Health Matters – Ouch!

Arthritis, frozen shoulder, stiff neck, sore back: besides pain, what do these all have in common? Inflammation.

Inflammation is our body’s ?red flag,? directing attention to something That’s not right. Inflammatory conditions can be painful or limiting?or both?and it often feels as though the only options are painkillers or invasive medical techniques.

However, That’s not the case; natural medicine offers many venues for inflammation relief. And while it may not be possible to entirely eliminate all symptoms, there’s a good chance that using one or a combination of the following methods may help reduce pain, improve mobility, and give a better range of motion.


What we eat affects our bodies, so It’s a given that diet can impact our inflammation levels. Diets that promote inflammatory markers are those high in fatty foods and low in fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, diets that include five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables daily, complemented by whole grains and adequate protein, work to reduce inflammation (and therefore pain and stiffness).

Note that not all vegetables will be helpful, however. For some people, foods from the Solonaceae plant family?tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers, for example?can also aggravate an inflammatory condition. There is no blood test to tell you this; you’d have to eliminate these foods for three weeks (either all at once or one at a time) and then add them back into your diet and note any worsening of your symptoms. It’s worth a try if your diet seems healthy but You’re still suffering from inflammation-related problems.

Fish Oil

We’ve all heard of the health benefits of fish oil, but here’s one that bears repeating: fish oil is anti-inflammatory. The active ingredients in fish oil, EPA and DHA, work to reduce inflammation. However, the key is in the dose; in order for fish oil to be effective you have to take enough of the active ingredients. Aiming for a minimum of 2,000 mg EPA daily will get your pain and swelling reduction off to a good start.

Additionally, be sure to read the label on your fish oil supplements; check for oil That’s pharmaceutical-grade and that has been tested for impurities, heavy metals, and other toxins. As well, take note of the type of fish used. Fish with the highest concentrations of EPA are the small, fatty ones (think anchovies and sardines).

One caution: those taking blood thinners (Warfarin or Coumadin, for example) should be wary when using fish oil, since the oil can have a minor blood thinning effect. As always, speak with your natural health care practitioner.


Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medicine and has been practiced with success in China for hundreds of years. The good news for backache sufferers is that acupuncture has been shown to reduce pain, swelling, and other symptoms of inflammation by improving blood flow to the area (better blood flow means better oxygen and nutrient flow, and therefore a faster rate of healing). Additionally, acupuncture can be used to treat muscle knots and tension, especially in the neck, back, and hips. don’t be afraid of the needles, either. Acupuncture is relaxing, rarely painful, and promotes a limber after-treatment feeling!

Stretching and Exercise

Depending on your condition, exercise and gentle stretching might also help improve your range of motion and reduce your stiffness. Got heel pain? Roll the sole of your foot back and forth over a pop can. This allows the arches of your feet to stretch in a gentle manner. What about neck stiffness from desk work? Gently moving your neck around its full range of motion?up, down, side-to-side, and around?can limber up muscle-bound areas.

Remember that the key is to not overdo it; exercise should be gentle, not forceful. And you should always check with your healthcare provider before starting any exercises, especially if you have inflammation or stiffness as the result of an injury like a muscle tear.

Pain and stiffness can be so limiting, but you may be able to find some relief. Check out what natural medicine can offer you!

Katie D’Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently practices in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.