Updated: Jul 28
With this month being Arthritis Awareness Month, we want to make sure to cover one of the most common causes of joint pains - Autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune conditions seem to be running rampant these days....but what are they?!
An autoimmune condition simply means that the body is attacking itself. For example: Lupus occurs when the body attacks its own tissues. Hashimoto thyroiditis occurs when the body attacks its own thyroid gland. Diabetes type I occurs when the body attacks its own pancreas....
Nowadays we know that there are over 80 autoimmune conditions. Though there are several speculations as to why these conditions are becoming so prominent and prevalent...more research needs to be done to figure out the underlying root cause(s).
Regardless, if you are struggling with joint pains that come and go, and your x-rays have ruled out osteoarthritis...then we'd recommend requesting lab work to rule out these Top 5 Autoimmune Conditions the Cause Joint Pain:
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA is closer runner up to osteoarthritis for prevalence. It affects nearly 1% of the world's population regardless of race. RA occurs when the body attacks its own soft tissue that lines the joints. Left untreated, this can lead to deformities of joints - most frequently seen in the hands and feet. A giveaway symptom is stiffness upon waking or inactivity that is better after movement. Compare this to osteoarthritis (a non-autoimmune wear-and-tear condition) tends to be worse after movement. Thankfully, a simple lab test for Rheumatoid Factor can rule this condition in or out.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): 70 to 90% of cases occur in young women of child-bearing age. Acute multiple joint pains occur in 90% of people with SLE and tend to arise years before other SLE symptoms appear. These other symptoms include intermittent skin rashes that worsen in sunlight, acute hair loss, mouth ulcers, chest pains, protein in urine, and sporadic fevers.
Psoriatic Arthritis: If you have struggled with the scale-like rash of psoriasis for years and are recently experiencing joint pain, you likely have psoriatic arthritis. This autoimmune conditions tends to affect one side of the body more than the other. For example, joint pains in the right hip, knee, and knuckles. Unfortunately there are no labs to confirm psoriatic arthritis, however, the combination of psoriatic skin patches combined with a negative rheumatoid factor (blood draw) and x-rays for osteoarthritis make this diagnosis a clear winner.
Hashimoto Thyroiditis: Joint pains PLUS fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, cold intolerance, inability to sweat, and long recovery from workouts and traumas? Sounds like you need your thyroid checked! Your thyroid is responsible for regulating every cell in your body. If it's under-functioning then you'll feel it with the symptoms above. Ask your doctor to run TSH, FT4, FT3, and TPO-AB for a clear picture of thyroid function. Our naturopathic doctor can help you decipher the numbers holistically - book a lab interpretation here.
Fibromyalgia: This guy is still a misnomer. It is considered an autoimmune condition depending on your source. Although the body is not clearly "attacking" itself, these patients have a seemingly heightened sensitivity to pain. Clear symptoms include flairs of widespread pain, tenderness to touch, fatigue, and stiffness. A diagnosis of fibromyalgia is typically given upon clinical evaluation: Widespread pain for at least 3 months accompanied by extreme fatigue.
Ok ok. So you have one of the autoimmune conditions above. Now what?! It's important to treat the root cause of inflammation for each condition - ideally starting with a comprehensive initial intake for our team to best understand your health picture. But to get you started...here are 3 Natural Remedies for Autoimmune Joint Pains that we encourage for the majority of cases:
Castor oil - This sticky stuff is MAGICAL. Rub it on your joints before getting in the shower or bath and let it soak in to get the anti-inflammatory results. Wash it off with soap before getting out and drying off. 1mL taken orally has also been shown to be as effective as diclofenac (a commonly prescribed medication for arthritis) without the side effects. IF you do decide to take castor oil orally, please be warned of its laxative effects and DO NOT take castor oil orally if you are pregnant.
Exercise for 30 minutes per day - Movement has been shown to be extremely effective to alleviate autoimmune-related joint pains. Start slow and work your way up. Team up with our personal trainer for accountability and guidance!
Intenzyme Forte - This proteolytic enzyme supplement by Biotics Research is heavenly. Typically, proteolytic enzymes are taken to help breakdown food. BUT, when taken on an empty stomach in high doses, they decrease inflammation. Consider combining this with vitamin D for some extra anti-inflammatory "oomph."
And lastly, for an anti-inflammatory autoimmune tea...combine:
3 parts green tea
2 parts oat straw
2 parts stinging nettles
2 parts red clover
1 part lavender
Bring to a boil, cover, and steep for 5 minutes. Enjoy it hot or cold!
That's all for now. See you next week for infectious arthritis.
Dr. Chelsea Leander ND, RH (AHG)