Don’t let Arthritis Slow You Down

Dr. Brenda Gill
By Dr. Brenda Gill
June 10th, 2014

In my years of naturopathic medical practice, I have been struck by the number of people who suffer from arthritis. In fact, it is the most common cause of disability in North America.

When first coming into my office, many of my patients were suffering from sleep issues, chronic pain and mobility issues because of arthritis, which was affecting their overall health. We know that exercise is one of the key elements of achieving a long and productive life, so if arthritis is interfering with exercise the repercussions can be profound. For example, I have seen many patients whose heart problems can be traced back to their weight gain and lack of exercise, which are a direct result of the limitations imposed by arthritis. I have also seen patients whose health is being compromised by pain killing medications that provide short term pain management but create long term health problems.

As a result, I have sought long term solutions for people with arthritis pain, by finding effective prevention and treatment of arthritis to relieve pain, increase mobility and reduce the need for surgery.

The current treatment options typically presented to a patient by their medical doctor will include drug therapy and eventually surgery for knees, hips and some other joints. All the prescription medicines, while providing good short term relief, have significant problems associated with long term use. Aspirin causes gastric bleeding and ear problems, Tylenol (acetaminophen) can cause hepatitis at 8 pills a day, ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen are not tolerated for long by most people before they cause digestive distress, the cox-2 inhibitors like Vioxx and Celebrex are dangerous for the heart, and many other pain killers are highly addictive and have their own problems.

Surgery of course has significant risks, including infection, adverse reactions to anaesthetic, and surgical complications. There are typically long wait times, during which patients are left to suffer and take drugs that are not appropriate for long term care. Also, since arthritis can affect any joint, including the spine, there are instances where surgery is not available. Many of the patients I see have degeneration in many spinal segments that cannot be adequately addressed through surgery.

The first step is to support the proper functioning of the joint. That may mean strengthening the joint with specific exercises to engage the muscles around it, stretching the joint or chiropractic manipulation.  A weak joint needs the support of strong muscles, so as soon as possible, gentle strengthening exercises are recommended. For example, strengthening the muscles of the core abdominal region is essential to prevent and treat back pain.

Secondly, I recommend infra-red pulsed laser therapy. This is the one physical therapy that has been proven in numerous scientific studies to significantly reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis in a real and lasting manner. Studies have shown increased delivery of nutrients to the area and decreased inflammation and congestion around the joint.  Animal studies have shown that laser treatments can break down calcifications and scar tissue and stimulate repair of the cartilage in joints.

I have had many arthritic patients come to my clinic for laser therapy and they have consistently received significant pain relief. Arthritic hands have responded very well to laser therapy, as have arthritic knees, shoulders, hips and spines. Recently, a patient of mine who was recommended to have ankle replacement surgery received laser therapy and is now functioning well and has declined surgery. A meta analysis of 35 placebo controlled studies demonstrated that laser therapy reduced pain and increased mobility in osteoarthritis of the knee. Many more studies have shown similar results for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The laser treatments are painless and have no side effects


The third step is to identify any foods the person is eating that may be contributing to inflammation.  Anything from a cow or pig creates inflammation, so, I have patients use goat or sheep products, or soy/coconut/rice/oat or almond milks instead and buffalo, lamb or wild meat for red meat.  I also try to minimize acidic foods and beverages, because when the body is acidic it is unable to remove inflammation, toxins or metabolites.  Therefore tomatoes, lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, coffee, green/black/white tea, Pop, herba mate, honeybush, rooibos or any other stimulant are mimimized.  Anything white will also acidify the body, so, replacing rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, crackers and sugar with whole grain choices, yams, sweet potatoes or squash and honey, maple syrup, unrefined cane sugar and agave nectar will help keep the body neutral or alkaline.       

Fourthly, I recommend taking advantage of natural anti-inflammatory medicines. Examples include MSM, curcumin (extracted from turmeric), bromelain, mukkul, boswellia, serratopeptidase, proteolytic enzymes, phytoprofen and more. Not only do they reduce inflammation and thus pain, this class of medicines all have side-benefits. For instance, curcumin (from turmeric) and bromelain are preventative for cancer and support liver function and detoxification.  Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory if taken in larger doses, such as 3000mg of EPA/DHA per day and increases memory, moistens the skin and keeps the hair shiny. Vitamin C, glucosamine sulfate and collagen are building blocks of cartilage, tendons and ligaments which are parts of the joint that gets worn in osteoarthritis.

Brenda Gill is a naturopath practising in Rossland, BC.

Categories: GeneralHealthOp/Ed

Other News Stories