One of the most common and debilitating conditions is late-stage arthritis. Osteoarthritis is defined as a degeneration of the joints causing stiffness, pain, and deformity and is differentiated from rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune type) and psoriatic arthritis (which occurs alongside the skin condition psoriasis). Osteoarthritis itself can further be broken down into several distinct disease processes that must be properly diagnosed in order to initiate the proper treatment.
Many if not all patients with chronic joint pain suffer from poor circulation, inflammation, or both. There are many causes of chronic inflammation and many successful treatments to counteract each individual cause. Removing inflammatory foods from your diet (sugar, trans-fats, alcohol), avoiding environmental and emotional toxicity, getting enough sleep – there is no question that these lifestyle choices help heal all disease by strengthening the body and increasing its resilience. Poor circulation is often a function of a sedentary lifestyle. Proper movement and rest is the axis through which your body builds and repairs itself. Without optimizing these aspects of lifestyle, chronic pain can be difficult to resolve completely. Compromised circulation and chronic inflammation are obvious factors in many cases of unremitting pain, however osteoarthritis has two additional disease processes that complicate the picture.
The degeneration associated with osteoarthritis is also called “wear and tear” and it is assumed that our bodies are breaking down due to age. Although true to a certain extent, this is an unsatisfactory explanation for arthritis pain as there are many exceptions to the rule. There are many a person of advanced age who simply do not suffer from arthritis, and others who show obvious signs of arthritis (be it a hunched back or knobby knuckles) yet not have any pain to speak of. More confounding is the younger adult whose x-rays show minor deterioration yet are riddled with pain. Inflammation and compromised circulation account for some of these discrepancies but actual wear and tear is mostly a factor of poor diet.
When our indigenous ancestors were successful in the hunt, they celebrated the bounty of nature by using every part of the animal, which often meant that the bones, with all their nutrient-dense connective tissue (ligaments, tendons), were cooked down into a broth that was consumed as a tonic. This broth would be filled with minerals and all the nutrient compounds necessary to rebuild our own connective tissue as it wears down. Unless you are making stocks in your crockpot on a regular basis, you are missing out on all of these nutrients every time you buy skinless boneless chicken breast. The treatment that corresponds to this cause of degeneration is the inclusion of these rich stocks in the diet or in supplementing with a high quality glucosamine supplement. For those who fall in this category, a noticeable reduction in pain will be apparent in weeks to months depending on the severity of the degeneration.
The second disease process, which is less commonly known and far more insidious, is called calcification. How your soft tissue becomes calcified will be the subject of the next post.