Holistic approach to osteoarthritis

The reason I wrote the book One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis was because I had OA myself and had taken an overall approach to managing it, which has worked well for me.  While supplements are incredibly valid, it’s about more than taking turmeric or glucosamine and encompasses a range of measures that we can all do.

These include:

  • Exercise in general and exercises specifically to help the knees, the hips, the hands.
  • Making dietary changes.
  • Managing weight and at least getting down to your BMI (body mass index).

Those are the three pillars of managing osteoarthritis, but there is so much more you can do too.

A website devoted to osteoarthritis in the knee ran a blog written by me: entitled How I stay active with osteoarthritis.

One step ahead of osteoarthritis

One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis book cover smaller One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, Frances Ive, published by Hammersmith Health Books, available at Waterstones and Amazon.

Winter time and damp weather can prompt aches and pains.  As many as 8.75 million people have osteoarthritis and I am one of them, but I wasn’t prepared to give in to it. I wanted to carry on playing tennis, do yoga and tai chi. So as any health journalist would do, I researched osteoarthritis and found there were loads of things I could do and now I’ve put them in my book, One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis.

To have a look at the first chapter go to:  book2look.com.

Professor Sir Sam Everington, GP in Tower Hamlets, Chair of NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group, board member of NHS Clinical Commissioners,  wrote in his Foreword to the book: ‘This book is not just about length of life, it is about something much more important, a happy and healthy life, whatever is thrown at you. It is about self-motivation and well-being. It should be prescribed on the NHS by all doctors. It can’t be, but if you have osteoarthritis or want to live a happier and healthier life, buying this book is the best investment you could ever make.’

The aim is to stay mobile and active and continue with a good quality of life.

So what can you do?

  • Diet: Look at what you eat and drink, perhaps trying a new way of eating and cutting down on acidic foods that may be aggravating osteoarthritis.  Use turmeric in cooking – see The Spice of Life.
  • Exercise: Ensure you do regular exercise or activity that is right for you, and try exercises that are specific for osteoarthritis in the knees, hips and hands. The purpose of exercise is to build up muscles to protect the joints they surround.  Swimming, walking, Pilates, yoga, tai chi, and many more activities are good for osteoarthritis.
  • Weight management: It makes sense that the more you weigh, the more pressure you put on the lower part of your body – particularly feet, knees and hips.  Just losing a few pounds can make a big difference.
  • Supplements: There are choices and people tend to find that one works better than another. We’re all different so try them out – turmeric, rosehip, glucosamine, Boswellia (Indian frankincense), and many more.
  • Therapies: If you can afford to have acupuncture, massage, osteopathy, chiropractic or visit a herbalist, these therapies can relax  your joints and get your circulation moving.
  • Cider vinegar: it may not taste nice but it turns from acid to alkaline in the body and can help to reduce inflammation in arthritic joints when taken daily in water.

One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, Frances Ive, Hammersmith Health Books. Forewords by Professor Sir Sam Everington & Barbara Cousins; Good health and osteoarthritis; Looking at weight loss; Finding exercise to suit you; Protect and strengthen your body: pilates, t’ai chi, yoga, Alexander technique; What is ‘healthy eating’? Food and drink – acid or alkaline? Supplements and herbs; Helpful complementary therapies; Practical solutions; The power of sleep and the weather; Lonely, depressed and stressed; Emotional support; Soups, juices and meals with turmeric and ginger; Further information

Bad weather affects our joints

Courtesy of Daoudi Aissa
Courtesy of Daoudi Aissa

It’s not just an old wives’ tale that you can forecast the weather by the pains in your joints.  It’s true.  While researching my book, One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis  (by Frances Ive, which focuses on staying active  to stay mobile and happy , the following research showed that a  10 degree drop in temperature and also a fall  in barometric pressure affected people’s joints.

Scientists carried out a study at Tufts University, Boston, of 200 people of around 60 years old with osteoarthritis of the knee over a three month period[1]. They concluded that changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature are independently associated with osteoarthritis knee pain severity. Every 10 degree drop in temperature was also linked to an increase in arthritis pain.

It may actually be the lowering of barometric pressure that affect people the most – not the pressure itself. Scientists carried out a study at Tufts University, Boston, of 200 people of around 60 years old with osteoarthritis of the knee over a three month period[1]. They concluded that changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature are independently associated with osteoarthritis knee pain severity. Every 10 degree drop in temperature was also linked to an increase in arthritis pain.

