Skeletal and Muscular System.
The skeleton, connective tissue, muscles and joints are usually discussed as one system, they are connected together and do not work at all if separated. They are what holds the human body together and allow it to move, and give it form.
The skeleton is made of bones and is what provides the stability and protection for the human body.
There are more than 600 muscles in the body, which are all made of similar material, a type of elastic tissue, and tens of thousands of small fibres. There are three types of muscles, smooth, cardiac, and skeletal.
Smooth muscles are usually involuntary muscles and are controlled by the autonomous part of the brain. Cardiac muscles contract to pump blood in and out of the heart and are also autonomous; they work without us having to consciously do anything. Skeletal muscles are the muscles we consciously move to allow us to move, to sit down, stand up, pick up a book, walk and run, they are usually fastened to our bones with connective tissue.
The body has three types of joints. The Synarthrosis or immovable joint such as the joints between parts of the skull; the Amphiarthrosis or slightly movable joint such as between parts of the spine, and the Synovial or freely movable joint, which is the most prevalent of the joints in the body, examples are the knee or shoulder joints.
The health of all these parts of the body depends upon how they have used and the environment they exist in, which depends on the state of our metabolism, diet and lifestyle. In other words, this is something we can usually either control or help to manage. There are genetically based weaknesses that can cause problems that are far beyond the scope of the holistic healer, but a wholeness can bring about a change in body, mind and spirit.
A major source of conditions that plague this system is the systemic health of the body as a whole. Only as long as the inner environment and metabolism are in harmony is health and wholeness maintained. If our biochemical and metabolic processes are out of tune, one of the effects is that the body will be under a good deal of strain as it attempts to remove waste and toxins. If this condition lasts for some years, which it often does, unnoticed toxins can build up in the connective tissue of the joints, this sows the seeds for the development of arthritis, particularly if there is a genetic disposition in that directions.
The word ‘arthritis’ means ‘inflammation in the joints’. Inflammation is a difficult thing to imagine and describe, but it is part of the body’s normal healing process, just like the healing of a cut or a bruise. Inflammation can be thought of as being like a bruise with swelling on the inside of the joints, and this can cause pain and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is another common form of arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body mistakes its own tissues as foreign and attacks it.
Of all the problems that can affect this system, it is in this area of chronic and degenerative ailments of the bones and joints that herbal medicine and holistic healing has the most to offer.
A vast array of herbs have a reputation of preventing, relieving or curing arthritis problems. In fact, arthritis cannot be cured, once its there, then it can only degenerate, although helping ease symptoms can be achieved, the choice we have is either to resort to pharmacy pain killers or to take a look at the body and ascertain what we can do; not only to ease the symptoms but to remove some of the toxins that cause most of the problem in the first place. The body can not, (as far as I can understand) replace the cartilage that has been rubbed away from between bones, this causes the bones to rub together, to grow more bony tissue and to throw out spurs to trap nerves. A very painful degeneration, but its a matter of knowing one's own body; if we know what not to do so the bones don't rub together, then don't do it! Although pain reliever herbs can help here.
An array of different herbs provides different primary actions and can be chosen according to the needs of the whole body. These include alteratives, anti-inflammatories, rubifacients, diuretics, stimulants, digestives and herbs for lymphatic drainage.
When considering Holistic or Herbal Healing it is important to understand one or two facts. The use of Herbs to heal is not a quick fix. Along with a Holistic way of living life (holistic means ‘the whole’) it is the whole of the body, mind, and spirit together that will heal the whole. Using Herbs is not practised just to fix the symptoms, (although herbs are pretty good at doing just this too) but rather seeks to fix the underlying problems that are providing the symptoms. So when treating the body, we attempt to treat the whole body not just the arthritic knee, but what is causing it, and, perhaps looking back at our elder family, what health problems do they suffer from? Because it may well be a genetic problem, something we too may find ourselves with as we grow older. Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes. By the time we have achieved ‘old age,’ there is little we can do besides treating the symptoms, but that little may be the difference between wanting to live life or sitting in a chair doing nothing.
Herbs listed below are offered for an understanding of how all things come together to make a whole. Before using herbs to heal, it is important to gain a rudimentary understanding of how all of the systems of the body work, together with a knowledge of the herbs you choose to use.
