Joint Pain

  • Can You Promote Wellness with Acupuncture

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND  

    Acupuncture is a wellness method of restoring the imbalance of energies in the body’s system. Developed in China a couple thousand years ago, acupuncture not only treats ailments, but is used as a preventative therapy as well.

    The original thought process behind acupuncture is to restore the body’s energy, known as its chi. However, upon moving to the North America, acupuncture expanded from that theory, and is now used for diagnosing and prevention of illness.

    Research indicates that the needles may increase the body’s natural pain relievers called endorphins and, therefore, individuals feel a decreased sensation of pain when acupuncture is practiced 

    Acupuncture may be useful for many ailments and conditions, both emotional and physical.

    Anxiety, Depression, and Panic Attacks

    While some individuals prefer to stick with traditional means of therapy and prescription drugs for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, there are others who swear by acupuncture to alleviate or reduce these in their lives. Many people look toward holistic healing for treatment and prevention of these conditions.

    Alleviation of Pain

    For most individuals, acupuncture is handy for alleviating pain due to painful things such as arthritis, migraines, and fibromyalgia, just to name a few. The insertion of needles is said to induce the body’s natural pain relievers into action mode, thereby reducing pain in the specific area where the needle is inserted.

    Chronic low back pain is likely to be the number one reason individuals turn to acupuncture for relief.

    Nausea, vomiting, and fatigue are also on top of the list for reasons to treat with acupuncture. Overall wellness is promoted as one of the benefits of acupuncture as well.

    And then there are those who swear by acupuncture on a regular basis as a way and a means of preventing illness in the future. They believe that acupuncture is just as good for prevention of illness and to promote overall wellbeing.

    Practitioners of Acupuncture

    Naturopathic Doctors are trained in acupuncture but there are also other certified acupuncturists.  If you want to get acupuncture session, please make sure you are going to someone who is certified.

    Acupuncture covers overall wellness and wellbeing of the whole body and, as such, may be a wise choice indeed when seeking to prevent illness and disease before it even starts.

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  • Common Causes of Joint Pain

    It has been estimated that more than 40 million Americans have joint pain, also called arthralgia, of one kind or another.  Joint pain occurs where two bones meet. The most common areas of joint pain are the knees, ankles, wrists and knuckles, although it can occur at any joint.

    While there are common causes for joint pain, many people do not know what those causes are:

    * Physical injury is one of the most common causes for joint pain. Normally this occurs when a joint is twisted or there is heavy impact on the joint. You may also see joint injury related to sprains or strains. Torn tendons, overstretched ligaments and bone fractures can also affect joints. Whenever joints are dislocated, pain will also be present.

    * Overuse can also be the cause of joint pain. The condition chondromalacia patella, which is the degeneration of cartilage under the kneecap, is something adolescents and young adults may experience.

    * Arthritis is what most people think of when anyone mentions joint pain. There are around 100 forms of arthritis. The two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and they can affect nearly 20 million people each year. Other forms of arthritis are gout, septic and reactive.  Arthritic pain can be due to food intolerances.  Your naturopathic doctor can do a food sensitivity test to find out if this is your problem.

    * Sarcoidosis and Lupus, both autoimmune diseases, affect the joints. Lupus causes inflammation in the joints but can also affect the blood cells, kidneys, lungs, heart and skin. Sarcoidosis is the growth of small lumps, called granulomas, which can occur throughout the body. Common areas affected are the lungs and lymph nodes but doctors at the Mayo Clinic believe this condition also causes joint pain in the hands, wrists, elbows and ankles.  Even though nobody knows the real cause of an autoimmune disease, in practice we notice that patients who avoid foods that they may be sensitive to (not allergic to!!) can overall decrease systemic inflammation and improve an autoimmune problem.

    * Chronic illnesses or infectious diseases such as Lyme disease, measles, mumps, rheumatic fever and Epstein-Barr can also affect joints. Rubella, or German measles, chickenpox and mononucleosis can also cause joint pain even though that is not the main effect of the disease.

    * Rickets, which is from a lack of vitamin D, is another cause of joint pain. This disease is not as common in North America as in other parts of the world but can cause joint pain or bone softness.  Even though we don’t see a lot of rickets in North America, I think there is an epidemic of people having suboptimal vit D levels in the blood.  Vitamin D works as an anti-inflammatory and if you have joint pain, it should be at a level over 120 nmol/l (50 ng/l)  in the blood.

