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Managing Your Arthritis Flareups

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

Most people are familiar with the term arthritis, which may conjure up images of twisted, knobby fingers or achy knees, but did you know there are over 100 different types of arthritis? Learn how acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can addresses the specific types of arthritis known to induce flare-ups, which are sudden escalations in the severity of symptoms.

Some arthritic conditions that are prone to flare-ups:

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)--a chronic, autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks joint tissue. The synovial fluid that encases the joints thickens due to inflammation. This can cause pain and structural deformities. Other symptoms include fatigue and fever.

Osteoarthritis (OA)--also called degenerative joint disease. When cartilage, the protective cushioning found between the bones, starts eroding away, symptoms of OA may result. This can cause pain, visible swelling and difficulty moving the afflicted joint.

Psoriatic arthritis--a particular type of arthritis associated with the skin condition psoriasis. The most common symptoms include joint swelling, redness and pain. Severe cases may result in misshapen joints.

Often the reason behind a flare-up is obvious. Dampness pervading the air before a rainstorm or overusing arthritic joints may trigger symptoms. Other times, the exact cause remains a mystery. However, no matter the origin of a flare-up, acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can help.

According to the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine there are 8 different sets of advice or branches one must follow in order to live a healthy and balanced life. The first 6 branches offer strategies which patients can put into practice at home.

The 8 Branches are:

  1. Meditation--allows the mind to recuperate from the stresses of the material world. Traditional meditation entails a set of formal practices, but the important concept is to make time to be in silence and contemplation. A quiet space with gentle or dim lighting can be a much needed sanctuary. Even a few minutes of concentrating on the breath can change the perception of physical and mental pain and provide emotional relief.

  2. Exercise--an excellent way to unblock stagnant energies in the body. Many types of arthritic flare-ups cause swollen joints. To increase body fluid movement to those areas, exercises that include slow, continuous motions are suitable. Qigong is one such practice which utilizes gentle stretches that benefit achy joints and tone the body.

  3. Nutrition--when experiencing a flare-up, it is best to eat bland foods to avoid additional inflammation. This means cutting out the alcohol, sugary snacks, heavily spiced foods and anything fried. Instead, opt for 3 or 4 small meals with an emphasis on vegetables, grains and a healthy protein. Salmon, tuna, trout, lean poultry and beans are an excellent choice. Garlic, turmeric and tart cherries possess properties which can address the symptoms of arthritis.

  4. Cosmology/Astrology--understanding of the self, being in tune with the natural cycles and knowing how to behave according to the season and daily rhythms can reduce the severity of a flare-up. Going to bed shortly after the sun goes down, (or at least in today's world hitting the hay before midnight), can help replenish the immune system with enough hours of high-quality sleep. During an acute arthritic attack, a healthy immune system is vital. Engaging in less physical activity during the winter and boosting your exercise during spring and summer is also beneficial.

  5. Geomancy--understanding one's place in the world scheme of things. This includes the country, culture and climate, as well as the home and work environment. Adapting one's behavior to suit the environment is the key. If OA flare-ups occur when the rain sets in, then adjustments such as a dehumidifier in the home may help assuage symptoms. If joints feel fiery and stiff when the thermometer starts skyrocketing, try applying cool, slightly damp cloth compresses to the problematic areas for 2-3 minutes at a time.

  6. Bodywork--refers to different kinds of massage and manual manipulations. A specialty of Oriental Medicine is a therapeutic massage style called tui na, which translates as 'pinching and pulling.' Tui na is especially efficient for reducing pain and inflammation associated with arthritic flare-ups. This is because it invigorates blood circulation and stimulates the immune system.

  7. Herbalism--when the regular daily diet is insufficient to meet an individual's nutritional needs, herbal formulas may be a necessary supplementation. A professional herbalist can recommend natural medicinal supplements that can help with managing arthritis flare-ups.

  8. Acupuncture--the insertion of fine needles into the body to promote healing. Acupuncture treatment has many benefits for all conditions, and can target specific areas of arthritic flare-ups to reduce symptoms and help manage the condition.

To learn more about acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for managing your arthritis flare-ups, contact an acupuncturist near you today!

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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