When all is well, you wouldn’t know that every movement of your body involves your joints. They bend in many different ways, depending on their function, and allow you to flex, extend, twist, or simply move forward. But when your joints are not well, you will know because every movement creates pain and discomfort. This is called arthritis. Arthro- refers to the joints and -itis denotes inflammation.
Arthritis is a process that can start quite early in life and take years to create enough damage in your joints to become discernible on imaging tests. Many factors contribute to arthritis. But it is not something that happens to everyone by default as we age. That’s a myth! It is also something that can be improved with the right approach, so you don’t have to resign yourself to a restricted lifestyle, constant medications and, possibly, surgery.
Let’s take a look at the most common ways in which arthritis develops: malalignment in your musculoskeletal system, sometimes caused by muscular imbalance or weak ligaments; poor healing after an injury, fracture or surgery; infections that attack joints, in particular caused by microbes associated with Lyme; dysregulation of your immune system that leads to autoimmunity, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, etc.; and chronic inflammation in your entire body associated with gut dysfunction. Often, more than one of these mechanisms is at work.
With so many possibilities, it’s obviously important to thoroughly investigate. We need to gather a comprehensive history of your health, often going back many years and including events that initially seem to have no connection to your health concern. Sometimes, various blood labs and imaging tests can provide additional information, but they should not be blindly relied upon because they are often less meaningful than you think. Your clinical picture must be the foundation of any diagnosis.
Since I take an integrative approach when working with my patients with pain and joint dysfunction, I pay special attention to your lifestyle. The focus initially is on identifying nutritional habits that can cause inflammation in your body and lead to arthritis as well as numerous other health problems. Fortunately, once we find out what habits or specific foods might be culprits, you yourself can make the necessary changes to find out what’s helping to make you feel better. Together, we will implement an anti-inflammatory nutrition approach. No drugs, no surgery!
Once we have a better understanding of how nutrition and lifestyle affect your joint health, we may decide to add several nutritional supplements and botanical prescriptions to your regimen. That’s where it gets a little more complicated, and working with a holistically oriented doctor can be very helpful. The market is flooded with advertisements for joint health supplements, and it’s hard for the consumer to know what really works and how much to take.
As a doctor of Chinese medicine, I am well versed in the use of Chinese herbal prescriptions to treat pain and support healing in the body. After many years of intense study and clinical practice, I have a good understanding of the usefulness of phytotherapy in the treatment of many different health concerns and can guide you in the selection and implementation of herbal therapy. Natural products are generally much more complex in their biochemistry than pharmaceuticals, and we have evolved with them over thousands of years, so that their use to treat illness is often much safer and not accompanied by the many short-term and long-term side-effects of drugs. Real healing can occur!
Chinese medicine is a holistic approach to healing. We take the whole person into consideration. That means we don’t narrowly focus on your knee joint that’s hurting but look at the whole picture of your mental-emotional and physical health, even the environment you live in. We also think integratively and try to look at you and your health challenges from many different angles and employ a range of different strategies and therapies. This can include energy medicine like acupuncture, manual therapy, external applications of herbal medicines, medicinal teas, foods as medicine, exercise and mind-body techniques like meditation.
Most importantly, this approach puts you in the driver’s seat. You can decide how much time and effort you want to dedicate to your healing journey, and you will reap the benefits accordingly.
© 2018 Christiane Siebert