- Symptoms of Arthritis of the Spine
- Typical Symptoms of Spinal Osteoarthritis
- Arthritis: Medications to Relieve Pain
- Pain and Other Symptoms of Spinal Osteoarthritis
- What OTC and Prescription Drugs Treat Spinal Osteoarthritis?
- Make Sure Your Doctor Knows About All Medications, Vitamins, and Supplements
- Non-Prescription Medications for Spinal Osteoarthritis
- Prescription Medications for Spinal Osteoarthritis
- Spinal Cord Stimulation: An Alternative or Adjunct to Medication for Spinal Osteoarthritis?
- Treating Spinal Osteoarthritis May Take a Combination of Therapies
- Back pain
- Lumbar arthritis: What you need to know
- Incidence and Prevalence
- When & How to Seek Medical Care
- Testing & Diagnosis
- Resources for More Information
- Author Information
- Reversing Arthritis with a Personalized Diet
- Reversing Arthritis with a Personalized Diet
- The System is Failing Those with Rheumatoid Arthritis
- What Viome Means to Me
- Can RA Symptoms Be Reversed with Diet?
- Learn more:
- How to Reverse Arthritis Naturally – Nutritional Remedies
- 7 Core Exercises to Relieve Back and Hip Arthritis Pain
- Floor exercises for your core muscles
- 1. Pelvic tilt
- 2. Lying march
- 3. Bridge
- 4. Planking
- Using an exercise ball to strengthen your core
- 5. Marching on the ball
- 6. Half crunch on the ball
- 7. Oblique crunch on the ball
Symptoms of Arthritis of the Spine
Spinal arthritis causes stiffness and low back pain. The stiffness is worst upon waking up in the morning, tends to ease with activity, then worsens toward the end of the day. Presumably, this is because fluid has built up in the joint due to inactivity overnight, which causes more swelling.
The low back pain due to facet joint arthritis has a typical pattern:
- The pain is mostly — more than 80% — in the back, runs into the buttocks, and often really feels like it’s in the hip.
- As it gets even worse people often report burning on the outer aspect of the thigh, and sometimes pain down the leg.
See Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?
- Because the pain runs down the leg people, even doctors sometimes, confuse it with nerve root pain.
See Accurately Diagnosing Leg Pain
Typical Symptoms of Spinal Osteoarthritis
The full range of symptoms that typically occur with spinal arthritis includes some combination of the following:
- The back and/or neck stiffness and pain tend to be worse in the morning (particularly for about 30 minutes after waking up), often called “first movement pain.”
See Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
- The pain will usually subside to a more tolerable level over the course of the day as the person carries on his or her activities.
- Pain and stiffness tend to get worse again in the evening.
- Pain that disrupts sleep is often an indicator of osteoarthritis.
See Addressing Pain and Medical Problems Disrupting Sleep
- Swelling and warmth in one or more joints, particularly during weather changes (which may be related to barometric pressure changes and cooling of the air).
- Localized tenderness when the joint or affected area of the spine is pressed.
- Steady or intermittent pain in a joint, which is often described as an aching type of pain. The pain may be aggravated by motion.
- Loss of flexibility of a joint, such as inability to bend and pick something off the floor.
- A crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone when the joint is moved (called crepitus), particularly notable in the neck.
See Neck Cracking and Grinding: What Does It Mean?
- A sensation of pinching, tingling, or numbness in a nerve or the spinal cord, which can occur when bone spurs form at the edge of the joints of the spine and irritate the nerves.
In This Article:
- Osteoarthritis of the Spine
- Symptoms of Arthritis of the Spine
- Diagnosis of Spinal Arthritis
- Lumbar Osteoarthritis Video
Facet joint pain and stiffness can begin to occur after long periods of inactivity, such as while sitting for long journeys or watching a two-hour movie. With advanced osteoarthritis and increased rasping friction between bones, the pain often becomes substantial even at rest or with very little movement.
See Treatment Options for Facet Joint Pain
With progressive osteoarthritis, a single joint may at first be affected, but with time and further activities, many joints of the body may be affected – in the base of the neck, or in the knees, hips, hands, and/or feet.
Although less common, some patients may experience severe deformities of certain joints over time. Osteoarthritis differs from rheumatoid arthritis and other systemic forms of arthritis because it only affects joints (although it may lead to an entrapment of a nerve at any level in the spine or the spinal cord in the neck) and does not affect organs or soft tissue areas of the body.
See Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Spine
Arthritis: Medications to Relieve Pain
The type of arthritis that more commonly affects the spine is osteoarthritis, also called spondylosis. Other types of arthritis that are inflammatory in nature include rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Here, you’ll learn about medications for osteoarthritis that affects your neck (cervical spine), mid back (thoracic spine), and/or low back (lumbar spine).
It is not uncommon for arthritic neck or back pain to be accompanied by other symptoms, such as tingling sensations, numbness, or muscle spasms. Photo Source: 123RF.com.
