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Aromatherapy and Arthritis – a Personal Account
By: Buffy Hall, RN
The word ‘arthritis’ actually refers to over 100 different diseases affecting areas in and around joints of the body. Arthritis also can also affect other parts of the body besides the joints. The skin, liver, heart, and kidneys are all vulnerable to certain types of arthritis. It causes pain, loss of movement and joint swelling.
I have an intense and personal interest in this subject since I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis twenty two years ago. But to be honest, I consider myself far luckier than many arthritis sufferers. I am fairly mobile and reasonably energetic, have minimal joint deformity and swelling, and most days I experience no real pain at all. It is mostly due to a combination of my medication regimen and my aromatherapy, that I am in such good shape for someone with a chronic illness.
I haven’t always been this stable though. I’ve had several periods in my life where I was largely disabled. The RA led to the onset of fibromyalgia and I was forced to leave a career in nursing at age 33 because of the constant pain. The more I worked, the worse it got until it was finally impossible for me to work the long hours anymore.
Instead, I made a choice to concentrate my energy levels on being a stay at home mom to my two small children. I quit work, the daily stress level dramatically lowered and I got better. Today my son and daughter are 17 and 20 and a triumph of what was the best decision that I ever made. You WAHMs and WAHDs know what I mean.
As an arthritic, I am not unique. I share the daily “What body part isn’t working well today” experience with over 66 million people nationwide.
According to Arthritis Today magazine:
*In 2005, 1 in 3 adults and 300,000 children are affected by arthritis
*Arthritis is one of the most prevalent chronic health problems
and the nation’s leading cause of disability among Americans over age 15
*More than 7 million Americans need help with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and walking
*Arthritis results in 39 million physician visits, half million hospitalizations and costs the US economy more than $86.2 billion a year!
*Half of Americans with arthritis don’t think anything can be done to help them
Common Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis – a degenerative joint disease that is the most prevalent form of arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – an autoimmune disease that is one of the most serious and disabling types, affecting mostly women.
Juvenile Arthritis – a general term for all types of arthritis, including rheumatoid and lupus, that occur in children.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus) – a serious disorder that can inflame and damage joints and other connective tissues.
Fibromyalgia – in which widespread pain affects the muscles and attachments to the bone, causes extreme fatigue and sleep problems.
Aromatherapy is a natural holistic approach to health and wellness using plant-derived scents that I use daily as a way to control the stresses of my life. All forms of arthritis are exacerbated or worsened by stress. Controlling that aspect of my life, even just a little, has made a world of difference in my overall condition.
The traditional method of healing called aromatherapy is finally beginning to be considered a science and is gaining ground among doctors willing to combine conventional medicine with alternative therapies. This current switch among health professionals is called integrative medicine. It is a move away from the traditional approach that focuses only on the disease and prescription drugs to an approach that looks more at the individual who has the disease and gives them a more active role in their regiment. This integrative approach has proved to be a virtual lifesaver for me and one that I strongly encourage other arthritis sufferers to try.
Some of the most effective essential oils for reduction of arthritis symptoms are Lavender, Juniper, Thyme, Rosemary, Benzoin, Eucalyptus, Chamomile, Peppermint, Camphor, Ginger, Black Pepper and Lemon.
For the best relief from arthritis symptoms, you can add the essential oils to the bath, massage them into your skin, or apply them in a compress. For application directly to the kin, however, essential oils should be blended with a carrier oil like almond, jojoba, apricot or even coconut oil to avoid skin irritation. You can also use aloe vera gel mixed with witch hazel for a clean, nonsticky absorbable rub.
Aromatherapy is a natural, safe and economical option to deal with the pain, stiffness, stress, anxiety, and depression that often goes hand in hand with an arthritis diagnosis. The best thing of all though is that aromatherapy has no negative side effects as so many of the conventional approaches and medications do. It is also an excellent way to improve your general outlook, your attitude and the quality of your life.
When you have arthritis, it can be a struggle to maintain your independence in your daily activities. With aromatherapy you have powerful tools to use for that purpose.
Aromatherapy should be used in addition to proper diet, medications and mild exercise to manage your arthritic condition. There is no magic bullet or solution yet for arthritis but with aromatherapy, there is a way for you to take back some control over your life and health. Aromatherapy is not intended to replace proven medical approaches or a medication regimen.
About the author: Buffy Hall, RN Ret. worked as an RN for 12 years before retiring due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. She is a long time student of natural healing and alternative therapies and practices many of them in the management of her own chronic illness. You can contact her anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org