Inflammation of Joints

There are many degenerative diseases that involve our joints and their connective tissues. The causes of these afflictions are varied and include accidents, injuries, infections, hormone disorders, cancer, and aberrations of the immune system. Most of these conditions involving the joints can generate pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, increased warmth, or progressive limitation of motion.

The involvement of a single joint or of several joints may actually be a manifestation of systemic illness or caused by a disorder confined to the particular joint. It is crucial to consider all of the above possibilities in ascertaining the precise cause. Some disorders are self-limited and leave no residual handicap, whereas other illnesses become chronic and may lead to progressive joint destruction.

An initial step in evaluating painful diseases of our joints is to confirm whether the symptoms involve the joint itself or the structures around the joint. Bursitis, tendonitis, and cellulitis can usually be distinguished from actual joint disease, through the withdrawal of joint fluid with a sterile needle and syringe, and its examination under the microscope.

Accurately taken xrays are necessary to provide the most accurate diagnosis. Depression or anxiety often exists in conjunction with joint symptoms. Most of the time “psychogenic rheumatism” coexists without obvious signs of abnormalities in the muscles or bones.

Articular (joint) involvement manifests itself, however, by joint tenderness, increased warmth, redness, the collection of fluid in the joint, and restriction of motion. Sometimes in the knees, one feels a click or grating sensation with rapid movement. Be sure to look the body over in its entirety for other signs of disease. The eyes, the skin, any presence of fever, the blood pressure are all valuable indexes to a general state of health.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Of all forms of joint inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis is the most disastrous, destructive, and disabling. It may strike suddenly, then progress rapidly to an acute and seriously damaging stage. Although seven out of ten cases of rheumatoid arthritis occur between the age of 20 and 60, its onset could come at any time during life.

Frequently, it advances subtly and deceptively. The initial symptoms appear for a few days and go away, then come back later slightly worse. There may be weeks or months between goings and comings. Gradually the disease reappears at shorter intervals, until it is a daily problem, which cannot be ignored.

No two patients are quite the same. No one can say how any given instance is going to heal, except there will for certain be ups and downs. Physicians use the term remission to describe times when a disease seems to go away by itself. The pain, stiffness, and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis even in severe cases may suddenly subside and disappear for months or even years.

For about 25% of these fortunate individuals, it never comes back. Damage already done, though, does not miraculously disappear, even if the victim cannot tell by pain or other symptoms that the disease is still there. Moreover, his or her arthritis is likely to flare up again in the same insidious way that it first appeared.

People with rheumatoid arthritis can feel sick all over. The main targets of rheumatic disease are the joints of both hands, the arms, the hips, the knees, and the feet. People may be affected generally with fever, fatigue, and poor appetite. They may lose weight and develop anemia.

Occasionally the lymph glands or spleen may become enlarged. It is quite common for the arthritis patient to be troubled by coldness, trembling of the hands and feet, or excessive sweating. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects more than one joint. The joint first stiffens, then swells and becomes tender, eventually making its entire motion difficult and painful.

These symptoms are typically at their worst when the patient first arises in the morning. Pain and stiffness tend to get better after he or she has been up and moving for a while. Some patients develop small lumps under the skin, called rheumatoid nodules. These are usually at the elbows, knees, or ankles, and may be quite tender. Progressive damage may occur inside the joint.

Here is what happens. The area where two bones meet is enclosed, usually in a capsule that contains fluid. This joint capsule has an inner lining called the synovial membrane. The inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis starts here, swelling this membrane and spreading to other parts of the joint. An outgrowth of inflamed tissue invades the cartilage surrounding the bone ends, eventually eating it away.

Finally scartissue forms between the bones. Sometimes a scar transforms itself into actual bone, permanently fusing and rendering it immovable. While a joint is undergoing this destruction, muscle contraction can cause contracture and severe deformity. This is most apparent when the disease attacks the hands; the fingers can become so distorted that they are virtually useless.

Even though the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not completely known, scientists believe it is due to some type of a germ, possibly a bacterium or virus. The immune system is involved also, and harmful antibodies frequently form, attacking our own body tissues, in this case the joints.

The key to success in combating the long-term complications of rheumatoid arthritis is a treatment program begun early and carried out faithfully for a lifetime. The diet of the patient with rheumatoid arthritis is exceptionally important. Refined sugars, all sweets and excessive fats in the diet should studiously be avoided.