Pain and Other Symptoms of Spinal Osteoarthritis
The intensity and type of pain people experience as a result of arthritis in the spine varies from mild to severe, and occasional to episodic to chronic. Each type of pain is treated differently. Of course, it is not uncommon for arthritic neck or back pain to be accompanied by other symptoms, such as tingling sensations, numbness, or muscle spasms. Learn more about the range of osteoarthritis (spondylosis) symptoms.
What OTC and Prescription Drugs Treat Spinal Osteoarthritis?
Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications for spinal arthritis are usually the same as those taken to treat joint-related arthritic pain in the hips and knees—unless the diagnosis is rheumatoid or another type of inflammatory arthritis. For patients with symptoms of pain or numbness affecting the arms or legs, a spinal injection may be considered.
Today, people with spinal arthritis have access to different types of pain medications that can be taken or applied to relieve pain. Some require a doctor’s prescription, some do not. However, do not assume that just because a drug is available without a prescription, or over the counter, that it is safe for everyone.
Make Sure Your Doctor Knows About All Medications, Vitamins, and Supplements
Talk to your doctor about which pain medications are best for you. Be sure to let your doctor know what other medications you are taking, even for other health problems. Besides other drugs you take, tell your doctor about any vitamins, supplements or herbal products you use. This can help you to avoid drug interactions. Here are other tips for safely using medication.
Non-Prescription Medications for Spinal Osteoarthritis
- Acetaminophen (ie, Tylenol) is the drug of choice for mild to moderate spinal arthritis pain because it has few side effects and is relatively inexpensive. It is taken to help relieve pain but does not reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen may cause or contribute to liver problems when consumed with alcohol.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen) are often taken to help relieve moderate to severe osteoarthritis pain. These medications treat pain and inflammation. Like acetaminophen, they are relatively inexpensive. However, many patients report stomach upset from NSAIDs. These drugs may also interfere with other medications or cause serious side effects. Talk to your doctor before taking any NSAIDs.
- Topical creams and ointments may be applied to skin where pain is felt. There are many different types of these OTC products.
Prescription Medications for Spinal Osteoarthritis
- Prescription strength NSAIDs are stronger doses of a chosen non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that helps block certain pain-producing chemicals in your body.
- Muscle relaxants have a sedating effect and are prescribed to ease muscle tension.
- Opioids (oxycodone, morphine, codeine, fentanyl) may be prescribed to manage severe pain.
- Lidocaine in an adhesive patch form may be prescribed for placement on the skin over the painful area.
Spinal Cord Stimulation: An Alternative or Adjunct to Medication for Spinal Osteoarthritis?
If you’ve taken several medications for your spinal osteoarthritis with little relief, your doctor may recommend spinal cord stimulation (SCS), also known as neuromodulation to help relieve your chronic back or neck pain.
Spinal cord stimulation generates mild electrical impulses that block pain signals from reaching your brain. Pain is perceived in the brain. Neuromodulation involves implanting a small generator either in your abdominal or buttock area and thin wires called leads into the spinal canal. Some patients are not candidates for SCS, such as people who are pregnant, have a heart condition, epilepsy or have an existing implanted device such as a pacemaker. If your doctor recommends SCS, the first step is a trial period where the system is temporarily worn outside your body. If your pain improves using the stimulator, the device may be implanted surgically.
For some patients, spinal cord stimulation also helps them reduce their dependence on opioids or other pain medications. If you’re concerned about tapering or weaning off your pain medication, talk to your doctor about strategies that may ease this process.
Treating Spinal Osteoarthritis May Take a Combination of Therapies
Talk with your doctor about your neck and/or back pain to make sure your diagnosis is accurate and current. Remember that certain types of back problems are degenerative, meaning they may change, improve, or worsen with time. Management of your spinal arthritis pain may involve more than 1 medication or therapy. You have choices, and your doctor can work with you to find the right drug or combination of medications and therapies to ease your spinal osteoarthritis (spondylosis) symptoms.
What is low back pain?
Low back pain is pain that is felt in the lower part of the spine. It is very common with four out of five people experiencing it at some time in their lives. Low back pain is not usually a sign of arthritis or any other serious medical problem. Most bouts of low back pain get better in several weeks with or without treatment.
What are the symptoms?
Low back pain can be felt as a sharp pain, ache or spasm. It can be felt in the midline of the back or on either side. Your back may feel stiff, making it difficult to turn or bend in certain directions. Sometimes pain can be felt in one or both of the legs. Along with pain, you may also experience a range of feelings and emotions, such as anxiety, worry, fear or distress.
Back pain is common but is rarely due to serious disease. Staying active will help you get better faster and prevent more problems.
What causes it?
In most cases it is not possible to identify a specific cause for low back pain. It is also rare for low back pain to be caused by a serious medical problem. Although it may be worrying to not have a cause, the good news is that you do not need to know the exact cause of the pain to be able to deal with it successfully. Low back pain can be triggered by awkward lifting, being fatigued, tired or stressed, or a combination of these but about a third of people cannot identify a trigger. Having low back pain in your teens doubles your risk of having it as an adult.
