Many patients visiting us suffer from osteoarthritis (OA), either as their primary complaint, or as a feature of their health history.
Most of these patients are in their sixties and beyond, but an important minority are younger, professionally active people suffering from OA as a result of impact or repetitive, work-related, trauma.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative, “wear and tear” disease – usually affecting weight bearing joints (hips, knees) but also the spine, wrists and hands – causing joint stiffness, pain, damage and, over time, joint deformity.
What is striking is how little these patients know about their condition, and how limited the tools given to them to manage it positively.
Yet although osteoarthritis is a “degenerative” condition (meaning that it gets worse over time), it is not life-threatening, and hence is begging to be managed practically and positively.
With this in mind, we engage with our patients in a multi-disciplinary approach to managing and limiting the symptoms of OA, as follows:
- gentle joint traction and mobilisation to alleviate and shift areas of stress
- muscle stretching and massage to achieve good muscle balance and tone
- frictions over affected joints to stimulate tissue repair and healing
- cold packs, compresses, or water are used to fight joint swelling and pain during acute stages
- contrast hydrotherapy (alternating hot and cold applications) stimulates local blood supply to chronically swollen joints, and helps accelerate tissue repair
We encourage our patients to engage in a daily exercise routine aimed at:
- distracting the affected joints
- increasing the joint’s pain-free range of motion
- stretching, strengthening and balancing out supporting muscle groups
Patients frequently report not only a decrease in pain and an increase in movement and resilience in affected joints, but also a marked improvement in their sense of balance, body awareness and self-confidence.
Additionally, patients who regularly practice an all-body exercise routine such as yoga, pilates or tai chi tend to report better progress and overall fitness.
Key dietary advice includes:
- avoiding too much acid forming foods – processed food, refined carbohydrates, red meat and an excess of animal protein generally, excess of tea or coffee
- optimising the intake of high quality calcium sources (nuts and seeds, dark leafy vegetables, pulses, fish – including small bones and cartilage in whitebait and sardine)
- optimising intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in the widest range of fresh, seasonal, local fruit and vegetable
- aiming for 6 to 8 glasses of water, herbal teas or fruit-juice daily (depending on their fruit and vegetable intake) to promote better tissue hydration and metabolic waste elimination.
Where patients wish to take supplements – e.g. chondroitin sulphate, glucosamine – we encourage them to shop for the better quality supplements rather than the cheaper alternative.
Relaxation, Meditation and Visualisation
Many of our patients with OA report relatively high degrees of stress and anxiety.
Although this area is poorly researched, we find that OA patients engaging in regular routines of relaxation, meditation or visualisation report better improvement in the course of treatment.
Good sleep is critical to body tissue repair. The cycle of body tissue repair – or circadian rhythm – varies little across individuals, and requires one to be in a deep sleep between 10pm and 2am – 11pm to 3am from the seventh decade of life on – for optimal body tissue repair to occur.
We encourage our patients to manage their sleep patterns accordingly, and if they have difficulty sleeping, to encourage onset through relaxation or meditation exercises.
Whether you have just been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis or are suffering from a wide-ranging, chronic version of the condition, do not be resigned to stiffness and pain. Plan a systematic, wide-ranging range of measures to minimise and even cancel out the negative impact osteoarthritis can otherwise have on your life.
Please do get in touch if you have any questions or to discuss how we can help you. Osteopathy successfully treats more than just neck and back pain, our clinic is on Uxbridge High Street, 4 minutes walk from Uxbridge station (just a couple of stops down from Ickenham, Ruislip and Hillingdon).