Arthritis is the most common disorder affecting the joints of the body .Clinically; the most common varieties are Rheumatoid, Osteoarthritis and Gouty arthritis. Even now after many years of research, the actual cause of arthritis is not fully understood and it is moreover taken as a part of senile change in the body. As a result cures are no more likely now than they were 50 years ago.
Each joint in the body is lined, with synovial membrane which produces a lubricating fluid which allows the joints to function property with little or no pain. Arthritis damages the joint space, leading to bone rubbing against bone which produces the pain, swelling and discomfort characteristic of the condition. Whereas osteo arthritis is usually considered a function of “wear and tear” resulting due to old age, rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the whole body and can affect other organs as well as the joints. Arthritis can occur in other conditions including Reiter’s syndrome, Syphilis; Tuberculosis; Ankylosing spondylitis and Typhoid.
This is a degenerative condition of the joints resulting from destruction of cartilage and synovial fluid leading to loss of space between the bones. It is a condition of old age although it can be brought about by previous injury or history of polio, so that the young can also suffer. It generally involves the large weight –bearing joints, the hips and knees primarily –although any joint in the body can be affected .In the spine it is the major cause of low back pain and neck pain as a result of the loss of vertebral discs that act as shock absorbers in the spinal column. . It can affect the hands, particularly the joints of the thumbs. It tends not to spread from one joint to another and is more common in women than men. It is more prevalent in the obese (because weight increases pressure on the joints) and is also common in athletes who exercise regularly. Joggers are more prone to arthritis of the feet; muscles around the joints may also become wasted and weak.
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS: This is a generalized inflammatory condition affecting young adults and the middle aged. It occurs commonly in Europe and North America and in temperate climates. A special variety (Still’s disease) occurs in young children. It is generally progressive and affects other parts of the body including the muscles, skin, eyes, heart and sometimes lungs. It is associated with low grade anemia and is characterized by acute episodes when the joints are swollen, hot and painful. Pyrexia can be a feature, 20 % of sufferers only experience one episode but the majority will have relapses and remissions. The most common joints affected are those of the hands and wrists but like osteo arthritis, any joint can be involved. The actual cause is unknown but certain factors are thought to play a part, including post-viral infection and stress. An “arthritis personality” has been identified, as one who has not expressed grief in the loss of husband/wife /child or is bottling up his anger. Dietary factors are also felt to be important and many alternative practitioners pay great attention to diet.
GOUTY ARTHRITIS: This form of arthritis occurs when excess uric acid is circulating in the blood which then crystallizes out into the joints, producing acutely painful and swollen hot joints. It is typically found in the big toe, but knees and hands can also be affected. It is generally treatable and does not spread like other forms. It commonly presents with:
1. Pain, stiffness and redness especially early in the morning.
2. Weakness and wasting of muscles.
3. Tenderness and fever.
4. Coldness of hands and feet.
5. Trapped nerves in osteo-arthritis can lead to tingling in hands and the condition is called as carpal tunnel syndrome. It causes numbness and pain in the thumb, index and middle fingers, diagnosis is very important in such case and a visit to doctor is essential. Alternative therapies have a large part to play and can help to reduce the intensity of symptoms as well as prevent recurrences. Patient is advised to:
1. Lose weight.
2. Begin a relaxation and stress reduction program.
3. Yoga and gentle exercise, including swimming will help
4. If having difficulty with emotional responses to major life events (death/divorce etc) counseling can be of vital help.
1. Reduce dairy products
2. Cut out red meat and all meat if possible.
3. Avoid very hot and very cold foods.
4. Cut out coffee and tea.
5. Take up herbal tea.
6. Reduce white flour products.
7. Fast for one day a week; avoid all solid food and drink clear liquids, such as herbal tea, water, apple juice.
8. Get advice on minerals and vitamin supplements.
9. Avoid acid fruits, including citrus fruits and tomatoes.
10. Take lots of vegetable juice celery, carrot or beetroot.
11. Experiment with excluding wheat products from your diet.
A naturopath can help you change your life style and prescribe the diet for early relief. A controlled fast can be of great help both in acute phase and to prevent recurrence, as can a long term balanced vegetarian diet. A physiotherapist can help you take up gentle stretching exercises which will further provide relief.