In some cases you may be told your back pain is caused by a certain condition such as:
Spondylosis. This is another name for degeneration of the spine and is often referred to as osteoarthritis. Most people will have some degree of degeneration as they age, although not everyone will have pain. Finding signs of degeneration on an x-ray does not predict whether you will ever get back pain or how severe it will be.
‘Slipped disc’. This is more accurately known as a prolapsed or herniated disc. This occurs when one of the discs that sits between the bones of the spine is damaged or weakened. The disc does not come out of place but bulges and may press on the nerves that come out from the spine. It can also cause pain, tingling and/or numbness in your leg(s) and feet.
Osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones. This does not cause pain, but can lead to fractures (breaks) of the bones in the spine.
Spondylitis. It is rare for back pain to be caused by more serious conditions such as inflammation of the spine (spondylitis). Certain types of arthritis cause inflammation and stiffening of the joints in the spine, for example ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. Talk to your doctor if you are under 40 years of age and notice your back pain:
- starts gradually
- lasts more than three months,
- eases with exercise
- feels worse after rest
- wakes you during the night, particularly in the early hours of the morning
- causes stiffness of your back that takes longer than 30 minutes to ease after getting up in the morning.
Should I see a health professional?
Most people with low back pain do not need to see a doctor or other health professional as the pain will get better within a week or two. In most cases tests such as x-rays, scans and blood tests are not helpful in finding out the cause of back pain. They are best avoided as they may lead to further unnecessary or harmful medical interventions.
Talk to your doctor if your pain does not settle down after a few weeks, or starts getting worse, or you become very worried by it. A physiotherapist can also be helpful in providing reassurance and helpful information.
You should see your doctor immediately if:
- you have new symptoms such as losing weight, sweats and chills, problems controlling your bladder or bowel, tingling or numbness in your legs or saddle region (around your buttocks, genitals and upper thighs)
- you have osteoporosis or a history of cancer
- you are prone to infection, or you are an intravenous drug user.
What will happen to me?
For most people low back pain is an unpleasant but common condition that settles down fairly quickly. This usually takes 1-2 weeks but can last several weeks for some people. After two months, 9 out of 10 people will have recovered. For many people, low back pain can return over the years but your experience and learnings from your previous bout can support you in returning to normal function more quickly.
What can I do?
Learn about back pain and play an active role in your treatment. Not all information you read or hear about is trustworthy so always talk to your healthcare team about treatments you are thinking about trying. Reliable sources of further information are also listed in the section below. Self-management courses aim to help you develop skills to be actively involved in your healthcare. Contact your local Arthritis Office for details of these courses.
Stay active and healthy. Your back is designed for movement. Continuing with your normal activities or returning to them as soon as you can will help you recover from a bout of back pain. Some pain with activity is normal but does not mean it is causing harm. You may need to rest or reduce some activities when the pain is excessive. But resting for more than a day or two usually does not help and may do more harm than good. See a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist for advice about exercises to keep your back moving. If you are carrying extra kilos, losing weight with the help of a dietitian may be of benefit, as may be strategies to reduce stress and anxiety.
Learn ways to manage pain. There are many things you can try, including
- hot packs: may relax muscles
- herbal medicines: capsaicin (capsicum frutescens) as a plaster or patch, may be useful and has shown some benefit in research. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your medicines, as all medicines can have side effects.
- tai chi or yoga: these may be helpful, especially with long-term (chronic) low back pain
- targeted training or exercise programs: any type of exercise you enjoy is beneficial for back pain. For example, you could try McKenzie therapy, Alexander technique, sling exercise, graded activity exercise, or motor control exercise. Pilates, may be useful for short to medium term low back pain. Many of these have been developed to improve function, posture or low back muscles and may be especially helpful for long-term back pain.
- hydrotherapy: the warmth of the water may help decrease pain and muscle tension and help improve flexibility, strength and fitness
- massage or manipulative therapy: may be useful for both short and long-term back pain, especially when combined with exercises and education
- multidisciplinary pain programs: have been shown to be effective for long-term back pain. These combine exercise, pain education and emotional wellbeing and aim to reduce medications.
- understanding pain: pain coaching, cognitive behavior therapy from a psychologist or physiotherapist trained in this area, or mindfulness/meditation can lessen pain intensity, reactivity and distress
- acupuncture: has been shown to relieve longer-term (chronic) back pain but how well the effect lasts is still unclear.
- medicines: non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) may help some people. Topical gels and creams are safer options than pills which can be harmful to people with, or at risk of heart disease, heart failure, kidney impairment or a history of stomach ulcers.
The following treatments are not currently recommended for most cases of low back pain because there is little or no evidence of benefit: lumbar supports, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), laser therapy, traction, any type of injections into your back, therapeutic ultrasound and short-wave diathermy.
Talk to your healthcare team if you are very worried. A physiotherapist or GP can be helpful if you are very concerned about physical symptoms. A psychologist can help you manage anxiety, fears or worry. You will usually find there is no serious cause for your back pain and there are ways you can deal with it.
