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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton

What is Arthritis?

Aging in the human body is a natural process and inevitable, but suffering with pain or loss of mobility isn’t. Physiotherapy can help relieve many conditions such as arthritis, those aches and pains or stiffness we experience when we try to get up out of a chair or bend to pick something up from the floor. Those actions that used to come easily and which we never had to think about but suddenly notice are a little or a lot more difficult.

There are different kinds of Arthritis, the most common being Osteoarthritis (OA) and the one most likely to cause the difficulties mentioned. OA is wear and tear of the cartilage in your joints due to the aging process and cannot be reversed. Hip replacements and knee repairs are common surgical remedies along with steroid injections, but long before those decisions are considered or made at all, there are many ways to relieve pain and keep the body working at an optimum level. These include the many physiotherapy related treatments available as well as your daily diet to be considered as they will contribute to a positive outcome.

The symptoms of OA are joint pain, swelling and stiffness making normal movement such as walking or sitting uncomfortable, difficult or painful. Physiotherapy can help restore normal range of motion. Rehabilitation and therapeutic exercise will reduce the risk of future damage and long term disability. Osteoarthritis in the lower body benefits greatly from low-impact exercising which reduces stress on the affected joint at the same time increasing its stability: suitable exercises are swimming, water aerobics, yin yoga. You should avoid any exercises that put an increased load on the joints and that means no jogging, running, jumping jacks or high impact aerobics although walking is always beneficial. For pain management we use Dry Needling (similar to Acupuncture), Cupping which brings blood to the affected area to promote healing, Light therapy and Decompression stretching. Other treatments available here in Nassau can be delivered by a doctor specializing in injections which control pain, stimulates cartilage growth and reduces inflammation.

Changing your diet to include more healthy options is a personal and sensible decision and not too difficult to do. It may be surprising to you to know that many foods will increase both pain and inflammation within the body. Foods to be avoided are processed foods which contain many chemical or other substances or additives which are irritants to the human body. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be a priority if you suffer from OA so increase your consumption of berries, cherries, ginger root which can be grated and added to any cooked food, as well as celery and celery seeds. Oily fish such as sardines or salmon are beneficial as are walnuts or walnut oil and other nuts such as raw almonds. Nuts may be small but can have a big impact as they contain vitamins and micro nutrients essential for good health in general. They contain protein, carbohydrate, and fat. The total protein content is relatively high, which makes them a good source of plant protein (especially for vegetarians); and are rich in phytochemicals that act as antioxidants; are rich in vitamins E, B6, niacin and folate; and they provide minerals such as magnesium, zinc, plant iron, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus and potassium. Curcumin,, the therapeutic component of turmeric, the spice that make curry yellow, can be taken as a supplement. It possesses natural inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Reducing body weight is also very important as the less weight the joints have to carry can only help.

You will hear me saying this all the time but it is always worth repeating: Keep moving! Do not allow the affected body part to lose function because it is a slippery and rapid path into decline with increasing pain, loss of movement, muscle weakness and issues with balance. Yes, canes and walkers are available but I really consider them a last resort as you will become reliant on them; they literally become a crutch but have no restorative value in ameliorating the underlying issues.

I strongly recommend that if you are suffering from Osteoarthritis in the early or later stages, you consider these options before contemplating surgery - which should be your last resort, not the first. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

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