Arthritis and Joint Pain: An Integrative Approach without Drugs

Using the holistic philosophy of medicine, we strive to integrate the best that conventional as well as complementary and alternative medicine has to offer. This means assessing the problem on the physical (structural, biochemical), mental/emotional (neurochemical, emotional), and energetic (spiritual) levels, then decide what treatment is best indicated. In the case of joint disorders, proper blending these therapeutic modalities in the treatment of inflammatory disorders, chronic pain, and arthritis is successful in relieving pain and preventing further degeneration.

Biochemical abnormalities encompass nutritional deficiencies, endocrine imbalances, or hypersensitivity of the immune system. Dietary imbalance or deficiency of essential fatty acids, such as omega-6 from evening primrose oil or omega-3 from flax seed or fish oils, leads to a pro-inflammatory state that increases the incidence of arthritis. This is worsened by high insulin levels caused by intake of refined carbohydrates. Vitamin C, lysine, zinc, and others are crucial to the synthesis of connective tissue. Deficiencies impair normal repair mechanisms in the joints.

Endocrine problems (deficiencies of thyroid or adrenal hormones) can also lead to joint pain or arthritis. Stress elevates cortisol output from the adrenals, which suppresses DHEA. Since cortisol is catabolic (meaning it breaks down tissue) and DHEA is anabolic (meaning it promotes repair of tissue), this altered state can also increase tissue damage while also altering immune function.

Very commonly, food or mold allergies can cause inflammation of the joints, muscles, or connective tissue, leading to arthritis or fibromyalgia.  These allergies often develop from intestinal dysbiosis. In this condition, antibiotics, corticosteroids, birth control pills, or a diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates alters the composition of the bacteria in the gut, favoring the growth of yeast, such as Candida albicans, anaerobic bacteria, and parasites. These pathogenic organisms damage the intestinal lining and affect the immune system.  Mold and food particles more easily pass through the lining, sensitizing and up-regulating the immune tissue around the intestine. The resulting antibodies and immune complexes circulate throughout the body, causing inflammation wherever they end up. This process has been implicated in causing rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondilitis, two inflammatory joint diseases. It is important to recognize and treat the intestinal dysbiosis, then heal the intestinal lining, as well as eliminating the offending allergens. At times, desensitizing these allergies with an immunotherapy technique, such as “provocation-neutralization” can eliminate the swelling, pain, and inflammation in the joints.

Natural herbal or nutritional supplements are often prescribed to arrest the inflammation and stimulate the healing process. In addition to correcting the imbalances mentioned previously, several substances and herbs can modify the inflammatory process or accelerate joint repair. Glucosamine has been the most popular. It stimulates chondrocytes (cartilage cells) and is a building block of connective tissue. Chondroitin helps by pulling water and nutrients into the joint space, improving shock absorption. Neither one is effective at inhibiting inflammation which is the reason that only about 50% of those taking the supplements get results. By contrast, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (the drugs most often prescribed for all forms of arthritis and joint pain) block cartilage repair and hasten the degeneration of the joint, necessitating surgical replacement.

MSM (organic sulfur) reduces inflammation and acts as a cell membrane stabilizer. This reduces the amount of irritating cellular debris in the joint and can relieve pain quickly. A concentrated ginger extract is one of the most consistently effective supplements. It has dual-action as an inhibitor of the enzymes that create inflammation and tissue destruction, while promoting the chemical messengers that promote cartilage repair. Other herbs, including cat’s claw, devil’s claw, cayenne (capsaicin), cetyl myristoleate, green-lipped mussel, boswellia, as well as proteolytic enzymes have also been used for their anti-inflammatory effect with excellent results.

While we refer to other practitioners for these therapies, we find them to be effective in certain instances. Structural abnormalities may require chiropractic adjustments, massage, prolotherapy, or referral for physical therapy to correct. Regular treatments may be preventive as well. Neurochemical imbalances can be balanced with neural therapy. Energetic or electromagnetic blockages can be balanced using acupuncture.

Natural pain management therapies we use at the Center, include Mesotherapy, low level laser, and TENS-CAM. Combined with targeted natural remedies, mesotherapy can be a profound method to restore balance and stimulate the body’s inherent healing mechanisms. These innovative, effective treatments are geared to correct the underlying causes while effectively relieving the symptoms of pain and loss of mobility, unlike conventional medicine which often uses a palliative approach (i.e. symptomatic relief). To produce optimal, long-lasting results, it may be necessary to utilize several of these approaches. It may take a little more time and effort at the beginning but the long-term health benefits are well worth the trouble!

Recommended Reading:

DMSO by Dr. Morton Walker

The MSM Miracle by Dr. Earl Mindell

Lifetime Arthritis Relief System  by Marshall Mandell, M.D.