Aches, pains of arthritis

Snap, crackle and pop! Not just breakfast cereal anymore — it may be the sound of your joints as you go up a flight of stairs.

Joint popping and cracking, or "crepitus," is one of the more than 100 forms of arthritis. Do a self-survey: How do you feel? Can you wiggle your fingers and toes, turn your head from side to side, and sit down on the floor — all without pain or stiffness?

Since arthritis is common enough to send more than 20 million people per year to the doctor's office, then there are some things we all should know about it. There are two primary types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Even though they both affect the joints and cause stiffness, pain and swelling, their underlying causes are very different.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that you will usually notice at the ends of your fingers and toes. It is not symmetrical, so you could have it on your right hand and not the left, or visa versa. However, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Your body is attacking itself and it tends to manifest evenly on both sides of the body. It affects the middle joints, especially on the hands, and it can be crippling. So if you are noticing pain and stiffness in one joint on one side of your body, it is less likely to be rheumatoid arthritis.

The treatment for all types of arthritis is movement. But with rheumatoid arthritis, when there is inflammation, it is best to wait until it subsides before exercising to prevent damage. If you have rheumatoid arthritis and you're feeling good, take the opportunity to get out there and enjoy some joint-friendly exercise like walking or using a large Pilates ball. This is a situation where my mother would say, "Get while the gettin' is good!"

No matter what kind of arthritis you have or how much pain and stiffness you live with, you'd be smart to keep soda off your list of beverages. Drinking soda will expedite the aging of your bones as it causes them to leach out calcium. Avoid sugar and choose nuts and dark green veggies whenever you can. Glucosamine can be helpful with osteoarthritis, as well as certain herbs that reduce inflammation. It is important to listen to your body and your symptoms. Keep moving and take precautions whenever you can.

Rheumatoid arthritis is usually treated with aggressive medications. As with almost all autoimmune disorders, there are two underlying conditions that need to be addressed.

First, vitamin D deficiency goes hand in hand with autoimmune problems. Your levels should be checked regularly if you have rheumatoid arthritis.

And second, emotional trauma before the age of 5 or 6 is usually reported with this type of condition. Studies show that when the underlying emotional trigger is resolved, the destructive process may slow down or even subside.

Acupuncture has shown to be very effective in managing pain and inflammation, and can provide much-needed relief with either type of arthritis. It has helped me personally in so many ways, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to treat your aches and pains.

I'll see you in two weeks.

Love & health,


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