Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint dis-ease reaction and a symptom of a bigger dis-ease. In the western civilization, it is the most common chronic condition of the joints, occurring mostly in the knees, hips, neck, lower back, the small joints of the fingers and the big toe. It is a condition in which the cartilage, a firm rubbery material that covers and protects the end of each bone, has broken down or worn off.
In African holistic teachings, the presence of arthritis is thought to be from the body’s poor ability to flush out toxins and excess earth minerals. This, in turn, leads to waste deposits settling in the tendons and tissues. As a result, immobilization and inflammation of the joint occurs, as bone rubs against bone during movement, causing joint damage, stiffness and pain. When this happens, quality of life is often affected being that mobility is impaired and pain is progressive.
Osteoarthritis is a gradual condition that usually worsens over time if proper precautions are not taken. Though it is prevalent among the elderly, 60% of the sufferers are under 65 years old. The risk factors of osteoarthritis include: obesity (joints carrying too much weight), trauma, poor nutrition, and overuse of joints (due to sports and repetitive motions).
Signs and Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Symptoms of osteoarthritis differ depending on the severity of the problem and the type of joint affected. However, pain is usually minimal in the morning upon waking (in contrast to rheumatoid arthritis), but it increases as the day or activity progress . With osteoarthritis, there may be limited range of motion that improves after the joints have warmed up.
Some people develop spurs (bony growths) in the fingers or feet that causes tenderness. Additional signs may include cool joints and coarse crepitus (cracking) that make a clicking or cracking sound when they are flexed. Swelling may also be evident as joint effusion occurs, allowing the joints to fill with fluid.
When it comes to managing osteoarthritis the main goals are: (1) prevent further articular cartilage damage, (2) minimize pain and (3) enhance mobility. There is no medical cure for osteoarthritis; there is only management to relieve negative symptoms and to maintain joint mobility.
Common methods of management include: medication, surgery, manual therapy, and lifestyle modification. Medications primarily use in the western world are: NSAID pain killers, analgesic opioids and pain-relief creams. For severe pain that is unrelieved with oral medication, the sufferer of the dis-ease can expect a steroid injection directly into the site of the problem once every four months. Further invasive medical treatment involves a surgical procedure known as arthoplasty, which is usually performed if pain is more severe and mobility is affected.
Alternative Medicine for Joint Health
Ancient healers paved the way for some of the most popular alternative medicine styles we see today — Ayurveda, homeopathy, naturopathy, and oriental medicine. Ancient ethno-medicine of Africa included supplements, homeopathic concoctions, herbs, amino acids, glandulars, plants and more. With these ideal naturopaths, the major goal is prevention. However, there are natural remedies and dietary changes that can be adopted that have shown to stop and reverse the damages related to osteoarthritis.
There are herbs that have been used for centuries for osteoarthritis, in which the efficacy is now being proven scientifically. Herbs geared towards this condition usually have strong anti-inflammatory and nutrient dense properties needed to reduce symptomatic debilitation associated with osteoarthritis. Remember that herbs are very powerful, so it is important to pay special attention to dosage amounts to prevent toxicity. It is also important to be mindful of any potential interactions if you are on medications. If you are unable to ensure safety on your own, it is better to consult with a natural health practitioner such as a holistic medical doctor or licensed naturopathic doctor who will prescribe the herbs, with regards to medication and condition safety.
Below you will find a few herbs that act to regulate osteoarthritic dis-ease.
Willow bark has been used as traditional medicine for relieving pain associated with osteoarthritis according to clinical studies .
Green tea serves as an essential anti-inflammatory in joint inflammation and increase cartilage protection.
Ginger is effective in relieving pain associated with osteoarthritis when consumed orally and may even decrease the risk for osteoarthritis-related disability.
Turmeric reduces pain, inflammation and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis according to scientific studies.
Boswellia serrata is also an anti-inflammatory and pain-reducer, which make it a favorite herb for osteoarthritis.
Devil’s claw has been traditionally used for arthritis for centuries. It has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties which soothe the joint discomfort of osteoarthritis.
Yucca has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties that make it a very effective natural treatment for osteoarthritis.
Other very important herbs for arthritis include: alfalfa, black cohosh, buckthorn, burdock, cat’s claw, sassafras, chaparral, comfrey, and parsley.
In African holistic medicine, arthritis is though to be caused by crystallized toxic waste from a dis-tasteful, dis-easing, constipating diet and earth minerals deposits in the joints. Food is powerful because it has compounds within it that can either heal or cause many inflammatory health problems. To enhance your anti-inflammatory mechanism, make the following changes to your diet.
Fresh vegetables, especially cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, kale, aloe vera, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli, which contain compounds that are good for building healthy joints
Fruits like cherry (juice), grapes (seeded), kiwi, pineapple, red beets, sweet potatoes and pigment-rich berries (which contain anthocyanidins that improve collagen production).
Complex whole grains in small amounts
For non vegans: eat organic deep sea fish which are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory
Nuts, oats, and seeds such as chia, hemp, psyllium seed, flax seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, oat bran, steel cut oats, and pecans to increase fiber and essential fatty acid intake
Lots of water to keep your joints moist and lubricated.
sugar, refined flour products, processed foods, fast foods, animal saturated fats, alcohol, hydrogenated oils, and smoking tobacco.
Other Lifestyle Changes
Joints tend to be affected by how strong the muscles and tendons are around them, especially in sports. One way of managing osteoarthritis is to exercise more, not excessively, to strengthen muscles that support particular joints. With better support from surrounding musculature, the joint health will improve tremendously.
Activities such as Tai chi and low impact Pilates are recommended. Like activities are effective in the strengthening of the muscles and tendons, which may in turn improve coordination and improve joint stability. Other exercises such as swimming and cycling increase blood flow to the joints helping with tissue repair on the joints. Check out our self care stretches blog, for more in depth exercises and stretches related to alleviating and preventing symptoms of this condition.
An additional lifestyle change to consider is losing weight if the BMI is above recommendation. This will reduce the burden of excess weight on your hip and leg joints.
Also, hot and cold hydrotherapy is important to consider as cold therapy works to reduce swelling and warm therapy works to improve blood flow to the affected joint.
To further potentiate improved joint health, ensure the intake of these nutrients: Vitamin C with bioflavinoids, calcium, magnesium, bromelain, Vitamin B complexes, potassium, Vitamin E, panthothenic acid, zinc, copper, manganese, glucosamine and chrondroitin.
Osteoarthritis is a debilitating dis- ease that can be managed and even prevented if proper precautions are taking. As used in ethno medicine, herbs, nutrition and lifestyle advances can help ease the pain, reduce the inflammation and most importantly save those joints before it leads to debilitation. Even if you have failed to prevent the onset of osteoarthritis, you can stop its progression and possibly reverse it through the use of the holistic recommendations mentioned in this blog.
Consistency is key so find a regimen that your body responds to positively and work towards healthy outcomes to keep the cycles of mentality, spirituality and physicality intact and in working order.
Balch, J., & Stengler, M. (2010). Prescription for Natural Cures. Newark: John Wiley & Son
Dunphy, L. (2015). Primary care.
Fitzgerald, M. (2017). Nurse practitioner certification examination and practice preparation(5th ed.).
Gladstar, R. (2009). Rosemary Gladstar's herbal recipes for vibrant health. Pownal, Vt.: Storey.
Morrison, W., Medical News Today, Everything You Need to Know About Osteoarthritis, 2017.
Thomson, D., Everyday Health, 13 Natural Treatments for Ostoarthritis.
Robinson, KM., WebMD, Alternative Treatments for Knee Arthritis.