What condition includes over 100 specific diagnoses, affects 1 in 6 Canadians age 15 and up, and carries an annual cost to health care and the national economy of $33 billion?
Here are a few hints: it can affect any joint in the body, any person of any age, sex, or race, and there is no cure.
If you said Hockey Fever you get points for a good effort, but the correct answer is arthritis, a condition of the joints that impacts quality of life, ability to work, and may ultimately lead to permanent disability. It affects 1 in 6 Canadians now, but is expected to affect 1 in 5 in the next two decades, and someone affected by arthritis is ten times more likely to report reduction of activities than a healthy person.
There are a couple of clear truths in all of this: a) arthritis doesn’t discriminate, so each of us probably has it, will have it, or knows someone affected by it, and b) those we know are probably affected more than we realize. As noted above, there is indeed no cure, only life- long management. So the question becomes, “what is the most effective, least risky kind of management possible?”
Typical treatment involves managing pain and inflammation day to day by way of drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS, think aspirin or advil) and corticosteroids. Relief tends to be minimal in both impact and duration, and these options are not without side effects and other risks.
A more effective alternative is to take a naturopathic approach and focus on what’s causing the condition in the first place and support the body in healing and balancing itself. Are you, for instance, short of certain vitamins and minerals? An overzealous immune system is probably causing your body to attack itself, triggering inflammation. There are likely contributing causes that are not obvious at first glance, such as chronic infections, food allergies and other intolerances, hormone imbalances, or heavy metal toxicity. All of these can further rile up your immune system and generally put more stress on your body.
Your health and experiences are different from anyone else’s, diagnostic testing is used to identify which of these is affecting a persons immune system. With a clear image of what’s going on in your body and what it needs to function as well as possible, our naturopathic doctors tailor individual treatment plans to address these imbalances and treat the underlying cause.
Part of your tailored arthritis treatment may involve a treatment called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT).
Arthritic joints are typically low in oxygen due to increased demand and low blood flow. HBOT administers pure oxygen at pressures greater than you would normally experience, allowing your blood to transport significantly more of the life-giving gas by dissolving it in your plasma, the liquid portion of your blood.
There are many benefits to this, especially in light of what we know about oxygen in arthritic joints from the paragraph above. HBOT triggers the production of new blood vessels, hyper-oxygenates the body, including joints, and regulates certain kinds of cytokines – immune system messengers – to aid in balancing the immune system as a whole. HBOT does a lot more for your body. The few examples listed here are just the highlights for someone who suffers from arthritis in particular.
As far as the science is concerned, HBOT is proven to reduce the swelling and pain of arthritic joints in animals, and to be at least as effective as aspirin for symptom relief in humans, thanks to providing reduced inflammation and consequent greater range of movement and less pain.
Between understanding the why of your arthritis, balancing your body, and having treatment options such as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at your disposal, it’s possible to find long-term relief from arthritic pain and debilitation. Contact the clinic to set up a consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors and learn what treatments are most appropriate for you.