Arthritis – what to do

Arthritis kneeNine out of ten people have arthritis by the time they reach 50 and every year a whopping eight million go to see their doctor about it.

At its worst arthritis impairs mobility to such an extent that people can barely walk, their hands become disfigured and they suffer considerable pain. Even at this stage taking simple measures to alleviate it can improve quality of life, and better still if caught early there’s no need to get to this stage at all.

The best things to do to prevent it getting worse is to manage it.  Even doctors agree that the medication for arthritis can elicit unpleasant side-effects.

Some self-help tips: 

  • Massage hands or other affected areas with some ginger oil in a carrier oil.
  • Take turmeric, rosehip or glucosamine supplements (recommended brands at the end). Some work for some people, and others for other people.
  • Take a dessertspoonful of cider vinegar in a glass of water each day (or even before each meal) to reduce acidity. It turns to alkaline within the boday.
  • Eat a low acid diet – see below.
  • Have regular osteopathy, massage, acupuncture or chiropractic to unblock and loosen up joints and muscles.
  • Lose weight – if you’re overweight you are putting more pressure on hips, knees and feet.
  • Use turmeric in cooking – see The Spice of Life.
  • Exercise as much as you can.  Inactivity makes arthritis worse.  T’ai chi, yoga, walking, swimming, are all good.

There are two types of arthritis:

• Osteoarthritis is by far the most common one and means that there is a loss of cartilage (the protective surface over the ends of the bones).
• Rheumatoid arthritis affects more women than men, causes swelling and pain in the joints and is very debilitating.

Prevention is always better than cure so it is helpful to give yourself a fighting chance against arthritis well before it sets in.

It’s hard to meet anyone over 70 who isn’t rattling with drugs and more often than not these include medication for high blood pressure and for arthritis. However, even if someone is taking prescription drugs there’s no reason why they shouldn’t try some self-help to ease symptoms even more.

Why me?

There are a number of factors that could increase the likelihood of arthritis or aggravate it including:

• poor diet
• emotional stress
• hormonal imbalance
• allergies
• free radicals – the compounds that roam the body attacking healthy cells
• high homocysteine levels – the amino acid in the blood that in excess can cause Alzheimer’s and heart disease (see Features/Homocysteine)
• over-exercise in the case of athletes, gymnasts, ballerinas

 

Nutritional information

According to author of Cooking Without Made Easy, nutritionist Barbara Cousins, says, ‘An anti-inflammatory and low acidity diet which cuts out or reduces processed foods, salt, refined sugar and red meat is recommended. They should eat a lot of fish, and vegetables are crucial because they give much needed vitamins and minerals.

‘If possible I like people to eat organic food so that the body doesn’t have to cope with detoxifying pesticides and herbicides. It’s important to avoid acidic foods as most arthritis sufferers have an intolerance to them.’

Foods to avoid

Salt and salty foods such as bacon or kippers
Sugar in cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweet drinks
Alcohol!

Acid foods:

• Red meat
• Strawberries
• Tomatoes
• Citrus fruit
• Peppers
• Potatoes
• Aubergines

Saturated fats:

• Red meat
• Butter and cheese
• Cream and full cream milk

Healthy foods:

• Vegetables
• Brown rice
• Lentils and beans
• Free range chicken
• Fish
• Nettle tea
• Rosemary
• Brazil nuts
• WATER – if you drink loads of tea have plenty of spring or filtered water too.

Barbara says, ‘Eating these foods supports the liver and bowel so that they can eliminate toxins and raise blood sugar levels giving the internal organs more energy. They may notice improvements after a month, but it takes about a year with severe arthritis to overcome the disease and feel on top of it!’

Detoxing can be a difficult thing to go through for anyone not familiar with nutrition so it is always advisable to consult a nutritional therapist:

British Association of Nutritional Therapists, 08706 061284, www.bant.org.uk
See Therapies/Nutrition.

Foods that reduce inflammation:

• Olives
• Green tea
• Grapes
• Raisins
• Onions

Natural painkillers:

• Ginger
• Turmeric

Herbal and homeopathic remedies

Homeopathic remedies are completely safe whether or not someone is taking medication, but herbal remedies can contraindicate certain drugs so check with a doctor or registered medical herbalist before mixing the two.

Homeopathic remedies:

• Arnica, particularly if arthritis starts after a fall
• Rhus tox – for stiffness

Herbal remedies:

• Devil’s Claw – anti-inflammatory herbal remedy
• White Willow Bark comes from the same source as aspirin and alleviates pain

Supplements:

• Research has shown good results for arthritis with rose hip supplements (see below).

  • Many people swear by Glucosamine** that helps to rebuild cartilage, repair damage and relieve pain
    • MSM (mineral sulphur) is often combined with Glucosamine and provides pain relief as arthritis sufferers may have a deficiency of sulphur
    • Chondoitrin** is often combined with Glucosamine because it attracts fluid into the cartilage making them more mobile
    • Omega 3 fish oils – reduce inflammation and increase mobility
    • Multivitamins – most arthritis sufferers are deficient in various vitamins and minerals and taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement helps to redress this.

**Check the sources of these supplements – I tend to avoid anything from ‘bovine’ sources. Also you need to look for shellfish if you are allergic to it.

