Arthritis is a health condition characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, and associated discomfort. It can affect various parts of the body, including the knees, hands, wrists, hips, and back. Since millions of people have some form of this condition, and it can greatly impact their everyday lives, those diagnosed understandably want to learn about any possible treatment options.
The Impact of Arthritis
Arthritis is a general term for any condition that affects the joints. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis affects millions of people. In fact, the nonprofit Arthritis Foundation estimates more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some form of the condition, and states it is most prevalent "among women and occurs more frequently as people get older.
Types of arthritis include:
- Osteoarthritis: A degenerative condition that causes the cartilage in the joints to break down over time
- Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the lining of the joints.
- Gout: A type of arthritis that is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints.
- Psoriatic arthritis: A type of arthritis that is associated with the skin condition psoriasis.
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis: A type of arthritis that affects children under the age of 16.
- Ankylosing spondylitis: A type of arthritis that affects the spine.
- Septic arthritis: A type of arthritis that is caused by an infection in a joint.
Symptoms of arthritis:
The most common symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness. Other symptoms may include:
- Decreased range of motion
- Weight loss
Treatment for arthritis
There are standard or typical treatments that can help to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life for those suffering with arthritis. Treatment options vary depending on the type of arthritis and the severity of the symptoms.
Common treatments for arthritis include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Prescription pain relievers: Such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids
- Corticosteroids: These medications can reduce inflammation and pain.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These medications can slow the progression of the disease and improve symptoms.
- Biologic therapies: These medications are newer and more targeted treatments that can be effective for some types of arthritis.
Regardless of sex or age, arthritis can be difficult to live with. While some undergo traditional therapies and/or medications to help, others are open to considering natural remedies.
HBOT for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes severe swelling of the joint linings and is actually one of the most common types of arthritis you can suffer from.
As explained by the Arthritis Foundation, RA develops when the body's immune system is unknowingly attacking its joints, believing them to be "foreign substances like bacteria and viruses." This can cause inflammation in the joint linings, known as the synovium, and thus, result in discomfort in that area..
Those who do not receive the proper treatment for RA may experience cartilage and bone damage. Therefore, it's important to look for ways to avoid such an impairment from occurring.
The effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) as a treatment for RA has been examined for many years. In fact, as documented in a study from 1985 and shared by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, HBOT's utilization of highly pressurized, 100 percent pure oxygen could help reduce swelling and pain caused by RA.
More recent research has demonstrated similar results.
For example, a 2016 study published in the journal Undersea & Hyperbaric Medicine and also shared by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, concluded that HBOT usage among those with RA “may result in decreased joint pain, increased activity level, improvement in sleeping patterns and possibly a decreased need for standard rheumatologic medications, effectively reducing or avoiding the effects of immunosuppression.”
Hyperbaric Medical Solutions has seen positive results among RA patients since opening our doors in 2011. Specifically, we've noticed a significant decrease in inflammation in the joints and a decrease in pain, leading to an improvement in overall health and quality of life.
Other Natural Treatments for Arthritis
A study shared in 2014 by BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a peer-reviewed research journal, found that yoga could help “older women” with osteoarthritis of the knee. The average participant age was 72, and each joined an eight-week yoga program “involving group and home-based sessions or wait-list control,” it states.
“A weekly yoga program with home practice is feasible, acceptable, and safe for older women with knee OA [osteoarthritis], and shows therapeutic benefits,” it concludes.
Not only can massages encourage relaxation, but they can positively affect those with arthritis, specifically, knee osteoarthritis.
A 2012 study shared by the nonprofit Public Library of Science (PLOS) examined the effects of four “doses of tailored Swedish massage, varying both the time (30 vs. 60 minutes per treatment) and frequency (once a week vs. twice a week for the first month),” on those with knee osteoarthritis.
While the study recommended more research be conducted to further explore this topic, it did conclude: “This dose-finding trial established an optimal dose of 60-minutes of this manualized Swedish massage therapy treatment delivered once weekly in an eight-week protocol for OA [osteoarthritis] of the knee.”
The Centers for Disease for Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the importance of physical activity for those suffering from arthritis, explaining that “participating in joint-friendly physical activity can improve your arthritis pain, function, mood, and quality of life.” It further advises, however, to ensure you’re utilizing low-impact, or “joint-friendly,” movements.
“Joint-friendly physical activities are low-impact, which means they put less stress on the body, reducing the risk of injury,” continues the agency, listing among such exercises, “walking, biking and swimming.” Other activities that build strength, such as weight-lifting, and increase flexibility, such as yoga, can also be beneficial, it adds.
*Before you try any or all of these therapies to help your arthritis, consult with a licensed medical professional beforehand to learn about any potential risks involved and ensure they are the most optimal treatment options for you.
Written by Alan Katz, MD, FUHM, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Alan Katz, National Medical Director of Hyperbaric Medical Solutions (HMS), is double board certified in Emergency Medicine and Hyperbaric Medicine. He directs clinical operations, as well as education and research initiatives for HMS, particularly in exploring the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy....Read More