RHEUMATISM AND ARTHRITIS
Although there are over 250 different joint disorders, homoeopathy groups them into the general classification of rheumatism because the picture of these illnesses is very similar. This section there fore contains those medicines most suited to an illness which has joints, muscle or tendon pain, usually stiffness and some times deformity of one or more joints. The most common form of rheumatism is osteoarthritis which is produced by the wear and tear that joints suffer during their use , it is over twice as common as rheumatoid arthritis where the joints become inflamed and painful. If any doubt exists over the diagnosis or treatment, another doctor should be consulted, but medical help is needed to treat these conditions and it should not be ignored.
SYMPTOMS AND MEDICINES
The smaller joints, such as the hands and feet are those mainly affected. Joints ache and swell and the feet are worse for walking —ACTAEA SPICATA.
Affected part feels very stiff and sore to the touch. Joints swell, making the over lying skin feel stretched and tight ,swelling is pale , joints become swollen –APIS MELLIFICA
Rheumatism that comes about from exposure to damp and cold with simultaneous muscle strain affected parts feels sore and bruised –ARNICA
Cutting lightning – like pains run along joints. Joints are red, shiny and swollen and pain radiates through them. For rheumatism that is often brought on by getting head and neck wet or sitting with them exposed to a draught –BELLADONNA
Rheumatism in the smaller joints, which develop nodular swellings—BENZOIC ACID.
Acute rheumatism with hot, shiny dark or pale red joints. For pain that is greatly aggravated by movement but that is relieved by external heat –BRYONIA ALBA
Rheumatism that comes on from working in water or damp surroundings, upper back and shoulders are the most affected areas —CALCAREA CARBONICA
Affected joints feel stiff and tight and lying on them makes them feel sore ,pain is worse from cold and is relieved by warmth ,restlessness at night ,with drawing pains in muscles ,ankles are also weak –CAUSTICUM
Severe almost intolerable pain with compulsion to get up and walk about –CHAMOMILLA
Symptoms mainly in muscles –CIMICIFUGA
Pain is worse in the evenings affected parts are swollen and dark red. Disease moves from joint to joint and typically occurs in debilitated and weak persons —COLCHICUM
Rheumatism is worse in changeable weather, especially in damp cold conditions –DULCAMARA
For chronic cases with distorted and knobby joints. Joints are worse from movement and the tendons around them feel tight –GUAICUM
Pain travels upwards is worse in a warm bed, and affects the smaller joints
Any swelling is slight for conditions where nodules form—LEDUM PAL
Relief from slow, gentle movement –LYCOPODIUM
Rheumatism is in the right shoulder, rheumatism is worse in bed or after walking and better from warmth—MAGNESIA CARBONICA
Pain constantly moves from joint to joint ,worse in the evening and from warmth but relieved by cold , severe pain that leads to compulsion to move about to try to relieve it indigestion is also present –PULSATILLA
Rheumatism is worse when there is a weather or temperature change rheumatism in the chest wall, which feels bruised, although the pain is sharp –RANUNCULUS BULBOSUS
Susceptibility to weather change, particularly cold wintry weather, chronic rheumatism affects the smaller joints, which are worse during rest, the parts involved feel weak –RHODODENDRON.
Muscle stiffness and soreness –prominent body projections are tender –pain is worse on first starting to move ,worse from sitting and rising from a sitting position .Relief from continued movement and warmth . Damp weather and damp swellings aggravate the condition –RHUS TOXICONDENDRON
Soreness and lameness that is similar to a tendon sprain –rheumatism of wrists and ankles is present –RUTA GRAVEOLENS
Acute muscular rheumatism with shifting sharp, stitching pains and soreness and stiffness in muscles, especially back and neck and right shoulder –SANGUINARIA
Chronic, often familial rheumatism, pain is worse at night and from uncovering and is better from warmth, ankle are also weak –SILICIA
Acute and chronic rheumatism, inflammation starts in feet, and then extends up the body. Pain is worse in bed and at night, jerking of the limbs while falling asleep –SULPHUR