A rosy outlook for arthritis pain

As a child I used to go off into the hedgerows gathering rosehips every autumn, and taking them to school as part of a massive country wide drive. We used to be paid the vast sum of a penny a bag and they were turned into rosehip syrup which after the war was a vital source of vitamin C. Rosehips are having a bit of a revival and a study review has concluded that they could be more effective than painkillers at easing the pain of arthritis sufferers. Apparently when made into a powder, the wild variety of rosehip, Rosa canina, was almost three times more effective than standard paracetamol at reducing pain in patients than paracetamol. It was also almost 40 per cent more effective than another common therapy, the drug glucosamine.

You should find it in supplement form in good health stores or there is an organic form available online at: www.little-green-nursery.co.uk.

Painful Hands?

If your hands are painful, do you know for sure whether what causes it? You could have arthritis or might it actually be Carpal tunnel syndrome, one of the most common forms of Repetitive Strain Injury? About three in 100 of people in the UK suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and it is characterised by pain, tingling or numbness in the hand.

About half of all carpal tunnel cases are work-related, and it a ccounts for the highest number of days missed at work compared to all other work-related injuries or illnesses. The condition develops when the median nerve in the wrist becomes compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel, the narrow passageway of bones and ligaments on the underside of the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. Symptoms include:

· difficulty holding objects
· difficulty performing repetitive movements without pain
· numbness, burning pain, tingling in hand or wrist that increases at night

Some professions are more vulnerable to this condition than others. Particularly at risk are musicians, particularly pianists and violinists, hairdressers, reflexologists and masseuse, manual labourers, computer operators, and even surgeons. If you already have arthritis or any rheumatic conditions then this again can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome as can conditions such as obesity, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.

What can you do about it?

Well painkillers, cortisone injections, splints and surgery (usually the final option) are the conventional route to go. However, my personal experience of a small sample of people I know that have had it done is that it needs to be carefully considered before you go under the knife. It can be painful and success is certainly not guaranteed, even orthopaedic surgeons admit that although surgery can cure night symptoms and transient tingling, if the nerve has been damaged as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome it probably won’t fully recover and complications from surgery can include complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS),which will permanently affect hand function.

On the alternative front, there are several options available:

1 Acupuncture can relieve the pain as it releases natural pain-relieving chemicals into the body, promotes circulation and balances the nervous system. If you can’t abide needles, then Acupressure will do the same job but usually takes a little longer to be effective in my experience.

2 Vitamin B6 deficiency has been associated with carpal tunnel syndrome in several research studies. If your diet is low in food sources such as sweet potatoes, avocados, brown rice, sunflower seeds, chick peas, salmon, pork, chicken, turkey, potatoes, bananas, and mangoes then supplementing with 50 mg 2 to 3 times a day is the suggested dose. At particular risk of B6 deficiency, in addition to poor diet, are those using oral contraceptives or HRT. The maximum intake of B6 from all sources should be less than 200 mg a day, unless otherwise recommended by your doctor or nutritionist.

3 Vitamin B12 – a study looked at the effectiveness of vitamin B12 for people with carpal tunnel syndrome due to overuse of the nonparalyzed arm after a stroke. For two years, 67 people in the study received 1500 mcg of vitamin B12 a day, and the remaining 68 did not. After two years, there was significant improvement in the group taking vitamin B12 compared to the untreated group. B12 is normally found in organ meats, and vegetarians may find they need supplemental amounts via injection which is often available on the NHS.

4 Enzyme supplements such as bromelain, found naturally in the juice and stems of pineapples, which are believed to help with the digestion of protein and may help to reduce tissue swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. It can take several weeks to notice results.

5 One of my favourite homoeopathic remedies is Arnica, and in a double blind random study by the Department of Plastic Surgery of Queen Victoria Hospital in West Sussex, they found that arnica can speed up the recovery of hand surgery compared to a placebo. They used a combination of tablets and arnica ointment and saw a significant reduction in pain after two weeks.