Alteratives gradually cleanse and correct a polluted condition of the bloodstream and will restore healthier functioning.
Bladderwrack, Bogbean, Black Cohosh, Celery seed, Devils claw, Cuaiacum and Sarsparilla.
It is important to understand that we are not aiming at suppressing inflammation, which is usually part of a healthy body-response. Rather these herbs reduce inflammation by helping the body to overcome the problem. These herbs can be helpful, particularly in arthritic conditions, where long-standing inflammation of joints and other tissues become self-defeating.
A good example is Meadowsweet; it is rich in natural aspirin-like substances that reduce swelling and pain, while it is also a diuretic and is hepatic, this aids the body in cleaning and elimination and in time clearing the roots of the inflammation, which lie in an accumulation of waste and toxins.
Herbs include White willow, Devils claw, Guaiacum, Meadowsweet, White poplar and Wild Yam.
Rubifacients, when applied to the skin, stimulate circulation in that area. This increases the blood supply, which in turn relieves congestion and inflammation. This makes rubifacients particularly useful as a basis for liniments used in muscular rheumatism and similar conditions. Most rubifacients are too strong to be used internally. Even on sensitive skin, they should be used with care, and not at all when the skin is damaged.
Useful herbs are Cayenne, Ginger, Horseradish, Mustard, Peppermint oil, Rosemary oil and Wintergreen.
Another way to cleanse the body of toxins is to stimulate the circulation, which increases blood flow to muscles and joints. This can be done without straining the heart by using herbs that stimulate peripheral circulation.
Useful Herbs include: Cayenne, Ginger, Poke root, Prickly ash or Rosemary oil.
While the purist will never treat symptoms, the healer’s art aims at relieving suffering. It may be necessary to use herbs that will reduce the often severe pain of rheumatism and arthritis, which of course should only be given as part of a whole treatment of the cause. The anti-inflammatories will reduce pain to some degree, but the only effective way to reduce and eliminate pain is to clear the underlying problem.
Herbs for Pain Relief are; White willow bark, Meadowsweet, Jamaican dogwood, St. John’s wort or Valerian.
A herb that has had a bad press for a long time is now available for consumption as a pain reliever, which the writer thoroughly recommends. Cannabis sativa, is a herb that has been used for thousands of years with all its constituents intact, its use for healing has been supplemented by its mind-altering purposes too. Cannabis sativa is now available to buy with the constituents that cause the mind-altering constituents removed.
The writer thoroughly recommends its use for pain associated with osteoarthritis, where the medical profession can only recommend opiates. Opiates are very addictive, where Cannabis sativa tea and the oil is not. I have used both the tea and the oil for a long time now, and can only say that for me, and for others, I have spoken to, this works for relief from years of pain, if you are in this situation, give it a try and see for yourself.
The digestive process needs to be in good working order, otherwise, nutrients will not be properly absorbed and the muscular-skeletal system will be impaired. The use of bitter tonics may well be useful.
Bitter tonics include Gentian, Goldenseal, Wormwood or Yarrow.
If there is any appreciable degree of Constipation, the use of evacuants is called for, especially those that act by stimulating the liver. Such as; Boldo, Rhubarb root, Aloe vera juice, or Yellow dock.
We have all experienced muscular cramps at one time or another, which are painful but nothing much to worry about. However, if it becomes an intransigent condition it should be treated, not only to avoid the stressful symptoms but also because it suggests circulatory problems since it is a symptom of a lack of oxygen to the muscles. It is quite an easy matter to remove to problem herbally if the treatment is continued for a period of time.
A mixture of the following decoction is recommended; take three times daily for a number of months.
Cramp bark 6 parts
Prickly Ash 2 parts
Ginger 1 part
The bursae around the knee and elbow joints act as small water-filled cushions between the larger tendons and bones. Inflammation of these sacs is called bursitis.
When it occurs in the knees it is often referred to as housemaid’s knee, in the elbow it is called tennis elbow.
The condition may be due to a hard knock or accident, or to a slow change. When it is part of the gradual development of osteoarthritis or rheumatic-arthritis it should be treated as described in the section above.
When of short term duration it is best to help the tissues by using a compress on the affected areas, or a stimulating liniment. Both will help reduce the inflammation and will therefore ease the pain. However, if the condition continues, internal treatment for rheumatism and arthritis should be started.