Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of joint degeneration (wear and tear) and whilst it can occur at any age the incidence increases, as we get older. Some of us have a genetic predisposition to it and others suffer as a result of previous injury or over use. Either way, it’s at this time of year that my patients start to complain that their joints are feeling stiff and achy.
The main cause of this pain and stiffness is inflammation and this is what practitioners focus on reducing. There is a wide spectrum of treatments available through your GP, pharmacist, orthopaedic surgeon, osteopath, physio, acupuncturist, medical herbalist and more. They are all trained to advise and treat but here are a few things you can do yourself to ease the problem joints:
Correct diagnosis: First check you have OA. If unsure seek professional advice from your GP, osteopath, physiotherapist or chiropractor. They may suggest the assistance of X -rays or blood tests.
Exercise – keep active. Stiffness and wasting muscle bulk only makes the situation worse. Gentle aerobic exercise and weight training are a proven combination as are brisk walking, swimming, yoga, dancing, Pilates and Tai Chi.
Lose Weight – If you have OA and are overweight doctors at UCLA suggest you can ease the pain and possibly slow the progression by shedding some pounds. Even a modest weight loss can make a difference.
Thermotherapy – lots of my patients find warm wheat packs and heat pads very soothing and beneficial for chronic pain and stiffness and cold therapy when acute pain occurs.
Anti inflammatory foods and supplements – The Arthritis Foundation states that following a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet that emphasizes plenty of vegetables, whole grains, oily fish, and olive oil could help reduce inflammation.
Current research shows that doses of 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day can reduce OA symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory compound oleocanthol. Try using in a salad dressing with apple cider vinegar and some fresh ginger and garlic daily.
Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish and grass fed meat in particular appear to play a role in controlling inflammation and improving wound and joint healing according to the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Footwear – Cushioned soles and orthotics can help to support posture and reduce impact. Shoes with a good grip are best when outside whereas inside smoother soles assist with ‘smoother’ changes of direction in limited spaces.
Sleep – a 2012 study in the journal SLEEP researched people with chronic pain including osteoarthritis. They found those who slept poorly for any reason experienced more OA pain the following day as lack of sleep possibly triggers inflammatory pathways that exacerbate pain.
Check your bed is not too hard – try softening it with a topper or extra duvet on the mattress.
Natural therapies: Osteopathy, massage, physiotherapy, herbal medicine and chiropractic have been shown to ease pain and acupuncture shows very promising results in alleviating arthritis symptoms.
Elaine Everitt has completed a BSc Hons in Herbal Medicine. Herbal Medicine is developed from the traditional use of plants and plant extracts from many parts of the world, confirmed and updated by scientific understanding and research. It still maintains a holistic approach to treatment, focusing on illness in the person rather than symptoms of disease.
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