When addressing any disease, it is crucial for us to focus our attention on repairing the causes of the disease, rather than just the symptoms, otherwise the disease will remain. While treating the symptoms may cause their cessation, it is only temporary. They will return so long as the underlying factors are not addressed.
Entering the System
When it comes to most diseases, including arthritis, there are essentially two ways of entering treatment -- through conventional or natural medicine. While it is possible to combine these approaches, the priorities and methods associated with the treatment protocols of each vary greatly. I encourage as many people as possible to enter the system through a naturopathic or acupuncture physician, especially if prevention is your key concern Natural treatments address the underlying imbalances that cause tissue degeneration with potential of prevention and reversal. When you enter the system from the natural side, you have a much better chance of handling your illness thoroughly and permanently while creating improved health in the long run. Perhaps the most valuable thing to keep in mind on your journey with arthritis is the importance of embracing natural methodologies as soon as possible. If you wait too long, you run the risk of not being able to reverse the disease to a point where you regain enough functionality to enjoy life. The power is yours, as is the ability, and you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.
The Route of Conventional Treatment
People who begin to experience stiffness or discomfort in their knees and hips, or a loss of range of motion, commonly see a physician for advice. In many cases, x-rays are taken to evaluate joint degeneration, and signs of a problem are usually found. This typically leads to a rapid surge of treatments even prior to the real cause of the problem being identified. Daniel Nuchovich, M.D. says, "Many doctors rush in with colorful pills and recommendations for surgery before the cause is actually determined; this practice is a disservice to anyone with arthritis."
The issue with using x-rays or MRIs to diagnose arthritis is that studies show a very poor correlation between radiographic evidence of joint changes and loss of function. Pain specialist Dr. Dillard shared with me that the vast majority of his patients who exhibit arthritis on radiographic images are actually pain-free. The research demonstrates that many people with degenerative joint disease on x-rays do not suffer from any disability, and likewise many who complain of problems have normal radiographs, but this is rarely explained to the patient. Instead radiographic "proof" of joint disease usually leads to immediate prescriptions for anti-inflammatory drugs, and recommendations for possible surgical intervention depending on the level of pain. The dreaded pronouncement of "bone on bone," of course, sends you right to the surgery suite. One prescription medication is generally not the end, others are soon added. Some medications may agree with you while others may not, and there is typically a trial and error process. Worse is that you may be on other medications for another disease. In this event, the introduction of an additional pharmaceutical creates a new biochemical dynamic that could result in the need of yet another drug to address the side effects of the initial one.
Meanwhile, unless steps are being taken to institute dietary and exercise therapy, the tissues continue to degenerate, and the arthritis advances. The conventional route is a frightening and dangerous prospect that leads to an almost certain demise, including becoming and arthritis patient for life. We know that it doesn't have to be this way; living a healthy, balanced life and making natural health protocols a priority go a long way in preventing and eradicating arthritis.
The Route of Natural Treatment
Natural therapies have existed for many thousands of years -- far longer than our modern medical technologies. In today's medical community, you will hear these therapies called "complementary," for the reason that they serve as a complement to modern applications. This points to an incorrect belief that modern Western medicine is the "best" and "most important" form of medicine, and should be the primary form for the diseases that ail us. This couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, eating natural foods, utilizing natural therapies and living as naturally as possible, free from toxic influences, are the only ways to actually "cure" the lifestyle diseases that plague most Americans at this time.
Natural therapies such as acupuncture, massage and dietary therapy are customs and techniques deeply rooted in ancient history and should be recognized by everyone in our society as essential for a healthy, long, pain-free life. With this recognition, these therapies can assume their rightful place in out currently ailing healthcare system.
The terms "integrative health" and "integrative therapies" are two that I would suggest are more appropriate for evolving a healthcare system with true power and integrity -- one that recognizes the obvious limitations of modern medicine but recognizes and advocates the tremendous value of natural medicine. A system like this would promote a healthier society overall and would also be sustainable for humanity, rather than just self-interested corporations and systems. We are talking about the lives of human beings here, and until we collectively see how far we have strayed from nature, and how much it is harming us, we will not change our situation.
Speaking of which, when embarking upon an arthritis treatment program through a natural practitioner such as a Naturopathic physician, a Doctor of Acupuncture, a Doctor of Osteopathy or Chiropractor there is one thing that is consistently the same. Nearly all of these practitioners begin their analysis and eventual treatment of your illness with a comprehensive health and nutritional profile, including appropriate testing. All of these medical professionals are interested in treating the whole person, not just one area of the body. The training for these professions is deeply rooted in the foundational concept that a person's illness cannot be separate from the person itself, and that illness almost always results from mental, emotional, spiritual and physical disease. Dr. Yeshe Donden, world-renowned Doctor of Tibetan Medicine and former physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, "Health is the proper relationship between microcosm, which is man, and the macrocosm, which is the universe. Disease is a disruption of this relationship." Indeed, this is the belief held by natural medicine practitioners.
"We need to think about our spirit in the treatment of arthritis and pain. When we are doing the things we love, following our passion, and our lives are relatively balanced and not too stressful, we are creating a healthy environment for our body. When we are not following the path that we believe we should, it causes a lot of internal stress," said Chinese Medicine Doctor of Acupuncture Peter Bongiorno, N.D., L.Ac. "In Chinese Medicine, the heart spirit affects all the other organ systems and stops things from working properly, and this can create issues later on that we are pre-disposed to, like arthritis."
Bongiorno continued, "I always ask people if they are doing the things that they love, if their relationships are healthy, and if not, what steps can be taken to change those situations. I believe -- and have seen from my experience -- that the body tells us when our spirit isn't in alignment with how we are living; and when we take steps to do what makes our heart happy, our body responds."
This is a far different intake approach than on the allopathic side, which is mainly concerned with previous illnesses, surgeries and current medications. Can you see the difference already? A survey of doctors by Consumer Reports (Reported in Newsweek Magazine) said that 70 percent of doctors reported that the bond with their patients has eroded since they began practicing medicine. (cite) At the heart of the problem, says doctors, is the managed-care revolution of the 1980s and 1990s, which resulted in lower reimbursements to doctors, making it necessary for them to slash the amount of time spent with their patients in order to see more patients per day (and make the same amount of money). Findings have estimated that on average, patients can expect outspend no more than 10 to 16 minutes with their doctor, with an average around 7 minutes!