Some home truths about this painful condition

  • Discover what causes arthritis
  • Prevention, management and cure is naturally easy
  • Why you should never give in

Right, let’s talk about arthritis.

This is a condition which many of us know well, because we suffer from it.

Every time we go to our GP with a painful knee, neck or back they will say we have a ‘touch of arthritis’ and that they can only give us pain killers to help.

I know this is the case because I’ve just been for my annual check up before my summer holiday. I happened to mention that my old war wounds from a (ahem) glittering rugby career were playing up.

My right knee in particular has been a continual trouble to me, and if I do get a bit enthusiastic about gardening or playing with the kids I usually suffer for a day or two.

My doctor looked over his half moon specs at me and said “what do you expect for a man of your age? It’s just arthritis.”

Well doc it’s never JUST arthritis…it’s something that needs to be sorted out and I need help with it.

So, today’s letter will explore what arthritis is, what can be done to prevent it and what we can do to soothe the pain when we have it. If the medics aren’t going to take it seriously then I am.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis comes in two main forms (although there are around 100 diagnosed types), the common version which affects individual joints is known as osteoarthritis, whereas the version which attacks the whole body all at once is rheumatoid arthritis.

In both cases there is a huge amount of inflammation around the area affected and a gradual wearing away of the bony surfaces of the joint.

Treatment involves a heavy dose of anti-inflammatory pain killers, steroid injections and ultimately surgery to replace the afflicted bones – knees & hips being the most regularly replaced joints due to this condition.

In general terms then, either form is bad news. However, that doesn’t mean we should consider ourselves on the scrap heap just because we get a bit achy in the morning.

The fact that we live an active life means our bodies will suffer some wear and tear, and sometimes we aren’t always able to heal ourselves as quickly as we need to. BUT there is so much we can do to prevent and manage these conditions long before we need to go under the surgeons’ knife.

We can work on prevention for a start.

Prevention, management & cure

The general consensus these days is that our western diet is far too high in Omega-6 fats.

These are fats you get from high levels of vegetable oils in modern cooking processes.

This isn’t to say that omega-6s are bad for you – they’re actually ESSENTIAL for good health – it’s just that they need to be properly balanced out by an intake of omega-3 fatty acids (many experts believe the ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 should be 1:1).

Sounds easy doesn’t it? After all, you can find Omega-3 fats in fish, seafood, broccoli, cabbage, and walnuts and flaxseeds.

But guess what? It’s not as simple as that.

In fact, the average Western diet has a ratio of 20:1. This gets even worse for modern kids when the ratio is closer to 30:1!

How is this happening?

First off, we’d have to eat a lot of the above to get sufficient Omega-3 fats into our diet, and until chocolate covered cabbage gets invented I can’t see my kids eating more of the stuff.

Because of this, we’re a long way off hitting the perfect 1:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 oils. And it’s this huge imbalance which is being linked to many systemic inflammatory problems like arthritis.

So make sure that you are planning your meals to include some fish, good greens and oily seeds.

Where you feel your risk of developing arthritis is high you can also use some of the well proven supplements which derive from seafood and shellfish.

Getting instant, local relief

Just occasionally though, despite your best efforts at living a healthy and virtuous life, you need a quick fix.

After a day in the garden, or a trek across some of our beautiful countryside it’s not uncommon for the old trouble to flair up. The steady dull ache that let’s you know you might have overdone it again.

Knowing that arthritis is an inflammatory condition gives a clue to what is happening, basically the joint has become hot, swollen and reactive.

So, first off cool it down. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a damp tea towel laid on the throbbing joint for 5 minutes at a time begins the process of calming everything down.

Next on the list is to take a dose of natural anti-inflammatory in the form of turmeric which also acts as a painkiller. I take mine twice daily in a naturally extracted form that also has an extract of black pepper in it which has been proven to improve uptake and usage.

Finally, there is nothing better than a nice sit down in warm room with a cup of tea after a gentle self massage of the afflicted area.

Lots of people worry that by rubbing and massaging their body they are going to make things worse because they ‘don’t know what they are doing’.

Well, this is just plain wrong.

Use a gentle but direct pressure (if it’s hurting don’t press so hard!) and work in small circular motions which will get the blood flowing.

You’ll be surprised how effective this can be.

The key facts

Just because you have achieved a certain age does not mean arthritis is inevitable, this is a simple cop out by many medical folk to fob you off.

If you have developed any form of the condition it is not the end for you… learn a few simple self-management tricks and don’t just reach for the anti-inflammatories as these can do more harm than good in the long run.

Don’t stop doing what you enjoy, movement is good for circulation and getting fresh blood in and around inflamed joints is one of the best remedies available to you.

Don’t EVER accept that it is JUST arthritis…fight back and stay active.

Yours, as always