind-body intervention provides a holistic approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis as co-morbid depression is often associated with and can adversely affect the outcome of treating this condition.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30714983/, eight weeks of yoga not only decreased the severity of rheumatoid arthritis based on reduction in inflammatory markers but was also accompanied by a statistically significant decrease in symptoms of depression.
Relaxing and restorative yin yoga can go a long way towards pain relief and lubricating the joints through its gentle movement. How about this one to try?
Known as urtica dioica, it is a flowering plant covered in hairs that cause a painful stinging sensation when touched. Stinging nettle is an established herbal remedy that is known for anti-inflammatory actions combined with minerals (boron, calcium, magnesium and silicon). It has been studied for its impact on rheumatoid arthritis. Using nettle may help you decrease the amount of medicines you take so discuss with your practitioner if you are planning to supplement.
Here’s an extract of the stinging nettle leaf you can try:
Burdock root (Arctium Iappa L. or arcticum minus)
Burdock root has active sterols, tannins and fatty oils which provide anti-inflammatory benefits. It is commonly eaten in Asia but not many Americans are aware of its power as a superfood. Unless you are cuisine curious and want to try cooking with burdock root, I suggest you go for the tea to reap the same awesome benefits.
This study showed that burdock root tea improved the inflammatory and oxidative stress markers on osteoarthritis patients.
Here’s one you can try:
Licorice is a powerful anti-inflammatory and acts like your body’s own natural corticosteroid to fight inflammation and ease pain. In this review of extensive literature done through 2015, the active compounds of licorice (glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid) exerted potential anti-inflammatory effects while diminishing the adverse effects of NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and anti-rheumatic drugs. Licorice in large amounts is NOT recommended for those with high blood pressure, potassium deficiency, and impaired kidney or liver function so it’s best to avoid if you have any of these conditions. Also, licorice candy contains very little of the active compound and has too much sugar and other additives so opt for several cups of this tea instead:
Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianesis) hails from the Amazon where it has been widely used as a medicinal plant to treat conditions such as arthritis, gastritis and osteoarthritis. Cat’s claw is an antioxidant and an inhibitor of TNFalpha which exhibits anti-rheumatic properties. This study has shown the effectiveness of Cat’s claw in decreasing inflammation in patients with osteoarthritis.
Here’s a tincture form of cat’s claw which I prefer over the dried herb – it’s not tasty so I add some lemon or mix with flavored seltzer: