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Health Corner
By Julene Tripp Weaver

Learning more about Arthritis and Joint Pains

Why an article about arthritis? Its getting more predominant in people living with HIV and AIDS, especially since it is one of the side effects of the Protease Inhibitors. Many more people are getting early pain and swelling in their joints, and this side effect is not linked to a specific type of arthritis. One of my theories on AIDS is that it is an early aging process, so anyone living with HIV who has a family history of arthritis has good reason to learn more and be prepared. As my article on Tylenol pointed out taking a pill to stop pain may actually make matters worse. The common treatment doctors advise are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include Tylenol, aspirin, and Ibuprofen. These over-the-counter medications treat the symptom but eventually cause damage. In fact, the many drugs used to treat arthritis have not been found to be safe; all produce mild to serious side-effects, and NSAIDs cause more than ten thousand fatalities a year in the U.S. alone from gastrointestinal bleeding, according to the Food and Drug Administration.(1) It is important to find long term solutions, and alternative treatments, that work towards healing aggravated joint pains.

In my research I learned that protease inhibitors are counterindicated in people who have hemophilia. This is because they cause internal bleeding around the joints. Obviously these medications are affecting joints, but it is not yet understood why.

Arthritis is specifically defined as joint inflammation. However pain in the bones, joints, muscles, tendons or nerves could also be rheumatoid arthritis, gout, bursitis, neuritis or sciatica. All of these conditions have mineral imbalances in the affected tissues. Arthritis may also be triggered by chronic states of anxiety and tension.

Three major forms of arthritis:
is the most common, eighty percent of people over the age of fifty have this form of arthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease that starts commonly in ages under 45 for men and over 45 for women. Daily wear and tear on joints, or a sports injury, can cause stress that causes damage to the cartilage. Obesity can be a contributing factor because of the extra stress on joints. As we age we do not have the same ability to restore cartilage; enzymes that are needed to repair cartilage are no longer produced by the body at a high enough frequency to stop the damage.

The onset of osteoarthritis is slow, starting with stiff joints in the mornings and progressing to pain when the joints are in motion. There is very little inflammation in this kind of arthritis. It can porgies to a severe form where the cartilage is destroyed, as it degenerates the cartilage itself begins to release enzymes that are self destructive. The cartilage then hardens and bone spurs can grow causing deformation and limitation of motion.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory auto-immune condition that is common in the hands, feet, wrists, ankles and knees. It can affect many joints often with a symmetrical swelling involving the same joint on both sides of the body. This is different from osteoarthritis which is not symmetrical and can affect only one wrist or one ankle. RA is marked by periods of worsening and improvement (exasperation and remissions). It can occur at any age. The synovial membranes of the joints become warm, tender, swollen, and the skin turns a ruddy purplish color. In this auto-immune condition antibodies develop against components of joint tissues. It develops in one to three percent of the population and has a higher rate in women.

The onset of rheumatoid arthritis is gradual, causing fatigue, low-grade fevers, weakness, and joint stiffness. Vague joint pain may precede the appearance of painful, swollen joints by many weeks.

Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused by an increased level of uric acid in body fluids (urine, blood, lymph, and joint fluid). When uric acid crystals are deposited in tissues they cause inflammation and damage. This disease occurs primarily in men who are over the age of thirty. It is a genetic disease because of an inherited inability to deal with a product of cell breakdown called purines. Over-eating, stress, and trauma also can trigger gout.

Dietary measures are important to treat any form of arthritis.
Foods that aggravate arthritis: Foods that are safe to eat: Other introductions to diet and alternatives for joint pain: Herbal therapy will help to reduce swelling (burdock), reduce inflammation (burdock or devil's claw), produce sweating to excrete toxins in the tendons and joints (sassafras), stimulate circulation to penetrate blockages and help with antispasmodic properties (ginger). Poultices with cabbage or comfrey will stimulate circulation and encourage healing.

I found this recipe and pass it on without knowing anyone who has tried it. Cayenne can burn so if you try this please be careful, try a small amount in a small area for a short time period to make sure it does not aggravate your skin; A cayenne-vinegar liniment is effective for pains of arthritis and rheumatism (and can be used for lung congestion). To prepare, simmer one tablespoon of cayenne pepper in one pint apple-cider vinegar or rice-wine vinegar for ten minutes in a covered container; bottle hot and unstrained. Apply on the injured site without rubbing too much.(4)

There are many alternatives and herbal treatments that are helpful. It takes some time and research to find what is right for each of us. I hope this article gives you a good start to begin the search.

(1) Bergner, P. Ginger as an Anti-inflammatory, Medical Herbalism, Fall: 1993, Vol 5, No 3, pg 1.
(2) Bergner, P. Ginger as an Anti-inflammatory, Medical Herbalism, Fall: 1993, Vol 5, No 3, pg 1.
(3) Murray, Michael T. Natural Alternatives to Over-the-Counter and Prescription Drugs, NY, NY: William Morrow & Company, Inc, 1994, pg 80.
(4) Pitchford, Paul, Healing with Whole Foods Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition, Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1993, pg 355.

Revised January 18, 2004.

Disclaimer: Please be advised this is a sharing of information that is not meant to be used to replace medical treatment and your own intuitive sense of your body and what it needs. Please see your medical provider (Dr., Naturopath, Acupuncturist, etc.) to follow up on suggestions.