Dr. Nicholas Corrin
Here on San Juan Island I notice dozens of cases of arthritis every single day. Simply making a trip to the supermarket or to the post office, I see people shuffling around in obvious discomfort. The prevalence is hardly surprising: according to the CDC, over 52 million Americans have arthritis. Indeed, by the year 2030, it is projected that 25% of all adults over the age of 18 (67 million people) will have it. Arthritis is the leading cause of disabilities in our society, so it induces a huge financial burden for the taxpayer.
What causes arthritis? Why are we seeing such an epidemic? And what can be done about it?
Arthritis literally means inflammation of the joints, yet there are actually around 200 different types of arthritis. The most common is osteoarthritis, which is typically caused by wear and tear over the years. It will affect those joints which have been overused, or which have suffered prior injuries. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured by drugs. If the joint gets severely ground down (bone on bone), it may need replacing.
Other common types, such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (which deforms the spine) are caused by inflammation. Some of these, such as SLE (lupus), are very serious autoimmune conditions, where the body attacks its own tissues. Such problems can be life threatening if not tended to in time.
Other common types of arthritis, for example Lyme’s disease, are driven by hidden microbial infections. Some of them primarily attack connective tissue instead of joints as in scleroderma, or soft tissues, as in fibromyalgia. Psoriatic arthritis begins with skin lesions and then progresses on to swollen, inflamed joints.
Okay, but do we see demographic patterns amongst incidence of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis?
Yes, we do. Arthritis tends to interface with obesity, depression and heart disease. These problems overlap in the general population. They tend to correlate with poor dietary choices, lack of exercise, toxins and too many pharmaceutical drugs.
Arthritis frequently generates depression, but depression can also lead to arthritis because when we suppress our emotions, the circulation of our blood is affected, and poisons deposit in joints. Arthritis affects more women than men. This may be partly due to blocked expression of emotions.
Now let’s look at some positive, and perhaps surprising, facts.
A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that Tai Chi was at least as successful as physiotherapy in treating osteoarthritis of the knee. Qigong, which I teach to the Friday Harbor community, is even more beneficial than Tai Chi, not only for arthritis, but for many other health issues too.
What about diet? Actually, the same foods that protect us from cancer (such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage) also help with arthritis. Herbal medicines can lead to dramatic improvements, as can the use of topical essential oils. But any effective protocol would have to address exactly the type of arthritis a person has. What I can say is that Qigong, along with dietary changes and appropriate use of herbal or naturopathic medicine, can bring relief and healing to many. Take it from me: I used these approaches to heal myself.