Meat intake should be curtailed and ultimately eliminated, as well as spices, condiments, and unnecessary food additives. It is worth trying to eliminate nightshade plants from the menu. These include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers. At least 20% of our patients have benefited from this restriction, especially with relief of joint pain.

The diet should be simple, of good quality, with a variety of natural foods, eaten at regular intervals. Adequate water intake is important to insure good hydration of joint tissues, as well as maintaining a vigorous circulation. As part of the treatment program, one should also find the ideal personal balance between rest and exercise.

This may vary from person to person depending upon how severely the disease process is raging. The acute stages of arthritis require more rest, while with improvement, exercise is most essential. Inflammation usually subsides with bed rest, but prolonged immobility can rapidly lead to stiffening and contracture of diseased joints.

Incorrect posture in standing, walking, sitting, or lying down puts unnecessary strain on inflamed joints. This is why guidelines for correct posture are part of the treatment. Rarely, an inflamed joint might be splinted to protect it from the abnormal pull of muscle spasm, yielding contractures that cause painful deformities.

Particularly is this important in the hands and fingers, to keep them functioning smoothly. Much of the crippling of rheumatoid arthritis develops because the painful joints are kept for long periods in what feels like a comfortable position. They then become frozen or stiffened, while muscles around the joint are weak from inactivity.

The way to keep your joints mobile is to move them. In rheumatoid arthritis an exercise prescription does not mean athletics, lifting heavy things, jogging, or any strenuous activity. Quiet exercises tailor-made for the problem must be performed every day, putting the joints through their full range of motion.

The muscles must be kept strong, so that the joints can function as they are meant to. The key word is balance. Too much rest can result in stiff joints and muscles. Too much exercise may damage joints. Physical therapists, as well as physicians may be helpful in outlining a program for rehabilitation.

Moist heat is relaxing and soothing to the inflamed joints. Various types and forms of heat are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. They all help joints to move better with less pain. Hot baths are useful for the larger joints, such as the hips, knees, or elbows. They may be given in the bathtub or kitchen sink, and usually will last 15-30 minutes at a time.

Hydrotherapy is the science of treating disease with water. Many clinics and hospitals have departments devoted to this medical specialty. Some physicians specialize in it. Hot packs, fomentations, heat lamps, and paraffin wax applications can all be used with success to treat specific joints for the relief of pain, spasm, and inflammation.

Also important is our disposition in preventing flare-ups of rheumatoid arthritis. Emotional upsets, tension states, depression, and sudden traumatic shock frequently aggravate the symptoms. Patients who already have this disease may actually get worse during periods of upset, then better when such stresses are relieved.

This is not to say that these psychological factors cause rheumatoid arthritis, but only that they may contribute to the problem in some way. Achieving peace of mind through trust in our all wise Creator, helps remove all causes for bitterness and grief. Cultivating a life of prayer and Bible study will greatly help the arthritis sufferer to regain health right at home.

Degenerative Joint Disease

Of the 17 million arthritis sufferers in the United States, over 10 million have degenerative types of arthritis. Sometimes called osteoarthritis, the degenerative joint disease occurs twice as often as rheumatoid arthritis and usually begins later in life. In fact, almost everyone will get “a touch of rheumatism” sooner or later, if he lives long enough.

Usually osteoarthritis is mild. It seldom cripples, but often produces pain. Weather changes, storms, and cold may aggravate the symptoms, making the sufferer somewhat of a weather prophet. This type of arthritis confines its attack locally to individual joints and rarely spreads to distant joints or affects the whole body.

Primarily osteoarthritis is a matter of “wear and tear” of the mechanical parts of the joint, the cartilage cushions wearing out as the patient becomes older. Most often affected are weight bearing joints, such as the knees, hips, or spine. One variety of this disease, which does not seem to have anything to do with strain on the joints, affects younger women.

The joints of the fingers are the chief points of attack, often showing bony enlargement on the hands, called Heberden‘s nodes. These can be quite painful. In the normal joint where two bones meet, their ends are covered with layers of smooth elastic material called cartilage. These surfaces are designed to slide smoothly across each other, lubricated by the joint fluid.

In osteoarthritis the bone ends become thicker, then bony spurs develop. The surrounding ligaments and membranes may also become thickened, changing the whole shape of the joint. Muscles in the region of the arthritic joint tend to become tense and contract unnaturally as a reflex reaction to pain. They may likewise become weak. Obviously when the mechanical system breaks down in this way, the joint is not going to work properly.

