Tag Archives: joint pain

Wristful Thinking: Natural care for aches and sprains

Those of you who regularly read my blog might have noticed that I didn’t have one last week. That is because I sprained my wrist last Wednesday and it was still too painful and inflamed last week to type. I seem to be recovering quite well and wanted to share with you some of things I am doing to speed my healing. I am lucky because I have access to so many health resources, so I have probably done more than most people can, but others could use even a portion of my treatment. And in addition to my natural treatments, I did get x-rays of my wrist to rule out a fracture.

Arnica flower

Arnica flower

The very first thing I did after being injured was take homeopathic arnica and apply an arnica gel topically.  Arnica is useful for pain, swelling and bruising, and it is my first step for any type of injury like this. I continued to take the arnica several times a day for a few days afterwards. I also took nutrients that the body can use in the formation of connective issues such vitamin C, manganese, zinc and silica. I am also using inflammation-modulating herbs with Boswellia being the lead herb. Boswellia is actually frankincense and it inhibits inflammatory mediators in the body, while not irritating to the stomach like some over the counter pain relievers do. It is also mildly pain relieving while being thought to help preserve the cartilage in our joints. The pain was so bad the first two days I did take two of the pain pills I was prescribed, but after that I could manage the pain with herbs, appropriate activity and the following physical therapies.

In addition to supplements, I employed several different types of physical medicine. I used Enertropic Therapy  to open up the energy pathways in my body and help speed up healing. Enertropic Therapy is one of the healing modalities offered at Harrison Optimal Health in Harrison, Arkansas where I work once a week. Dr. Ali Racheotes, DC of Sports Chiropractic Acupuncture did very gentle adjustments of my wrist and the rest of me. She also used cold laser therapy on my wrist to help reduce pain. I am doing contrast hydrotherapy on my wrist since the first 24 hours. This involves soaking my hand in hot water for 3 minutes followed by a minute in cold water. This is repeated two more times ending on cold and is done once or ideally twice a day. The alternating hot and cold water pushes stagnant fluids out of the affected area and can help reduce pain and inflammation. Finally, I am doing passive range of motion exercises where I am gently moving my wrist using my other hand, but it is best to discuss with your doctor or physical therapist how and when to do these.

It has only been a little more than a week, but so far I am healing well. I can’t wait to be back to back to normal so I can do all of my regular activities like blogging, gardening, cooking and canning.

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Basic Herbal First Aid

During the summer, we tend to be more active, but as my legs can attest, we are also more prone to injuries like burns, cuts, bites, and poison ivy. So, here are some of the natural first aid remedies that I always keep around my house.

Arnica montana, both oral and topical, is the first thing I grab for any injury that involves bruising or swelling. When used right away it can reduce the severity of pain from sprain and bruises as well as seeming to shorten the healing time. I have also found arnica to be helpful for pain from overdoing it.

If I have a cut or scrape, I apply a salve that contains herbs like calendula and comfrey to help speed the healing of the skin. Calendula helps reduce inflammation and stimulates tissue healing while also being mildly antimicrobial. Comfrey shares most of these traits while also being soothing to the skin in a similar way to aloe. Comfrey has such a reputation for speeding up healing that it is not recommended for use on deep wounds, because it can cause the skin to heal before the underlying tissues do. Comfrey is also applied topically to relieve pain and speed healing of sprains and broken bones. If you want to learn how to make a comfrey poultice, check out these instructions from learningherbs.com.

symphytum-officinale

Comfrey

 

In addition to the common favorite aloe for minor burns, I usually either add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the aloe I am applying. It is correct that you are not supposed to put oil on a burn, but essential oils are not actually oils. While it has an oily texture, lavender oil evaporates quickly and therefore helps to rapidly cool the burned skin, while regular oil would trap the heat.

For insect bites and poison ivy, early application of clay can be very useful. I have been using bentonite clay but any kind will do. For the summer, you can mix up a small batch of clay using just enough water to make a thick paste and store it in the refrigerator well covered for handy access. Clay works by absorbing toxins from the skin, and I have found it to relieve the itch of poison ivy fairly quickly if I apply it for one to two hours every day for a few days. Activated charcoal can be used in a similar fashion for bites and wounds. I always have activated charcoal capsules on hand to help with issues like food poisoning too. Activated charcoal can help by absorbing some of the toxins that harmful bacteria release into our digestive tract, thereby helping to reduce the severity of symptoms.

So stocks up on some of these basic items and have fun staying well this summer.

Fight Inflammation

Whether we are exercising or doing work that keeps us physically active, sometimes we pay for it afterwards with muscle and joint pain. One day, I spent so much time sanding down a deck for painting that I woke in the night with my hands throbbing. A middle of the night dose of homeopathic arnica helped ease my pain enough that I could go back to sleep. Even though the arnica helped, I have since figured out to take inflammation-modifying herbs before I go to bed so I don’t get woken up.