Featured products
Devil’s Claw Muscle & Joint Pain Relief Higher Nature Herbals 40 tablets £9.28
White Willow (Salix alba) Swiss Herbal Remedies 50ml £10.50
Litozin Plus Rosehip 100% Natural Joint Care Capsules with Rosenoides & Vitamin C Litozin 120 veg capsules £16.70
Glucosamine + Chondoitrin Complex Vega Nutrition 30 caplets £10.45
Efamarine Omega 3 oils Efamol 90 capsules £8.99
Adult Multivitamins & Minerals Biocare 60 veg capsules £18.76
Ginger oil Absolute Aromas 10ml £8.53
Arnica 30c Nelson’s 84 tablets £6.71
Arnicare Arnica Gel Nelson’s 30g £6.13
MSM Glucosamine Joint Complex Higher Nature 90 tablets £8.58
By using the promotion code HSoul1 you can obtain a 5% discount at www.superfooduk.com on the above products

Self-help tips

These may sound crazy but they are old wives’ tales that might help:

• Cider vinegar and honey – one teaspoon of each in warm water every morning
• Epsom salts in the bath to soothe aching joints
• Cabbage juice, cabbage water or cabbage leaves as a poultice on painful areas

You can get help from: www.thejointageinginformationservicepanel.org

Exercise

One of the best ways to prevent arthritis is to do regular exercise to remain very mobile. Just half an hour a day is adequate and walking is excellent, so if it means the difference between taking the car and walking somewhere it benefits your health as well as the environment!

Being overweight doesn’t help with arthritis because there is more pressure on joints so exercise can help to keep weight down as well as keeping you mobile. Recommended exercise includes:

• Swimming
• Dancing – Indian dancing helps to keep fingers mobile
• Cycling
• Walking
• Yoga – great for stretching
• Pilates – also excellent for keeping mobile
• T’ai chi and chi kung – wonderful for mobility and to relax you

It may be a dying art but knitting is good for the fingers as it encourages them to move quickly and exercise. The same could be true of using a keyboard but sadly it seems to cause more problems than it solves such as RSI, back pain and stiffness!

Therapies

Magnets: some people swear by magnetic bracelets or pads to alleviate arthritis, and others wear them simply to keep it away.

Alexander Technique: it can’t take away arthritis but by learning to minimise tension in the body there is usually a resulting reduction in pain. Contact STAT (Society for Teachers of the Alexander Technique), 020 7482 5135 www.stat.org.uk See Therapies/Alexander Technique.

Herbal medicine: The safest bet is to visit a qualified medical herbalist who can ensure that no herbs administered will contra-indicate medication. They can also prescribe creams and ointments to ease areas of discomfort. To find a medical herbalist contact the National Institute for Medical Herbalists, NIMH, 01392 426022, http://www.nimh.org.ukSee Therapies/Herbal Medicine

Acupuncture: Relieves pain, reduces swelling and inflammation. To find a local acupuncturist contact the British Acupuncture Council is on: 0208 735 0400
http://www.acupuncture.org.uk See Therapies/Acupuncture

 

Laser treatment heals nerve damage

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Personal story: Following a routine hand operation Mandy Sutcliffe-Spencer of Stevenage, was left with pain and deformity in her left hand, and the medication for the pain “scrambled” her brain.

Most unusually the 45 year old mother of two had a ganglion growing inside her left wrist and needed to have an operation. ‘It grew to four inches and was very uncomfortable so surgery was recommended,’ Mandy explains. ‘Before the operation in December 2012 the ganglion burst which relieved the pressure, but it was then completely removed in surgery.

‘Something must have gone wrong during the operation because my hand wasn’t straight, and I couldn’t make a fist. My ring, index and little fingers curled under when I tried to make a fist and my hand was uncomfortable. The doctors diagnosed the problem as ‘fluid complex regional pain syndrome’ which was odd as I wasn’t in pain as such, although my shoulder hurt when I lifted up my arm. They prescribed Gabapentin for me, medication for epilepsy, but it caused a lot of side-effects and my brain was completely scrambled.

‘I couldn’t do my job properly and once I went to work wearing odd earrings – this kind of thing was not like me at all. My brain didn’t seem to be connected to my left hand at all and I kept missing and dropping things. It just didn’t feel like my own hand. I had always had a speech impediment and it got worse. I am an administrator in a school and I couldn’t see my mistakes so I was in danger of losing my job. Life seemed very black.

‘My parents had been to Stephen Makinde at his Perfect Balance Clinic in Hatfield, Herts, and persuaded me to go and see him. He thought I was suffering from nerve damage from the operation and told me that I was using the wrong muscles in my upper arm when lifting things. He gave me laser treatment with K Laser, and some exercises to retrain my muscles and I was soon pain free. I became able to make a proper fist and with his help I was able to wean myself off the medication so at last I felt more normal.

‘I can make a fist without having to concentrate, but I still have some problems with lack of sensation – I burnt my finger the other day because I didn’t notice immediately that it was burning. Because of my love of singing and dancing my whole life revolved around having two hands. If this hadn’t worked, I don’t know where I’d have been now.’

K Laser is being trialled at the hand therapy department at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, particularly for carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, Quervains’ and diabetic wounds. However, it is available privately at various clinics and is being used for sports injuries, osteoarthritis, and other deep tissue injuries.  It is also widely used in vets for animals with arthritis and injuries.

Contact: Stephen Makinde, Perfect Balance Clinic, www.perfectbalanceclinic.com