A number of causes can progress into osteoarthritis. Joints that take unusual punishment or abuse, such as the hips and knees of obese or overweight patients are likely to develop these changes. Joints injured in an accident or an athletic injury may also deteriorate early. Sometimes a hip defect is present at birth.

Inherited tendencies can predispose people to osteoarthritis. Fundamentally for most of us, this degeneration of tissue in the body is a normal process of aging. There is much we can do to protect these important structures and continue living free from pain. Although many people have x-ray changes characteristic of osteoarthritis without symptoms, most patients develop pain in or around the joint.

This may be mild aching and soreness, or a nagging constant pain. The pain of joint disease is caused by pressure on nerve endings, and by tense muscles and their rapid fatigue. Sometimes pain is felt at a distance from the joint where the trouble is. Second, one experiences the loss of ability to move his or her joints easily and comfortably. Usually part of the problem is an advancing muscular weakness.

Obvious distortion of the joints will develop later. X-rays often aid doctors to make a correct diagnosis. Early treatment is helpful to limit the troublesome symptoms. I place great importance on healthful mental influences. Recommended nutritional measures with a natural vegetarian diet are nearly identical to principles mentioned above for rheumatoid patients.

Chili-containing creams such as Zostrix are valued to quell the ache of chronic joint pain. Containing the ingredient, capsaicin, the cream appears to affect a chemical “pain messenger,” substance P, responsible for transmitting pain signals along nerve pathways to the brain.

The capsaicin cream, which burns slightly on the skin, triggers the release of substance P from the nerves in the area where it’s applied. Hot packs, special baths and other forms of external heat, combined with rest, and exercises to protect the joints from stress and strain, may all be helpful.

Most important for any overweight or obese patient, though, is a weight reduction program. Remember that osteoarthritis is a chronic disease and may last for life. This makes obvious the conclusion, for treatment must continue for a long time. Disability can nearly be prevented by early attention to the above simple measures.


Gout is an acutely painful form of arthritis, attacking at least one million victims in the United States. This disease usually results from an inherited defect in body chemistry. Uric acid, a normal body substance is either overproduced or delivered faster than the kidneys can get rid of it.

Great excesses of uric acid form needle-like crystals in joints, leading to severe inflammation. The affected joints become hot, swollen, and exquisitely tender. Although gouty arthritis can settle in almost any part of the body, the large joint of the big toe is attacked most commonly.

Your diet must be regulated to lower the uric acid intake. This can be done most naturally by eliminating meat and cola beverages, then substituting unrefined whole grain cereal foods, fruits and vegetables. The use of hot packs, or in the case of extremely acute inflammation ice packs, may reduce the inflammation and bring rapid resolution.

Also dangerous for patients with gout is the crystallization of uric acid in the kidneys. Actual stone formation can occur with the typical symptoms of colic in the ureter.

Occasional deposits of uric acid, called tophi, can occur in the skin around the ears, the hands, and the elbows. Strict control of dietary uric acid, elimination of alcohol and caffeine, and adequate fluid intake are good preventive measures. A physician should be consulted when difficulty arises.

Finally, it is important to emphasize a few major misconceptions about arthritis. First of all, arthritis can be a serious disease. It is very important to make an accurate diagnosis, particularly of the rheumatoid type. Many people are under the impression that nothing much can be done for arthritis. This is definitely untrue.

With early, proper, and continued treatment, a great deal can be done. A short stay in a lifestyle or wellness center for nutritional education, hydrotherapy, and diagnostic evaluation is well worth the time and money. Sometimes all progressive crippling can be prevented. Distortion of the joints, which has already occurred, may be greatly reduced if not corrected.

It is likewise not true that arthritis affects only old people. Some of the elderly were struck with arthritis when they were relatively young. Juvenile forms of rheumatoid arthritis are also known and rarely may be seen from infancy. Find out what kind of arthritis it is, then go to work in removing the cause, aiding nature in her valiant effort to combat this problem.

Warning Signs of Cancer

  1. Unusual bleeding or discharge.
  2. A lump or thickening in the breast, or elsewhere in the body, especially if new.
  3. Discovering a sore that does not heal.
  4. Any changes in bowel or bladder habits.
  5. Indigestion, or difficulty in swallowing.
  6. Hoarseness or cough, chronic & persisting.
  7. Any decided change in a wart or mole