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Strengthen Your Bones and Joints Naturally!
If you're one of millions who suffer from arthritis, rheumatism, osteoporosis, and other diseases of the bones, connective tissues, muscles, and joints, you know how important a healthy musculoskeletal system is to your well-being. In this easy-reference guide, noted herbal clinician David Hoffmann shows you how to use easy herbal remedies and simple lifestyle changes to prevent and fight bone and joint diseases. Healthy Bones and ...
Strengthen Your Bones and Joints Naturally!
If you're one of millions who suffer from arthritis, rheumatism, osteoporosis, and other diseases of the bones, connective tissues, muscles, and joints, you know how important a healthy musculoskeletal system is to your well-being. In this easy-reference guide, noted herbal clinician David Hoffmann shows you how to use easy herbal remedies and simple lifestyle changes to prevent and fight bone and joint diseases. Healthy Bones and Joints provides:
• Clear explanations of how herbs such as meadowsweet, mustard, and bay tree can be used in daily regimens to help prevent bone and joint diseases.
• A thorough overview of common musculoskeletal conditions, from arthritis to osteoporosis — with discussion of a wide variety of preventive strategies and healing herbal formulas for each ailment.
• An A-to-Z directory of the herbs that are most helpful for the musculoskeletal system — along with preparation instructions and dosage guidelines.
Discover how nature's own medicine chest can help you enjoy a healthier life, increased vitality, and stronger bones and joints!
1. The Body's Foundation
The skeleton, connective tissue, muscles, and joints hold us together, enable us to stand and move, and give us our form. The musculoskeletal system is used - and misused - a lot, and it is the victim of much wear and tear. While genetically based weaknesses can play a role in musculoskeletal problems, the health of these bones and tissues depends not only on their use but also on the body's inner environment, its metabolism, diet, and lifestyle.
To a certain extent, the body's structural system can be adjusted and problems can be corrected. For example, when pain or other problems are due to skeletal misalignments, much can be done with the help of osteopathy or chiropractic. It's not uncommon for misalignments to be so extreme that they affect neurologic functions, the organs, or the harmony of the body as a whole. Alternative treatments, such as rolfing, the Alexander technique, and Feldenkrais, may be beneficial, but these therapies will not fix any underlying problems.
In many cases, the health of the bones and joints depends on the health of the body as a whole. Only as long as the inner environment and metabolism are in harmony can the body's structural system work as efficiently as it should. If, for example, the body's biochemical and metabolic processes are out of tune, the body will be under a great deal of strain as it attempts to remove wastes and toxins. If this condition lasts for some years (which it often does, and it generally goes unnoticed), toxins can build up in the connective tissue of the joints, sowing the seeds for the development of rheumatism and arthritis. This is especially true of people who have a genetic predisposition to these conditions. But herbal medicine has much to offer in the treatment of these and other chronic and degenerative ailments.
What Are Rheumatic Diseases?
More than 100 conditions are classified as rheumatic diseases. They have in common symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and the supporting structures, such as the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Some of these diseases can also affect other parts of the body.
The term arthritis is often used to describe all rheumatic diseases, but this is incorrect. Arthritis actually means joint inflammation - that is, swelling, redness, heat, and pain, which may be caused by tissue injury or diseases of the joints. But the many kinds of arthritis comprise only a small portion of rheumatic diseases. Some rheumatic diseases instead affect the body's connective tissues. Others, known as autoimmune diseases, occur when some type of imbalance in the immune system causes it to harm the body's own healthy tissues.
In subsequent chapters, we will look at several rheumatic diseases and their treatments in some detail. But here is a quick list of the most common rheumatic diseases:
Ankylosing spondylitis. This condition, which primarily affects the spine, causes excess friction on certain joints and can lead to osteoarthritis in the hips, shoulders, and knees. The tendons and ligaments around the bones and joints in the spine become inflamed, resulting in pain and stiffness, especially in the lower back. Ankylosing spondylitis tends to affect people in late adolescence or early adulthood.
Bursitis. When the bursae, the fluid-filled sacs that cushion a joint and reduce friction during movement, become inflamed, we refer to the condition as bursitis. It may be caused by arthritis, injuries, or infections. Bursitis is painful and may limit the movement of nearby joints.
Fibromyalgia. This condition causes pain and stiffness in the muscles and other tissues that support and move bones and joints. People with fibromyalgia have pain and localized tender points in the muscles and tendons, particularly those of the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips.
Gout. This type of arthritis results from deposits of needle-like crystals of uric acid in the connective tissues, joint spaces, or both. Uric acid is a normal breakdown product of purines, which are present in body tissues and many foods. Usually, uric acid passes through the kidneys and is eliminated in the urine. When the concentration of uric acid in the blood rises above normal levels, crystals may begin to form in the tendons, ligaments, and cartilage of the joints. These crystals irritate the tissues, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain. The joints most commonly affected are those in the big toe.
Osteoarthritis. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It affects more than 20 million adults in the United States. It primarily affects cartilage, the tissue that cushions the ends of bones within a joint. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage begins to fray, wear, and decay. In extreme cases, the cartilage may wear away entirely, allowing the joint's bones to rub against each other. Friction can also cause spurs, or pointy bulges of bone, to form at the edges of the joint. Osteoarthritis often causes pain, stiffness, reduced range of motion, and an overall loss of function.