Two of my favorite herbs for inflammation are turmeric and devil’s claw. Since I rarely have much pain, I just take them as needed. Other people use them regularly, but since devil’s claw is environmentally threatened, I prefer another approach for long-term pain. Especially for joint pain, consider fish oil and arabinogalactans. Fish oil takes a while to work, so you have to stick with it and take a sufficient dose. Make sure you are getting 1000 mg of the actual omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. It usually takes 2-4 softgels of fish oil to get this amount. Don’t be fooled just because the bottle says 1000 mg of fish oil per softgel. It is fish oil, but fish oil has other components in addition to the omega-3s. Arabinogalactan is an extract from larch trees and comes in a powdered form. These larch arabinogalactans are very similar to the active components in Echinacea, making arabinogalactans a good choice for their immune boosting properties. Additionally, arabinogalactans help fight inflammation and may reduce joint pain. Proper use of natural supplements like these may help ease the sometimes painful side effects of an active life.

Post Workout Replenishers

Exercise is one of the best ways we can improve our health, longevity, and overall feeling of vitality. Since exercise increases breathing and circulation, more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the tissue and waste products are removed more quickly. Exercise also relieves stress and enhances well-being. These warm, near summer, days are great ones to renew your commitment to stay fit and be healthier. But no matter the time of year, it is important to replenish the body after exercise.

For most of us, we need to exercise at least 30 minutes daily for five to six days per week. To help meet a weight loss goal, increase this to an hour. After your workout, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to drink a high sugar electrolyte beverage. This is a way that many people mindlessly add unneeded sugar and calorie to their diets. Unless we exercise for over an hour, we probably mostly need to rehydrate ourselves. For hydration, choose water or coconut water. I swear I feel more hydrated after drinking coconut water, and it is fairly low sugar and packs a lot of potassium. Potassium is an important electrolyte that many Americans don’t get enough of already. The more we sweat, the more electrolytes we lose, so for more intensive workouts or hotter days, we may need to replace some of our sodium too. Try adding a pinch of salt to coconut water or diluted fruit juice.

For longer workouts where you need a calorie boost, eat bananas or dried fruit. Recent studies have shown these types of foods to be effective for sustaining performance and electrolyte balance in athletes. Since they are whole foods, they offer other benefits like fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. If you are working out to increase muscle mass, a small amount of protein after exercise may be helpful. Supplements like Vitamin C and glutamine may help speed recovery. Finally, turmeric and magnesium supplements may help reduce post exercise joint and muscle pain.

So get out there, be active, and be smart about it!

Fresh coconuts

Black Cohosh for Perimenopausal Symptoms

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to natural interventions for relief of menopausal symptoms. This is partially due to the fact that not every intervention is useful for every woman. What helps one woman might not be effective for her sister. The intervention needs to be matched to the unique symptom picture of the woman. A good example of this is black cohosh. This herb is found in nearly every blend for menopausal symptoms, but this herb isn’t the one that will help everyone. It is most likely to help women that have a particular constellation of symptoms, such as hot flashes, depression, and achy muscles or joints. Studies are showing that black cohosh may reduce the hormone surges associated with hot flashes. Black cohosh might also have constituents that act similarly to the medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which could explain its possible mood benefits. In addition to this, studies on SSRIs for menopausal symptoms showed a reduction in the number of hot flashes.

Black cohosh also has pain-relieving attributes that make it an herb to choose for complaints not related to menopause. It has analgesic and inflammation modulating constituents that make it a consideration for joint and muscle pain. It can relax muscles and help with muscle spasms. It can be used for women with menstrual cramps because it relaxes smooth muscles such as in the uterus. Again, the herb is more matched to women who have the combination of cramps, mood issues, and body pain. It may also help with headaches that are related to hormonal issues. Black cohosh is also an herbal option for men who have low back and knee pain, especially if they also have prostate issues or a lot of stress. Side effects are occasionally reported with black cohosh. The most common one is a headache that can be alleviated by adding ginger.

Help for Arthritis Pain

I am not yet 40 years old, but I have already started to notice some creaking in my joints, particularly in a shoulder I injured years ago. So I was not surprised to read that by age forty, 90% of people are already showing signs of osteoarthritic joint changes on x-rays even if they are not experiencing pain. Normally, the body uses an enzyme to make glucosamine, a major building block of joint cartilage, but as we age this enzyme might become less active. Then the rate of joint rebuilding might not keep up with the rate of cartilage breakdown, and when cartilage breaks down, we can experience arthritis pain from the lack of proper cushion between our bones. Many people use pain relievers like ibuprofen for this pain, but these NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) actually tend to inhibit cartilage-repairing enzymes and might be speeding up the deterioration of joints when used regularl

Fortunately, there are alternative that can help ease pain without having these possible side effects. Glucosamine is one of the best selling supplements in the United States, and it has the scientific studies behind it to validate this popularity. When compared to ibuprofen in studies, the patients on ibuprofen get faster results, but by four weeks the patient take glucosamine have better pain control than those on ibuprofen. Glucosamine sulfate is considered to be the best form of glucosamine. It has excellent absorption, and the sulfur also benefits the joints by helping to stabilize the connective tissue matrix of cartilage. Sulfur also may inhibit enzymes that lead to cartilage destruction in arthritis. Another sulfur containing supplement is MSM, which stands for methylsulfonylmethane. In addition to being a sulfur source, MSM has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that can help reduce joint pain. Some glucosamine blends also contain chondroitin sulfate, a large complex molecule made from glucosamine. There are some good studies on the use of chondroitin for arthritis pain, but chondroitin has poor absorption compared to glucosamine and might only be absorbed after it is broken down to glucosamine.