Now , new research from Regenovex®[2] – a unique science backed supplement to help support bone health and muscle function for people leading active lives, found that many people were aware of the relationship between the weather and their aches and pains.

• Nearly three in five (57%) say that the cold is the type of weather that most affects their joints, bones and muscles
• For 38% of the nation, the damp causes health miseries for the body’s network of muscles, joints and bones
• Rain for 27% of people plays havoc with their bones, joints and muscles.

One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, Frances Ive, Hammersmith Health Books, is available at Waterstones,

Amazon, and independent book stores.


[1] McAlindon T1Formica MSchmid CHFletcher J. Changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature influence osteoarthritis pain. Am J Med. 2007 May;120(5):429-34.

[2] Global Ginger Comms; Autumn 2020; data on file.

Experimenting with ‘superfoods’: cider vinegar

Cider vinegarFor 2018, I’m setting the alphabet theme aside and, instead, I’m going to experiment with some so-called superfoods, looking at how to include them in your diet, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.  I’m not planning to take an in-depth look at the evidence base – just at how to add some fun, imagination and maybe even a bit of healthy input into everyday eating.

So, let’s kick off by experimenting with cider vinegar, which has long been recommended for treating osteoarthritis and high blood glucose. It’s also said to aid weight loss. In an experiment carried out by Michael Mosley for the BBC a couple of years ago, taking cider vinegar did lower blood glucose and cholesterol when taken before a meal (while malt vinegar did not), although there was no impact on participants’ weight.

Cider vinegar is made by fermenting chopped up apples to make acetic acid (also the main component of malt vinegar). Culinary cider vinegar is clear, as it has been filtered and pasteurised. Head for the health food shop and pick up a bottle of cider vinegar with ‘the mother’, which is the cloudy complex mixture of yeast, bacteria, enzymes and so on remaining when the product is neither filtered nor pasteurised. It’s the presence of ‘the mother’ which is said to account for cider vinegar’s therapeutic properties.

Cider vinegar cocktail

Though I’m not keen on the concept of ‘cleansing’ or ‘detoxing’, I quite like to set the tone for the day’s eating by sipping a concoction that is meant to do just that! I like hot water and lemon, but we’ve now switched to a cider vinegar cocktail, drunk sometime mid-morning. At the moment. the recipe is one tablespoon cider vinegar, a teaspoon of Manuka honey, and one vitamin C tablet, topped up with fizzy water. Sometimes I add the juice of half a lemon. Or you could keep it very simple and just have a tablespoon of cider vinegar with hot water.

Orange & Green Juice

Instead of (or as well as?) your daily cider vinegar cocktail, why not add cider vinegar to a healthy juice? This one combines ‘something green’ with ‘something sweet’.

Serves one
Two oranges
One large carrot
Bag of spinach
One inch peeled ginger root
Juice all these ingredients, and add one tbsp. cider vinegar. Drink immediately.

Leafy avocado salad

This is a nice mixture of colours and textures, with a good dose of healthy fats from the avocado and seeds.
Serves two
Bunch or bag of watercress
Other leaves – spinach, baby kale, pea shoots
One avocado, chopped
Two tbsp. pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Two tbsp. pomegranate seeds


One tbsp. cider vinegar
One tbsp. extra virgin flax seed oil
Mix all salad ingredients and toss with the oil and vinegar.

Sweet and sour vegan stir fry

Although I didn’t do Veganuary (or, indeed, ‘dry’ January), I am interested in the vegan approach – so I’m going to experiment with some non-animal recipes.

Serves two
100g mushrooms, sliced
One leek, sliced finely
Small white or Savoy cabbage, sliced finely
Half a pineapple, sliced finely
Bunch of spring onions, sliced finely
One tbsp. cider vinegar
Two tbsp. pineapple juice, from the pineapple listed above
One tbsp. soy sauce or equivalent (eg mixed aminos)
One tbsp. tomato puree
Heat coconut oil in a frying pan or wok and add all veg and pineapple and fry for a few minutes. Then add the vinegar, juice, soy sauce and tomato puree and stir fry for another five minutes. Serve with brown rice or wholewheat noodles.

Next month – experimenting with turmeric. 

Laser treatment heals nerve damage


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