Acknowledge your feelings and seek support. It is natural to feel worried, frustrated, sad and sometimes angry when you have pain. Be aware of these feelings and get help if they start affecting your daily life.
CONTACT YOUR LOCAL ARTHRITIS OFFICE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND SUPPORT SERVICES.
Lumbar arthritis: What you need to know
Lumbar arthritis results from specific arthritic conditions. The most common reason for lumbar arthritis symptoms is OA with other types sometimes involved.
Persistent damage from OA in the facet joints of the spine eventually causes those joints to wear away. As a result, the spine bones start to grind and push together with movement.
OA inflammation might result from external factors, including poor diet, being overweight, and genetics.
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA)
Share on PinterestPsoraitic arthritis is most common in people who already have the skin condition psoriasis.
Lumbar arthritis has also been linked to PsA. Typically, PsA affects people with psoriasis, but the condition appears on its own in some instances.
Low back pain is a symptom of PsA. According to the Arthritis Foundation, up to 20 percent of people with this condition have spine involvement. In some cases, bony overgrowth can cause the vertebrae to fuse together, causing stiffness and pain with movement.
This type of arthritis primarily involves the spine and sacroiliac joints and often affects young adults, teenagers, or children. In the U.S., at least 1 percent of the population has this very painful form of arthritis.
Spondyloarthritis is also associated with inflammation of tendons and ligaments where they enter bone, called the enthesitis.
According to the Spondylitis Association of America, enteropathic arthritis affects people with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In enteropathic arthritis, the sacroiliac (SI) joints are affected, causing low back pain.
The SI joints are located between the sacrum and bones of the pelvis and are supported by sturdy ligaments. The sacrum is the main support of the spine.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
RA can affect various joints in the body, including the facet joints of the spine, causing pain. It can also destroy the joints of the spine that it affects, although these are primarily in the upper neck (C1-C2).
Osteoporosis causes bones to lose mass and become brittle and prone to injury with even the smallest traumas. Osteoporosis is primarily due to aging. When it affects the spine, the inner spongy and more solid outer parts of the vertebrae become weak and painful with time. Eventually, bone collapse can occur.
Some researchers think most cases of lumbar arthritis are related to OA. Some could also be related to spondyloarthritis, psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and other forms of arthritis.
A few studies have looked at rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lumbar spine disorders. One recent one from Japan examined the prevalence and risks for cervical and lumbar spine instability in people with RA.
What they found was 36.7 percent of the study participants exhibited lumbar spinal instability while 17.2 percent had both cervical and lumbar spinal instability. Having both conditions was related to disease duration and severity.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and affects middle-aged or older people most frequently. It is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body. It most commonly affects the hips, knees, hands, lower back and neck. Cartilage is a firm, rubbery material that covers the ends of bones in normal joints. It serves as a kind of “shock absorber,” helping to reduce friction in the joints.
When osteoarthritis affects the spine, it is known as spondylosis. Spondylosis is a degenerative disorder that can cause loss of normal spinal structure and function. Although aging is the primary cause, the location and rate of degeneration varies per person. Spondylosis can affect the cervical, thoracic and/or lumbar regions of the spine, with involvement of the intervertebral discs and facet joints. This can lead to disc degeneration and bone spurs (also known as osteophytes), which can pinch nerves that are near the discs or spurs.
As spondylosis worsens, progressive narrowing due to osteophyte growth may cause spinal stenosis — a narrowing of spaces in the spine that results in pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots. When this compression occurs, it can cause impaired function and pain. The narrowing can affect a small or large area of the spine. Pressure on the upper part of the spinal cord may produce pain or numbness in the shoulders and arms. Pressure on the lower part of the spinal cord or on nerve roots branching out from that area may cause pain or numbness in the legs.
When spondylosis affects the lumbar spine, several vertebrae are usually involved. Because the lumbar spine carries most of the body’s weight, activity or periods of inactivity can both trigger symptoms. Specific movements, such as sitting for prolonged periods of time, lifting or bending, may increase pain.
Degenerative spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra over another) is caused by osteoarthritis of the facet joints. Most commonly, it involves the L4 slipping over the L5 vertebra. It most frequently affects people age 50 and older. Symptoms may include pain in the low back, thighs and/or legs, muscle spasms, weakness and/or tight hamstring muscles.
Incidence and Prevalence
- Osteoarthritis affects more than 54 million people in the United States.
- OBy 2040, 26% of Americans, or about 78 million people will be affected.
- OFifty percent of people age 65 and older exhibit evidence of osteoarthritis in at least one joint on x-ray studies.
- OOsteoarthritis is more prevalent in men age 45 and younger, but more prevalent in women age 50 and older
While the cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, the following factors may increase the risk of developing the condition:
- Being overweight
- Joint injury
- Nerve injury
- Repeated overuse of specific joints
- Lack of physical activity
- Pain and stiffness in the neck or low back
- Pain that radiates into the shoulder or down the arm
- Weakness or numbness in one or both arms
- Pain or morning stiffness that lasts for about 30 minutes due to inactivity
- Pain that worsens throughout the day due to activity
- Limited motion
When & How to Seek Medical Care
Most patients see their primary care doctor as the first point of contact due to pain caused by arthritis. The primary provider will be able to evaluate to see if further workup is needed.
