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Our bodies are truly amazing.  They cope and adapt to the various stresses and demands we make on them every day and we hardly ever give them the respect and care they need and deserve until – one day they start to hurt or we can’t do something we used to be able to do. Then we feel let down and bewildered as to why? The truth is we need to care for ourselves more than we do and this is how we can care for our joints, those miraculous things that allow us to bend and twist in multiple forms.

Yoga

There are 206 bones in the human body which makes for a lot of joints. The range of motion of these joints vary depending on the type of joint e.g. ball and socket joint of the hip or hinge joint of the elbow. These joints can be injured by direct trauma such as a fracture; subluxation; sprain; daily increased wear and tear of incorrect movement patterns (which most of us have) or incorrect dietary habits resulting in inflammation and lack of repair. What we are really talking about here is Osteoarthritis. Symptoms are typically joint pain, swelling and stiffness.

Treatment options :

Chiropractic or Osteopathy manipulations of the spine and peripheral joints can decrease joint tenderness and improve function.

Massage around the painful area will improve circulation and reduce pain and swelling.

ExerciseInitially, exercise may increase pain, however, gentle exercise has long-term benefits with positive effects on physical function, fitness and activity levels. Try Pilates, Yoga or swimming.

Dietary Modification Research has proven time and again that diet can affect the body’s ability to heal and repair itself so it is vital that we eat foods that are beneficial to our health and well-being. Nothing surprising here – surely. So what’s beneficial?  It’s the same diet that you always hear me talking about. Reduce protein, simple carbohydrates and saturated fats, alcohol and coffee from your diet and all processed foods. Ultimately – an organic vegetarian diet (produces an alkaline environment in the body) with a good source of omega 3 oils is the way to go. This diet is low in protein (protein produces an acidic environment = pain) but rich in nutrients needed for rebuilding and repair of joints.

The next question for me is – ‘Do we get enough of these nutrients in our diets these days?’ The answer sadly is ‘Probably not.’ The way that our food is now grown results in a product that is lacking in nutritional value (have you noticed food just doesn’t taste like it used to?). Even if we were living in an ideal world where all the crops were grown organically and therefore they were regularly rotated and full of nutrients because they were grown naturally in a richly nutritious soil. When it comes to a arthritic joint – we want to repair the joint surface and we will need more than the RDA (recommended daily allowance) which, for example, is the lowest amount you need to not get scurvy, not the amount you need the heal and repair your body. So supplements and vegetable juicing are the easiest way to pack those nutrients in.

If you would like to know which nutrients you need, you can always make an appointment with me at the clinic. Meanwhile, here are some supplements that are beneficial in either joint health and/or repair:

Omega 3 oils – everyone should be taking these as we are just not getting enough in our diets. Each individual cell in your body has a wall that sounds it. That wall needs to be highly permeable, allowing products to enter it as well as exit. Omega 3 oils increase cell permeability where as poor oils e.g hydrogenated fat, decrease the cells permeability by making the cell wall rigid. Omega 3 oils are essential and sadly lacking in our diets. Be sure to take a good source of this oil that has been filtered from heavy metal contamination if it is from a fish source.

Sources – fish, nuts and seeds, flax, green leafy vegetables.

Omega 6 oils – effective in part due to its conversion to Prostaglandin E1 – anti-inflammatory pathway (as is omega 3).

Source – borage oil, black currant seed oil, evening primrose oil.

Oleic Acid – olive oil. Research link

Glucosamine Sulphate and Chondroitin Sulphate – may both play a role in wound healing by providing the raw materials needed to manufacture molecules called glycosaminoglycans that are found in skin, tendons, ligaments and joints. They are also reported to reduce pain. Glucosamine sulphate has had a lot of research done on it (which is unusual for a nutrient as most research is conduct by pharmaceutical companies, and they can’t patent a nutrient)and most of it is really positive. E.g. research link

Antioxidants – Vitamin C/E – are important against oxidative, free radical damage and also for the creation of collagen which is found in bones, ligaments, blood vessels and tendons; also important in the creation of neurotransmitters (serotonin, nor-adrenaline and dopamine) which control our moods, mental clarity and pain levels. Eat a rainbow of colours in your diet and you’ll be getting some but will you be getting enough?