Psoriatic arthritis. This form of arthritis occurs in some people with psoriasis, a common skin disorder that results in scaling and flaking skin. Psoriatic arthritis often affects the joints at the ends of the fingers. It may be accompanied by changes in the fingernails and toenails. Some people also experience spinal problems.
Rheumatoid arthritis. This is an inflammatory disease of the lining of a joint. It results in pain, stiffness, swelling, deformity, and loss of function. The inflammation generally affects the joints in the hands and feet and tends to occur equally on both sides of the body. This symmetry helps distinguish rheumatoid arthritis from other forms of arthritis. About 2.1 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis.
Systemic lupus erythematosus. Also known as lupus or SLE, this is an autoimmune disease - that is, it occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's tissues. It results in inflammation and may damage the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain.
Tendinitis. This condition is an inflammation of the tendons, which are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. It's usually caused by overuse, injury, or other rheumatic conditions. Tendinitis is painful and often restricts the movement of nearby joints.
Arthritis and Pain
Pain is the body's warning system. The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as an unpleasant experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. Neurons, which are specialized cells that transmit pain signals, are located throughout the skin and other body tissues. They respond to injury or tissue damage by sending out chemical signals of pain. For example, when a knife comes in contact with the skin, the neurons in the skin send out chemical signals that travel through nerves in the spinal cord to the brain, where they are interpreted as pain.
The pain of arthritis can be acute or chronic. Acute pain is temporary; it can last only a few seconds or longer but gradually wanes as healing occurs. This type of pain can be caused by burns, cuts, and bone fractures. Chronic pain, on the other hand, ranges from mild to severe and can last a lifetime.
Arthritic pain has many causes. For example, it may occur when the synovial membrane that lines joints, tendons, and ligaments is inflamed. Muscle strain and fatigue are other culprits. But usually, the pain is caused by a combination of factors.
Pain varies greatly from person to person, but the reasons why aren't clearly understood. Factors that contribute to arthritic pain include swelling in the joint, the amount of heat present, and damage that has occurred in the joint. In addition, physical activity affects pain differently from person to person. Some people have the most pain when they first get out of bed in the morning, while others develop pain only after prolonged use of the joint. Each individual has a different tolerance for pain, due to both physical and emotional factors.
Treating with Over-the-Counter Medication
Several over-the-counter pain relievers can be helpful for addressing the discomfort of acute bone and joint pain. The drugs you use depend on the specific symptoms and the nature of the illness; there is no one-size-fits-all cure for these conditions.
For example, osteoarthritis typically involves little inflammation, so it can often be relieved with acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). This drug relieves pain but has little effect on swelling. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the contrary, does involve painful inflammation. For this reason, aspirin, ibuprofen (such as
Motrin or Advil), or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a better choice.
NSAIDs Can Cause Damage
NSAIDs are the most commonly used medications in the United States. They are used to treat pain, fever, and many types of inflammation. Unfortunately, NSAIDs are not without side effects, some of which can be quite serious. Every year, for example, almost 9,000 Americans die from gastrointestinal bleeding, a common side effect of NSAIDs. The full range of side effects includes:
- Gastrointestinal effects, such as heartburn, dyspepsia,
diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, nausea, stomatitis, decreased appetite, and vomiting
- Central nervous system symptoms, including headache, insomnia, dizziness, drowsiness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), confusion, and weakness
- Visual problems, most commonly loss of visual acuity or blurred or double vision
- Skin discomfort from itching, rashes, photosensitivity
reactions, eruptions, and hives
- Cardiovascular effects, such as edema, palpitations, and
- Genitourinary troubles, including burning or painful
urination, vaginal bleeding, blood in urine, and cystitis
NSAIDs can also cause much more serious problems, including ulcers, heart irregularities, kidney problems (especially in the elderly), serious skin disorders, anemia, and liver conditions, such as jaundice.
Using Prescription Drugs
A number of prescription drugs can help cases of rheumatic diseases that have not responded to over-the-counter drugs. For rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, commonly used prescription drugs include methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, penicillamine, and gold injections. These drugs are thought to influence and correct the abnormalities of the immune system that are responsible for causing the problems. These agents may have serious side effects, and their use always requires monitoring by a physician.
Powerful anti-inflammatory drugs called corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may be used for many rheumatic conditions because they decrease inflammation and suppress the immune system. The corticosteroids are often very effective, but their frequent side effects limit their use. The short-term side effects, such as swelling, increased appetite, weight gain, and emotional swings, usually resolve when people stop taking the drugs. Long-term side effects, which may not be reversible, include stretch marks, excessive hair growth, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, damage to the arteries, high blood sugar levels, infections, and cataracts.
1 The Body's Foundation
What Are Rheumatic Diseases?
Arthritis and Pain
The Building Blocks of a Treatment Program
2 Using Herbs as Medicine
Taking a Holistic Approach
3 Treating Common Bone and Joint Diseases
Bursitis and Tendinitis
Restless Leg Syndrome
4 A Guide to the Healing Herbs
5 Making Herbal Medicines
Dry Herb Preparations