Testing & Diagnosis
A diagnosis usually can be made based on specific symptoms, a thorough physical examination and x-ray results. On occasion, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered to determine the extent of damage in the spine. MRI can reveal damaged cartilage, loss of joint space or bone spurs.
Non-surgical treatments are the mainstay of osteoarthritis management, including spinal arthritis known as spondylosis.
- Anti-inflammatory medications, most commonly ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID), are used to reduce swelling and to relieve pain. Most pain can be treated with nonprescription medications, but if pain is severe or persistent, a doctor may recommend prescription medications.
- Epidural injections of cortisone may be prescribed to help reduce swelling. This treatment often provides temporary pain relief, which can last up to several months.
- Physical therapy and/or prescribed exercises may help stabilize the spine, build endurance and increase flexibility. Therapy may help with the resumption of normal lifestyle and activities. Yoga may be effective for some people in helping to manage symptoms.
- Maintaining a proper weight is crucial to effective management of osteoarthritis.
Surgical treatment for spondylosis is uncommon, unless the condition has led to severe spinal stenosis that can cause a neurological deficit, like muscle weakness or numbness. Surgery may be recommended if conservative treatment options, such as physical therapy and medications, do not reduce or end the pain altogether, and if the pain greatly impairs the person’s daily functions. As with any surgery, a patient’s age, overall health and other issues are taken into consideration.
Arthritis is a chronic condition, and follow up is typically performed by a primary care physician to help with symptomatic management. If spondylosis leads to a neurological deficit, then patients typically will follow up in the post-operative period with their spine surgeon, and then transfer back to following up with the primary physician.
Resources for More Information
Patient Pages are authored by neurosurgical professionals, with the goal of providing useful information to the public.
Stephen Magill, MD, PhD
Neurosurgical Resident, University of California San Francisco
The AANS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products or physicians referenced in these patient fact sheets. This information provided is an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific neurosurgical advice or assistance should consult his or her neurosurgeon, or locate one in your area through the AANS’ Find a Board-certified Neurosurgeon online tool.
Reversing Arthritis with a Personalized Diet
Reversing Arthritis with a Personalized Diet
My name is Momo Vuyisich, and I am a Founder and Chief Science Officer at Viome. My rheumatoid arthritis story is one of 20 years of declining joint health, which was only reversed after years of digging through large amounts of scientific information and finally finding a needle in a haystack. My personal health transformation happened before the foundation of Viome and strengthened my decision to leave academic work and start the company, so we can help millions of other people.
By the beginning of 2015, my path to begin Viome was already set. I knew that working to prevent chronic diseases through the gut microbiome was the next chapter of my life – but I had personal health issues that were detracting from my work and personal life.
I had been struggling with arthritis for about 20 years – from the time I was 20 until I was about 40 years old. My flare ups would come in waves but my condition was definitely getting worse every year. Sometimes my joint aches would be troublesome for a fews days and then appear to get a little better, only to come back again stronger and with each wave, the pain was lasting longer. Besides arthritis-related joint pain and swelling, I had additional symptoms of intense bruising, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tingling in legs and hands. I had carpal tunnel surgery, which only relieved the symptoms for a few months.
Normal tasks, like carrying grocery bags or hiking, were painful. For years, I had to ice my hands and wrists after carrying light things for a few minutes. In the mornings, my hand joints were so creaky that I could not lift my laptop before the shower.
I tried many different diets: low carb, no carb, high fat, high protein, vegetarian, dairy-free, no red meat, gluten-free, etc. The high protein/low carb diet was particularly scary for me, as I started to lose my memory in my late 30s. Even though I was convinced my condition could be cured naturally, I became desperate and scared, so I went to the doctor. They performed some blood tests and a genetic test, determined I had early onset ankylosing spondylitis, and told me I would be in a wheelchair in a few years if I did not take the recommended drugs.
They prescribed me four medications which had awful side effects. They caused incontinence and would likely damage my kidneys and liver within a few years, necessitating additional medications at that point. I only took two of the medications for two days and quickly realized this path would lead me to a wheelchair, oxygen, and more pills.
This was not the life I envisioned, and it was an extremely frustrating time.
Being a scientist, I couldn’t accept this pharmaceutical approach. Because arthritis and my other symptoms were likely caused by low-grade chronic inflammation, I dug deep into potential dietary causes of this condition. For years, I found nothing, but while on vacation in December of 2014, I read a paper that would change my life.