    * Bursitis and tendonitis are also conditions affecting the joints. Bursitis, caused by swelling of the bursae found between the tendons and skin, can cause severe pain, especially when a person is active. Tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendons connecting bones and muscles, also causes painful joints. This commonly affects the tendons in the heel, shoulder or wrists.

    * Bone cancer, the growth of abnormal cells in the bones, may either originate in the bone itself or spread to them. In either case, the pain associated with bone cancer can be excruciating. 

    If you experience joint pain, you may not know the cause. This is why visiting your primary physician is so important. They will be able to determine the cause of your joint pain and then visit your naturopathic doctor to find out ways to treat it naturally and get to the root cause of your problem.

    By: Dr. Sandra Miranda, ND

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  • Documenting and Measuring Your Pain


    When you first start having stiffness and pain in your joints, you want to take something to ease the pain and go on with your life. Unfortunately, as the pain becomes more and more regular, you realize something more serious may be happening. You call the doctor to see if you have arthritis. Before you have your appointment, documenting and measuring your pain so you can take it to the doctor will help them understand and make a proper diagnosis.

    Keeping a symptom diary, when you first notice pain you think may be arthritis, will be invaluable for your doctor. It will also help your doctor recognize the type of arthritis you may have. There are over 100 types of arthritis; this information will help you receive the proper treatment. Here are some things you may want to consider when documenting and measuring your pain:

    * Where does the pain begin? Does it start in the joint itself and radiate out? Alternatively, does the pain begin in the muscles surrounding the joint without affecting the joint itself?

    * Do you have only one joint with pain or is more than one joint affected?

    * Is the pain associated with stiffness or is there simply pain?

    * Is the pain worse in the morning and then it works itself out as the day progresses?

    * How severe is the pain? Can you give it a rating between 1 and 10, with 10 being the worst pain you have ever experienced?

    Your doctor will also ask you if your pain interferes with your quality of life and to what degree. Quite likely, your pain intensity will change from day to day. 

    Tracking your symptoms and pain each day will help tremendously. Not only will you see what activities make your pain worse, you can also see a pattern if foods you eat affect it. Each of these items will assist your doctor in their diagnosis and choice of treatment:

    * Your activity level.  Some types of arthritis will improve when you move. Others will become worse with activity. Therefore, it is important to record what type of activity level you had leading up to the pain.

    * Barometric pressure.  No one fully understands how or why weather affects arthritis pain, but recognize the fact it does. Higher barometric pressure (good weather) will cause little to no arthritis pain. On the other hand, low barometric pressure (bad weather) makes arthritis pain considerably worse. Write down what the weather was like leading to your pain and on the day you experienced it.

    * Foods can also make a difference in arthritis pain. Some foods will make it worse, such as red meat, tomatoes and alcohol, and others will make it better, such as salmon, walnuts, vitamin C-rich foods and spices like turmeric and ginger. Pay attention to what foods you have eaten when arthritis flares up.  Remember the flare up can occur up to 3 days after eating the offending food.  If this is too hard to figure out then visit your local naturopathic doctor who can do a food sensitivity test on you.

    * Your weight is the final thing to track. Whereas gaining weight will make arthritis pain worse, losing it can make it feel much better.

    Find documents to help you measure your pain.  Having a pre-created document on which to track your pain will make documenting and measuring your pain easier. When you have an appointment with your doctor, be sure to take the document or journal with you.

    By: Dr. Sandra Miranda, ND

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  • Is It Arthritis?



    Arthritis is the name given to over 100 different conditions that cause joint pain and tenderness. Even though arthritis affects over 86 million Americans, aches and pains in the joint may be something other than arthritis. Another condition could be to blame for the pain. How do you know if it is arthritis or if it is something else?

    The main symptoms of arthritis are:

    * Pain

    * Stiffness

    * Inflammation

    * Damage to cartilage

    * Joint weakness

    * Visible deformities

    * Instability of the joint

    Many illnesses have similar symptoms so it is often necessary to seek a doctor’s diagnosis to know for sure if your pain is from arthritis or another condition.

    Tendonitis is one non-arthritis cause for joint pain such as inflammation in the tendons in the elbow or pain in the shoulders, knees, hips or wrists. Since both conditions cause pain with movement and tenderness in the area, it is no wonder people often confuse tendonitis with arthritis. You can tell the difference if you have had a recent injury to the tendons as well as pain occurring over a larger area. Arthritis is centralized in the joint.

    Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that affects tender points such as shoulders, hips, back, arms and legs. These same joints are also affected by arthritis. Fibromyalgia pain, however, extends past the joints. Medical doctors do not fully understand this condition, but they can give you a proper diagnosis.  If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, visit your local naturopathic doctor and have him or her guide you through a whole body detox.  Decreasing the body burden of toxins will decrease your overall inflammation decreasing symptoms of fibromyalgia.

    Many people experience achiness in the joints when they have the flu. Over-the-counter pain relievers can treat this type of pain, but you will want to know for sure what the cause is. Flu, caused by a virus, also has symptoms of fever, chills, headache and cough. Even though the two are similar concerning joint pain, you will get over the flu quickly whereas you may live with chronic pain from arthritis for years.

    One type of arthritis often treated as a separate condition is gout. This condition, characterized by pain, swelling and inflammation of the joints, often affects the big toe. Unlike other forms of arthritis, gout is not caused from overuse or an immune disorder. Instead, excessive uric acid in the blood is the cause. To treat gout, doctors recommend patients cut back on eating organ meats, seafood and drinking beer. Changes to the diet can prevent future attacks.

    Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be mistaken for arthritis. This condition occurs when the tunnel in the wrist area for the ligaments and nerves are constricted which leads to pain, tingling and numbness in the fingers. Repetitive motions such as typing and some hobbies are believed to be the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Once properly diagnosed, a doctor will recommend surgery to correct it or will prescribe use of a splint to help relieve the pain.

    If you begin experiencing pain in your joints on a regular basis, arthritis may be the culprit. Before you decide you have arthritis, consider these other conditions with painful joints as a symptom. Of course, your doctor is the only one who can properly diagnose what is causing your pain. The sooner you make an appointment, the sooner you will know what you have and how to treat it.

    By: Dr. Sandra Miranda, ND

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  • Lifestyle Changes for Better Joint Care


    Sometimes, no matter how well you take care of yourself, you will begin to feel aches and pains affecting your joints. You may be experiencing joint pain now. If you follow some or all of these lifestyle changes for better joint care, you may begin to notice that joint pain is soon only a memory.

    If your family has a history of joint pain, you may not be able to avoid it. However, your lifestyle and the things you do can greatly influence how much joint pain you experience. Which of these changes can you make to improve your own joint health?

    * Carrying extra weight can be part of the cause of joint pain or at least aggravate it. For each 10 pounds of body weight, your body experiences an extra 30 to 70 pounds of pressure on joints in the feet, ankles and knees with each step you take. If you decide to start running, the extra weight increases dramatically.

    * Start doing non-impact exercises. Walking, swimming or water aerobics, yoga and bicycling are exercises that will not put undue stress on your joints. Not only will exercising help you lose weight, it also releases endorphins that ease pain as well as improve your mood. You can relax if you think you will have to spend hours in the gym. Research has shown that only 30 minutes of exercise each day can ease the pain of arthritis.

    * Be aware of your posture as you sit, stand and walk. Proper posture can make a huge difference in preventing unneeded stress on your spine and lower back. It also reduces neck strain.

    * If you spend much time on the computer, besides being aware of your posture, it would also help to move your keyboard forward to reduce strain on your shoulders, arms and neck. Using a keyboard rest, orthopedic chair or other device might also make your time in front of the computer less damaging to your joints.

    * Get up and move around during the day if you have a sedentary job. If you simply cannot get away from your desk, stand up to stretch or bend over to touch your toes. Doing some type of stretching throughout the day will keep you supple.

    * Use a supplement that is right for you to help you control pain. If you are not sure, visit your local naturopathic doctor and get a recommendation.  Rather than reaching for painkillers, you can also try a massage or a chiropractic treatment instead. Herbal baths can also be helpful in reducing pain. A number of herbs can be taken as a capsule or a tea that have pain-relieving qualities.

    * Eat a healthy diet. People often do not realize how what they eat can affect their health. Add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet while reducing high-calorie, high-fat choices. Reports indicate certain foods can reduce joint pain. These foods include salmon due to the omega-3 fatty acids, extra virgin olive oil for the polyphenols it contains, as well as ginger and turmeric because they have anti-inflammatory properties.

    If you have experienced pain lately, these small lifestyle changes can have an impact on how your joints feel. Decide which change you want to make first and see how this one change can reduce the pain you feel.

    By: Dr. Sandra Miranda, ND

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