What is Osteoarthritis?
The term “arthritis” is very broad and simply means inflammation of the joints. There are many different types of arthritis; rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, lupus and fibromyalgia are just a few examples. One of the most common types of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear on a particular joint over time.
All joints are protected by a substance called cartilage. This helps the bones to slide over one another smoothly and without friction. When this cartilage wears away, the bones can begin to grind together, causing inflammation, stiffness, swelling and pain.
Osteoarthritis mainly affects the weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. It is more common in older people and people who are overweight.
Treatments for Osteoarthritis Knee Pain
Some of the most common conventional treatments for osteoarthritis knee pain include anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers and steroid injections. These treatments help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, but they do nothing to address the underlying cause of the disease. They also carry the risk of side-effects, especially when used over a long period of time.
In severe cases of knee osteoarthritis, surgery may be an option, but this carries its own set of risks, and does not always offer good relief.
Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis Knee Pain
Acupuncture may help to relieve knee osteoarthritis in a number of different ways:
- Acupuncture influences the central nervous system to relieve pain
- Acupuncture stimulates endorphin activity (endorphins are your body’s natural painkillers and also give a sense of general well-being)
- Acupuncture reduces inflammation to relieve stiffness, swelling and pain
- Acupuncture increases local circulation to promote healing
While acupuncture may not be able to repair cartilage that has already been damaged, it can offer relief from the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. It is safe for people of all ages, and can be used alongside your regular medication. Your acupuncturist will also be able to offer you dietary and lifestyle advice to help you to manage your condition better.
Managing Knee Osteoarthritis Naturally
If you have been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, there are many ways to manage your condition naturally. Some of these tips may also help to prevent you from developing osteoarthritis in the future.
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Anti-inflammatory diets are rich in whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy fats. Base you meals on whole grains such as brown rice or wholemeal pasta. Ensure that you are getting enough fruit and veg, especially leafy greens which are full of vitamins and minerals. Eat more healthy fats which can be found in oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon etc.), nuts and seeds, avocados and olive oil. Some spices, especially turmeric, are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, so use these to flavour your meals or consider taking a supplement.
Avoid eating too much meat, and if you do, choose organic produce which will have fewer toxins. Processed foods, fried foods and refined sugars can all contribute to inflammation and should be kept to a minimum.
Control Your Weight
Being overweight is known to contribute to osteoarthritis, as carrying around extra body mass can increase the pressure on your joints. Keeping your weight under control will not only help to prevent or improve osteoarthritis symptoms, but will protect you against a wide range of other health conditions too.
Exercising regularly can help you to manage your weight and relieve joint pain. It can also help to strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve flexibility, mobility and balance.
Choose low-impact exercises which will not put too much strain on your joints. Swimming, yoga and tai chi are all good choices, but even short, gentle walks will help.
Listen to Your Body
Many people find that their osteoarthritis pain is worse in cold or damp weather. If this is the case, make sure that you keep your knees warm throughout the autumn and winter. Applying heat packs or massaging in some warming cream or gel may also help to relieve stiffness and pain.
If your joint pain is worse in hot weather, or your joints feel very hot and swollen to touch, ice packs and cooling creams or gels may give you some relief. Listen to your body, and it will usually tell you what it needs.
If you are suffering from osteoarthritis knee pain, or joint pain of any kind, why not contact us to find out more about how acupuncture could help you?