The paper described a low level immune response to a sugar found in mammalian products that could induce low-grade chronic inflammation in humans. The paper, “A Red Meat-derived Glycan Promotes Inflammation and Cancer Progression” by Dr. Ajit Varki, a professor at University of California at San Diego, saved my life.1
Reading this paper was very memorable. The study postulated that a very common cause of chronic inflammation in some people could be the consumptom of mammalian products. These products (ie. red meat, pork, lamb, dairy etc) introduce a specific sugar (N-glycolylneuraminic acid – Neu5Gc) into the body, which can cause inflammation. Sugars are only mildly immunogenic, meaning they won’t cause an intense acute reaction in the body but instead a low-grade chronic inflammation. The low-level inflammation and the fact that I didn’t grow up eating much red meat, caused me to raise my eyebrows and think – this could be it!
In February 2015, I stopped consuming all mammalian products (red meat and dairy) and about a month later my symptoms had improved enough that I knew I had found the solution I was looking for. Then after about three months my body had almost completely healed – we are talking about a near complete reversal of all symptoms. Finally, six months after I stopped eating all mammalian products I felt as though I was 20 years old again – it was incredible.
The scientist in me had to be sure these foods were the direct cause of my arthritis and not some crazy coincidence. Since then, I’ve tested my hypothesis three times. Everytime I ate red meat or had dairy, my inflammation symptoms came back. As you can probably imagine, three times is enough for me. I don’t plan on incorporating red meat or dairy back into my diet because I feel much, much better and plan to stay that way.
I was able to meet my hero, Dr. Ajit Varki, who discovered the inflammatory mechanism caused by consumption of mammalian products.
I suspect there are many more people just like me, who have this sensitivity to mammalian products. Unfortunately, this research is not well-known and many have yet to hear how they might be affected by this sugar, which is high in mammalian products.
The System is Failing Those with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is currently treated with NSAIDs and biologics (injectables). Both of these therapies only cover up the symptoms, and do not treat the root cause of arthritis, which is unknown. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with a biologic can cost tens of thousands of dollars per person each year. These biologics can have numerous and severe side effects, since they suppress and/or modify the immune system.
No organization has made a serious effort to understand how diet and gut health can impact rheumatoid arthritis via the primary culprit – the cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-ɒ). TNF-ɒ is the pro-inflammatory cytokine primarily responsible for regulating the inflammatory response in those with rheumatoid arthritis. What if we can completely cure or reverse this disease, without having to use expensive pharmaceuticals that cause serious side effects? That is one of our goals at Viome.
What Viome Means to Me
While I was a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), I recognized that the gut microbiome would play a major role in solving our chronic disease problems. I also recognized that the existing technology (sequencing DNA to understand the microbiome composition) would not reveal the connections between the gut microbiome and our health. It took three years to develop the necessary technology (RNA sequencing), thanks to my awesome team and the research environment at LANL.
The next obvious step was to take this revolutionary technology, combine it with my passion, and change the world. This is where the rest of the Viome people come in. The passion, energy, and commitment from the executive team and the rest of the staff is simply incredible. At Viome, we now have all the technology (laboratory and computational) needed to empower people to take control of their own health and prevent chronic diseases, instead of waiting for symptoms to show up, then try to treat them.
Viome is about enabling people to maintain health and wellness throughout their entire life, without having to try hundreds of different fad diets or spending years reading scientific literature hoping they will find relevant information. It is my hope that everyone struggling with chronic conditions find solutions as I did.
Can RA Symptoms Be Reversed with Diet?
Clint Paddison shares his journey about severe rheumatoid arthritis, and how he eliminated his RA symptoms with a strict diet and exercise regime.
I have rheumatoid arthritis, but I don’t have chronic joint pain thanks to regular exercise and a strict anti-inflammatory diet. When I say strict, I mean a whole foods diet with no dairy, no processed sugars, no animal proteins, no oils, and no alcohol. A lot of people tell me they couldn’t do what I do, but for me, eating a restricted diet beats the heck out of being in pain every day.
See An Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Arthritis
There is evidence that certain foods may reduce inflammation and improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. See Managing RA Fatigue Through Diet and Exercise
It took me years to get to this point. When I was initially diagnosed in 2006, my doctor told me I would have to take an RA drug like methotrexate for the rest of my life. Taking such powerful drugs seemed scary—and frankly, counterintuitive to me—and I refused them. I tried to relieve my symptoms with diet and alternative therapies, but nothing worked, and for the next year I was in agony. Nearly bedridden, I finally gave in to taking medications.
See 5 Types of Medication That Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
The medications relieved my symptoms and allowed me to live my life again. I also had a cortisone shot to relieve painful, intractable swelling in my left knee. But I didn’t give up hope that I could get off the medications one day.
See What to Know Before Getting a Cortisone Injection
I did research and found a study showing that people with RA who went on a 10-day water fast had a dramatic decrease in symptoms. I tried fasting, and sure enough my symptoms were gone within a couple of days. It was my aha moment.
See Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Symptoms
Obviously, I needed to eat something, so I did more research and began experimenting with high-nutrient, anti-inflammatory foods, like leafy greens. Eventually I hit upon a handful of foods that worked for me, such as buckwheat groats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, leafy greens and dried seaweed. Slowly, over several months, I added in more vegetables and other whole foods, like rice, beans, fruits and nuts. And whenever I had an RA flare, I recalibrated immediately by eating just my baseline foods for a short period again.