Sources – peppers (red, orange, yellow, green), carrots, tomatoes, red cabbage, blueberries etc.

Vitamin D – boy – there is so much research being done on this vitamin at the moment and a deficiency in this vitamin is being linked to so many conditions including poor joint health. There is no way we get enough of it in the UK (hardly any sunlight) so take a supplement.

Bromelain – is a protein-digesting enzyme derived from pineapple. Some 200 medical journal articles attest to its effectiveness in treating inflammatory conditions by blocking inflammatory chemicals and digesting excess fibrin, a chemical contributing to osteoarthritis.

 

Herbs

These beautiful botanical miracles are truly amazing (which is why pharmaceutical companies are very effectively limiting their use in Europe). Get them while you can.

Curcumin – is a herbal extract from turmeric and is as effective as cortisone for anti-inflammatory needs but without the cortisone side-effects.

Ginger – anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.

Devil Claw – anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.

Boswelia – it shrinks inflamed tissue, builds cartilage, increases blood supply and helps to repair blood vessels. I love this herb.

 

Topical Treatment Options

These are also herbs but made into and highly absorbable gel that can be applied to the skin to reduce pain and swelling. We carry both of these at the clinic.

Horse Chestnut – contains a compound called aescin that acts as an anti-inflammatory. It can be applied to an affected area every couple of hours to reduce swelling.

Arnica – great at reducing pain and inflammation.

 

I know what you’re thinking – ‘Too much effort. Why not just pop a pill?’

Short-term use of NSAIDs (such as Ibuprofen) can be helpful when used for inflammation that results from traumatic injuries (sprains/strains etc). However, long-term use of these medications can cause a host of unwanted side-effects. The way they work is to block the prostaglandin inflammatory AND anti-inflammatory pathways. Another point that I feel is highly relevant, is that NSAIDs do not actually correct the cause of the pain. In fact they cause intestinal permeability, which leads to more inflammation. A person taking NSAIDs medication is seven times more likely to be hospitalised for gastrointestinal adverse effects which the FDA estimates leads to 200,000 cases of gastric bleeding annually resulting in 10,000 – 20,000 deaths each year.

Why take something that is non-beneficial and possibly detrimental to your health (life expectancy) when there are safe and effective natural options.

Make the effort. You’re worth it!

Written by Anne French

Patient demand is key. Patients have a right to evidence based treatment for back pain recommended by NICE regardless of their ability to pay.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends which treatments the NHS should provide. The recent NICE back pain guidelines (2009) advise GPs to offer patients the choice of a course of manual therapy (Chiropractic, Osteopathy), exercise or acupuncture. Up until now Primary Care Trusts who have managed the NHS budgets have been slow to take this forward. There are currently only a few examples of chiropractors providing manual therapy funded by the NHS, such as in N. E. Essex where this has been operating successfully for about 2 years. Patients have been very satisfied with this service, having reduced pain and disability, with fewer being referred to hosipital for back pain thus saving NHS costs.

Now with the recent NHS reforms, set out in the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill 2011, things should change. The Department of Health believes that the implementation of the Bill will empower patients and improve patient care.

Patients should quote the NICE guidelines saying that these recommend a course of up to 9 sessions of manual therapy, which is one of the best treatments for persistent back pain and there is evidence to show its effectiveness and cost savings.  See http://www.nice.org.uk/CG88   for more information such as a patient leaflet and fact sheet.

The voice of the patient is paramount because GPs will listen to patient demand. So follow this link. Print off the sheet and take it to your GP.

Ask for the treatment that has been recommended and if by chance they say ‘no’ – ask why? And keep on asking.

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