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No one really knows how many people suffer from arthritis and related inflammatory conditions. The folks at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), who are in charge of tracking such things, put the number at close to 70 million. That includes more than 43 million adults diagnosed by doctors and another 23 million who have symptoms but have not been officially diagnosed.57, 58 That means one in three adults is afflicted with some form of arthritis.

If you think that’s a lot of folks, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Aging baby boomers are about to discover up close and personal what it’s like to suffer from chronic inflammation. The CDC estimates that by 2030 we will add another 22 million to the list of people in pain.59 Arthritis will become the biggest obstacle to enjoyable retirement for the boomer generation.

With so many suffering, it’s hardly any wonder we’re all desperate for relief. Shaking hands, buttoning a shirt, or typing on a computer keyboard can be difficult if your fingers hurt. But who can give up e-mail? We communicate with the world through our fingers.

Everyone tells us that exercise is the most important thing we can do for our overall health. Yet it’s hard to walk, jog, or play tennis or golf if your knees, hips, and shoulders are sore.

No wonder we turn to drugs to relieve our inflammation and ease the pain. A friend who hiked the Appalachian Trail dubbed ibuprofen “vitamin I.” Weekend warriors frequently rely on Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen) before, during, and after tennis matches, basketball games, or karate competitions. We now know that most of the medications used for arthritis can have potentially serious side effects.

We’re caught in a classic double bind. Without something to control inflammation, pain limits our activities, which is not good for our health. Take the medicine, however, and we risk all sorts of complications, from high blood pressure and kidney problems to heart attacks and strokes. Some popular anti-inflammatory drugs may even make our arthritis worse.

Selecting the best approaches for you requires trial and error. There may be synergy between some of these remedies. One person may find that combining acupuncture and a magnetic bracelet with curcumin and pomegranate juice is the magic formula. Another person might discover that applying Pennsaid Lotion to sore joints, taking the herb boswellia, and drinking grape juice and Certo does the trick.

None of these approaches is a substitute for good medical management. Blending home remedies with medications such as Pennsaid or Voltaren Emulgel may offer the maximum benefit. A short course of ibuprofen or naproxen may also be called for when arthritis pain flares up. On the next page, you will find an overview of our recommendations in this chapter.

  • Preventing arthritis beats trying to treat it. Keep weight under control, drink fresh-squeezed orange juice, and follow a Mediterranean diet. Get 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine on your face and hands several days a week or take 800 to 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily.
  • Aspirin is the best buy in the pharmacy. It relieves pain and inflammation while reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and many cancers. Beware of its potential to cause ulcers. Medical supervision is essential for long-term use.
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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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