Naturopathic Medicine for Arthritis
Arthritis is a degenerative disease of the cartilage and bones that result in pain and stiffness in the joints of the body. Symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, morning stiffness, restricted mobility, and joint noise (crepitus) when moving. The most commonly affected sites are fingers, shoulders, spine, knees, and hips. According to the National Health Interview Survey, one in five adults in the United States reports having had a doctor diagnose them with arthritis. Fortunately, naturopathic medicine offers a natural way to soothe the pain, inflammation, and related symptoms of arthritis while addressing the root cause of the condition.
How Can Naturopathic Medicine Help Arthritis?
Arthritis is painful condition that significantly decreases the quality of life in affected individuals. Conventional treatments, including weight loss to reduce pressure on weight-bearing joints, physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that stabilize a joint, and pain relief medications, often cannot relieve the pain and stiffness caused by arthritis. Naturopathic Medicine (also known as naturopathy or natural medicine) is designed to naturally correct a body’s imbalances and address the root cause of disease symptoms. Once the underlying source of the disease is corrected, the human body can then be stimulated to heal itself. Naturopathic practitioners use complementary and alternative therapies to create a nurturing environment that quickly reduces disease symptoms and boosts the affected body’s self-healing power.
During a naturopathic treatment session for arthritis, the practitioner will create an individualized therapy plan based upon physical exam, health history, current health issues, and current medications.
Specific Naturopathic therapies for the pain and stiffness of arthritis can include:
- Dietary supplementation: Naturopathic practitioners recommend a variety of supplements such as glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, which are believed to rebuild the cartilage in joints.
- Dietary changes: Naturopaths recommend removing foods that contain alkaloids from the diet as they can interfere with joint repair and increase inflammation. Foods in this group include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and tobacco. They also suggest avoiding sugar, dairy products, refined foods, fried foods, caffeine, spinach, asparagus, and rhubarb. They recommend a diet rich in kale, artichoke, celery, turnip greens, mustard greens, lettuce, millet, barley, almonds, black mission figs, cherries, pineapple, blackberries, black currants, limes, olive oil, and gelatin.
- Injections: Possible naturopathic treatment of arthritis can include injections of hyaluronic acid, prolozone, Traumeel, or Zeel into the affected joint. Many of these agents act to increase the amount of lubricating agent in the joint and decrease pain.
- Herbal Medicines: Naturopathic treatments for arthritis can include natural anti-inflammatories such as alfalfa, black cohosh, burdock, chaparral, Devil’s claw, juniper, and Yucca. Note that many of these herbal medications may interact with standard medications so the Naturopathic practitioner should monitor use closely.
- Homeopathy: Naturopaths may recommend homeopathic remedies including: Bryonia, kali bichromicum, rhus toxicodendron, ruta graveolens, and ledum for treatment of arthritis.
Why Use Naturopathic Medicine to Treat Symptoms of Arthritis?
Naturopathic practitioners will work closely with their patients to develop an individualized treatment plan that provides lasting relief from the pain and limitations of arthritis. This goal is achieved by restoring the body’s innate ability to heal itself by using a wide array of holistic complementary and alternative therapies designed to maintain health, restore health, and relieve disease symptoms. In this way, the body can be coaxed into overcoming functional disturbances, restoring health, and eradicating disease internally.
Types of Naturopathic Practitioners
There are many experienced naturopathic practitioners in practice worldwide. In the United States, there are two different groups who are considered naturopathic practitioners. Naturopathic physicians, who have the designation ND or NMD, are licensed practitioners whose extensive graduate training included four years of basic science, holistic and nontoxic natural therapies, disease prevention, optimizing wellness as well as training in complementary and alternative therapies such as nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, and psychology. Each naturopathic doctor must pass a postdoctoral board examination to receive their license. 15 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors.
Naturopathic Medicine is also practiced by another set of practitioners called “traditional naturopaths”. Traditional naturopaths do not follow a set path of training and may come from a variety of backgrounds.
What Causes Arthritis?
There are several different types of arthritis, each with a different root cause. The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage surrounding a joint loses minerals and becomes inflamed and stiff. The loss of cartilage can be caused by trauma, joint overuse, infections, and poor diet. Osteoarthritis frequently affects older adults due to “wear and tear” on the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks it own joints. The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, and the condition often results in the deformity of the symmetrically affected joints.