See The Ins and Outs of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Eventually I weaned myself off all my medications in close consultation with my rheumatologist. (I definitely don’t recommend anyone change medications without their doctor’s consent!) I’ve been free of medications for five years
See Rheumatologist for Arthritis Treatment
Why did this dietary program work for me? I believe I healed my “leaky gut,” a term that describes intestinal permeability. Essentially, my intestines had too many tiny holes that allowed undigested food proteins to escape into my blood stream, where they are seen as a foreign body, causing my immune system to engage. With time, my joint tissue also came under fire from this attack, since their proteins look similar to those entering my blood, causing my rheumatoid symptoms to flare. My strict diet promoted beneficial bacteria growth and healing in my gut wall, allowing my immune system to relax.
See The Science Behind Leaky Gut, the Gut Microbiome, and Arthritis
A lot of doctors are dubious when they hear my story, but more and more often I hear from medical professionals who agree that diet can significantly impact rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
See How Gluten Can Cause Joint Pain
Even mainstream institutions like Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine acknowledge that RA can be caused by an imbalance of intestinal microbes—a condition called intestinal dysbiosis—along with other factors, like genetics.
See Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
I believe intestinal dysbiosis is a key contributor to RA. It helps explain why so many people I know began experiencing their RA symptoms after years of taking antibiotics to treat conditions such as acne (which is what I did) or chronic sinus infections. Antibiotics kill the unwanted bacteria, but they also kill the beneficial bacteria in your intestines. Kill too many good bacteria, and you have a microbial imbalance that can cause leaky gut.
Many people have tried my dietary and exercise program with great success. Others have tried it and notice a decrease in symptoms but still need their medications (though often fewer medications, or smaller doses). Every person is unique, and not everyone is able to eliminate their RA symptoms through diet and exercise alone. But one thing is for sure, no one has told me the strict plant-based diet makes their RA symptoms worse!
See Biologics for RA and Other Autoimmune Conditions
Surgery for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Blood Tests to Help Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
How to Reverse Arthritis Naturally – Nutritional Remedies
How to reverse Arthritis – Nutritional Remedies
Millions of people suffer from Arthritis. There are 360 joints in the human body. Arthritis can appear anywhere such as knees, spines, hips, neck, fingers, knuckles, wrists, elbows, and toes, etc. It can suddenly or gradually.
- What is arthritis?
- What causes the arthritis?
- How to work with your body to reverse it naturally.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis means “ Joint inflammation”.
- Arthr = Joint
- Itis = inflammation
It can afect one joint or multiple joints. The Most Common Arthritis are: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthirits.
There are many different types of arthritis. Please see the chat below:
Types of Arthritis
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Bursitis, Tendinitis, Myofascial Pain
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
How to reverse arthritis naturally?
Herbs & Spices
Vitamins & Minerals
What Should You AVOID To Reverse Arthritis?
1. Nightshade vegetables such as pepper, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. It contains solanine which interferes with enzymes in the muscles to cause pain.
2. Iron supplements.
5. Fried food & lipids (high in Omega 6), refine sugar, processed foods.
7. Antibiotic medications.
8. Flu vaccine.
9. Tap water.
10. Sodium (Salt), if you take anti-inflammatory drugs.
Solutions: Simple Daily Routine To Reduce Inflammations
- Wake up: 1 capsule of probiotic (over 50 billions) on empty stomach.
- Drink 1 cup of 911 detox vinegar juice ( * see the recipe)
- 20 – 30 minutes after drinking the vinegar, Drink 1 cup of chicken bone broth. ( * check below the ingredients)
- Take krill oil (Omega 3 fatty acid) 1000 IU / Vitamin D3 4000IU/Vitamin K2 100MCG with your breakfast.
- Drink tea 3-4 cups per day. If you have hard time to drink, start 1 cup of tea daily.
- Drink 1 smoothie per day (* see the recipe)
- Eat 6-10 cups of vegetables per day. ( I know it is not easy if you aren’t use to eat vegetables, but it is the best way to bring down inflammations and support gut health.
- Low impact activity for 30 minutes everyday such as walking, swimming, stretching, and yoga etc.
- Try to avoid refine sugar, pastry, pasta, bread, biscuit, baked good, etc.
- Bedtime, take calcium-magnesium.
911 Detox Vinegar Juice:
- 2 tbsp. organic apple cider vinegar
- 1 fresh lemon ( or 1/2 lemon & 1/2 lime)
- 1/8-1/4 tsp. organic turmeric
- Sprinkle Cayenne pepper
- 150-200 ml filtered water
Organic ( hormone free) Chicken Bone Broth ( simmering 18-24 hours)
- 1 organic hormone free whole chicken
- ROSEMARY, GARLIC, ONION, GINGER ROOT, CELERY STALKS, CARROT, AND APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
- Filtered water
How to drink:
- 1 cup of broth
- 1/8- 1/4 tsp. organic turmeric
- Pinch black pepper
- Pinch Cayenne pepper
- Pinch sea salt (or pink salt)
Gut Detox Smoothie:
- 1 leaf kale
- Handful of spinach
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 small cucumber
- Handful of parsley
- 1 tsp. tulsi leaf powder (holy basil)
- 1/2 green apple or 1/2 cup of pineapple &1/2 cup berries.
