While living with arthritis can create stresses most people might not even think about, a technique called expressive writing may bring relief, both mentally and physically. For example, maybe you’re angry because pain is keeping you from joining friends on a shopping trip or playing with your kids – again. You may be stuck in anger.
“But in addition to anger, you probably also feel grief, loss and a lack of control over the circumstances,” says clinical psychologist Mark Lumley, PhD, psychology professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. “Expressive writing can help bring forward those less-accessible feelings besides anger that don’t always have a voice.
Writing this way reduces inner conflict and provides you a better sense of emotional balance – and perhaps even less pain – when you express those feelings on paper.”
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Aromatherapy won’t cure your arthritis, but it may ease certain symptoms and help you feel better. For example, lavender is sometimes used to relieve anxiety and promote sleep. Some research shows aromatherapy may even have benefits for pain. Two small studies found aromatherapy massage with lavender or ginger and orange oils led to short-term relief of knee pain.
“It doesn’t work for everyone, but some have good outcomes,” says Sue Cutshall, a Mayo Clinic integrative health clinical nurse specialist. However, as with other “natural” treatments, you should exercise caution when using them; in rare cases, they can be hazardous.
Essential oils are the foundation of aromatherapy. The oils – extracted from plants, flowers, herbs and trees – are most often used for their scent, but they can also be mixed with lotions or alcohol and used as bath or massage products.
Most essential oils have few side effects or risks when used as directed, but some can cause harm. Undiluted essential oils can provoke skin problems, and citrus essential oils can increase sun sensitivity.
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In addition to prescription medications, supplements can help improve overall health of those with arthritis. With a wide variety of supplements available, it’s important to pay attention to what you are purchasing. Here are some tips for shopping for supplements.
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It’s not always easy to stay positive – but dwelling on negative thoughts can do more than put you in a blue mood; your thoughts affect the way you feel mentally and physically, says Helen Grusd, PhD, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist who specializes in health psychology. Studies have shown that gloomy thoughts can worsen pain and fatigue and negatively affect your immune system.
Fortunately, positive thinking can have the opposite effect. Try these simple mood boosters.
Continue reading Five Positive Ways to Boost your Mood and Relieve Stress and Pain
Some people with arthritis feel that doctor-patient communication can sometimes seems narrow and impersonal. Integrative medicine aims to be different.
“Patients are at the center of integrated medicine; our goal is to partner with them to address the physical, emotional, social, environmental and spiritual factors that affect health,” says internist Adam Perlman, MD, executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C. “This approach is very inclusive. We practice and believe in Western medicine, but we also have an openness to complementary modalities that help address the whole person.”
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Because your sense of smell is linked to the areas of the brain where emotion and memories are processed, you can use scents and fragrant plants to give yourself an emotional boost, relieve pain, and conjure up pleasant memories.
“Aromatherapy is effective because it works directly on the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center,” says Mehmet Oz, MD, director of integrative medicine center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “This has important consequences because the thinking part of the brain can’t inhibit the effects of the scent, meaning you feel them instantaneously.” Of the many uses of aromatherapy, pain relief is only one; anxiety reduction and rejuvenation are other common objectives.
“Aromas can heal by enhancing our memory and changing emotions that affect the body’s stress response,” says Esther Sternberg, MD, a rheumatologist and author of Healing Spaces. “If you can identify a fragrance that reminds you of a peaceful, pleasant place and puts you in the mood to say, meditate, it can have a very positive effect.”
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Meditation may relieve arthritis pain, help you sleep better and even lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, research shows. But the idea of sitting cross-legged for an hour or so keeps many people from even trying. You can add a little quiet time to your life without fuss.
Meditation comes in many forms. In studies, as little as 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation for just three consecutive days helped ease pain and anxiety.
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You’ve read the hype — gelatin, collagen supplements, even bone broth will ease your arthritis. But can collagen supplements or bone broth really help your arthritis?
Continue reading Are Collagen Supplements Helpful for Arthritis?
It’s 2 a.m. and you’re wide awake. Your arthritis symptoms are under control. You’ve given up caffeine, naps and late-night TV, and you practice yoga and deep breathing, but these changes haven’t worked for you. Before resorting to prescription sleeping pills, consider trying one of the following natural remedies. But remember: Talk to your doctor before starting any supplement.
Continue reading Three Supplements for Better Sleep
You don’t have to paint like Picasso to benefit from drawing a picture or creating a collage. In fact, no matter your artistic skills, just the practice of making art may ease stress and arthritis pain.
A small study in the journal Art Therapy found art making – drawing, making collages or molding clay – even for just 45 minutes lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people, regardless of their creative ability. And numerous studies link high levels of cortisol to inflammation and greater pain sensitivity. While some study participants found the experience relaxing, others liked the creative self-expression.
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