- 1/2 cup aloe vera gel
- 1 tbsp. chia seed (soaked in water) & 1 tbsp. flaxseed (grounded)
- 1 inch of ginger root
- 1 fresh lemon or lime (squeezed)
- Filtered water/ ice
- Add 1 tsp metamucil in smoothie before drinking.
Please alternate to drink herbs such as nettle leaf, burdock root, horsetail, red reishi, etc.- check the above selection of Herbs & Spices.
- Boil 750 ml-1 litter of filtered water.
- Select the herb that you like to drink and prepare 2 tbsp of herbs in tea pot.
- Pour boiled water (750 ml – 1 litter) in the tea pot.
- 20 minutes later, pour the tea in a big glass jar.
- Drink it warm or cold ( ADD GINGER & 1 TSP. MANUKA HONEY)
Wild sockeye salmon / asparagus / sea kelp / alfalfa /
Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Pickle, kefir, miso, etc.
7 Core Exercises to Relieve Back and Hip Arthritis Pain
When you do core-building exercises, you strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and back. Strong core muscles take pressure off your spine and hip joints, which can help reduce arthritis pain and prevent additional joint damage. Strong core muscles can also increase stability and balance for your entire body.
Strength-building exercises are a core part of any exercise program for arthritis. Read Exercising with Arthritis
These 7 exercises will help you stretch and strengthen your core muscles. When exercising, remember: muscle soreness is normal, but if you experience any sharp or severe pain, stop whatever exercise or activity you’re doing.
Floor exercises for your core muscles
These first 4 exercises will strengthen your lower back, abdominal, and/or pelvic floor muscles. Targeted exercises are useful for these muscle groups, because they may not get much use during daily activities.
1. Pelvic tilt
This exercise involves a very slight internal movement that isolates and strengthens your core and pelvic floor muscles:
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent, your feet placed on the floor parallel to each other, and your arms at your sides.
- Tighten your lower abdominal muscles, sinking your abdomen downward toward your spine without using your buttock or leg muscles to help you. Your pelvis will tilt slightly during this movement while your low back presses against the floor.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax your muscles.
Do two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
2. Lying march
- Lie on your back on the floor, with knees bent and arms your sides.
- Tighten your stomach muscles and slowly raise your left leg 3 to 4 inches from the floor. Hold it for a few seconds, then slowly lower it to the floor.
- Do the same with the right leg, and continue alternating legs, “marching” for 30 seconds.
Repeat 2 or 3 times.
- Lie on your back on the floor, with knees bent and arms at your sides.
- Clench your buttocks and slowly raise them up and away from the floor, until your body is straight from your knees to your shoulders.
- Hold the bridge position for 8 to 10 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position.
Do two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
- Start with your hands and knees on the floor and your back straight.
- Raise your left leg off the floor and behind you, with your left knee slightly bent and no arch in your back or neck.
- Hold for 4 to 6 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position.
- Repeat with your right leg.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side.
Try doing a couple of sets. For a slightly more advanced exercise, raise one leg and the opposite arm at the same time. Hold for 4 to 6 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position.
Using an exercise ball to strengthen your core
The following 3 core exercises require an exercise ball. You can find exercise balls at your gym or for sale in most sporting goods stores. Beginners may find it easier to use a slightly deflated ball.
5. Marching on the ball
- Sit on the exercise ball with your feet in front of you. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart and flat on the ground.
- Lift one heel while keeping your toes on the ground. For a greater challenge, lift your whole foot off the ground.
- Hold that position for a few seconds and then put that foot back on the ground and switch to the other side.
Avoid hunching your shoulders and focus on stabilizing your body with your core muscles. Try marching for 3 or 4 minutes or longer.
6. Half crunch on the ball
- Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor and your arms crossed over your chest.
- Slowly lean back at a 45-degree angle, bending at your hips and lifting your heels off the ground.
- Use your abdominal muscles to pull yourself back up into a sitting position, setting your heels back on the ground and returning to a flat-footed position.
Do two sets of 5 to 10 repetitions.
7. Oblique crunch on the ball
- Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor and your arms raised straight overhead.
- Slowly lean back at a 45-degree angle, bending at your hips and lifting your heels off the ground.
- While holding this position, slowly lower your left arm to your right knee.
- Return your left arm overhead and alternate sides, doing the same exercise with your right arm.
Repeat 10 times.
The number of repetitions and sets recommended here are just that—recommendations. You may do more or less depending on your ability. Remember that keeping good form is more important than doing multiple sets or repetitions. If you have questions about form, a doctor or physical therapist can help guide you.
Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis
Self Care and Exercise to Treat Spine Osteoarthritis