What do you have in common with a racehorse?

Naturally, I assume you are a high stepper with a glossy coat and a fine turn of speed, but if your point of similarity is excessive wear and tear on the joints then there is good news for both of you.

Cortaflex is a supplement that was first developed in the USA in 1997 for racehorses, whose joints are continually under huge strain and it has become a staple product for vets. Research trials have vindicated its effectiveness and it is now used for many types of animals including working dogs, elderly dogs and cats with less than ideal mobility and for young animals in those breeds that have associated weaknesses in their joints. In fact it even works on elephants – just ask the vets at Dudley Zoo and the London Zoo! hey of course buy it in 5 gallon drums, but it is available in rather more modest quantities as a liquid, or tablet supplement.

How can it help you? For the same reasons as the animals: the developer of the supplement, Bruce Snipes, suffered from crippling arthritis, and when he could no longer tolerate anti- inflammatory drugs he developed this natural product instead. He now plays golf again, and among regular users of the product are premier league football clubs, jockeys like Richard Quinn swear by it and it has the semi-royal seal of approval from Zara Phillips for herself and her horses who claims that ‘it’s the best joint supplement on the market’. It is now recommended by many osteopaths, physiotherapists and doctors.

If you have been taking glucosamine and chondroitin for joint problems then this could be the next step up. Cortaflex has a unique formulation of the smaller key active isolates of both these substances as they are absorbed more effectively through cell walls and into the joints. Research indicates that when taken orally, only 2.5% of normal glucosamine supplements are actually absorbed through the digestive tract, making them relatively low penetration. Cortaflex comes in two strengths, and the higher strength version also has aleuronic acid which boosts the fluid retention around the joints which cushion them from impact and makes them better able to act as ‘shock absorbers’.

I met the UK importer at a recent health fair and was impressed by the many endorsements they have from grateful customers (animal and human both) – you would be amazed how well an elderly Labrador can write!I tried it myself for a week, which is the time they suggest you ought to be able to see a difference, and I certainly found my knees were less creaky though still not able to emulate Red Rum. If you would like to know more please visit the website at www.cortaflex.co.uk

Get rid of gout pain

Unfortunately it is seen as a bit of a joke, an old man’s disease caused by too much port, but gout is far from funny. It is in fact a form of arthritis, and the pain in the infected joints can be severe and is caused when the body produces or retains too much uric acid. The acid forms sharp crystals in soft connective tissue around the joints with the big toe being a primary focus. Gout does not appear overnight, it is the result of years of more uric acid being produced than you expel on a daily basis.

Why would you produce excess uric acid? It can be caused by obesity, high intake of diuretic drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, and hereditary factors. Certain foods are recognised as being triggers for an attack of gout so the first step is to eliminate as many as you can.

Common triggers include:

  • High protein and diuretic foods such as organ meats
  • Asparagus and broccoli
  • Coffee, orange juice
  • soft drinks**

**Those soft drinks are a new addition to the list of potential triggers. A study done over the past 12 years by researchers at the University of British Columbia has shown that a frequent intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks was significantly linked to gout risk. If you know someone who drinks just one soft drink a day they are increasing their gout risk by 45%, and two or more a day leaps to 85%. ‘Healthy’ drinks like apple and orange juice are not immune either as they have high levels of fructose. Bizarrely, diet drinks which contain sweeteners do not carry a risk of gout – but they do pose other health problems.

Natural help is available for gout, and the first step would be to cut out all soft drinks and substitute with plain water to help eliminate the uric acid crystals. The next best thing is to eat cherries and drink their juice. Cherries help prompt uric acid excretion and many people have found that adding them to their diet helps relieve the sharp pain associated with gout.

Two other nature’s helpers are celery seed extract and extract of juniper and some sufferers have kept themselves attack free by also taking up yoga. So no need to prop your foot up on a cushion and wait for the pain to go away, have a large bag of cherries and a bottle of still water and you could soon be hopping about again.

Pain relief on a plate

Usually, if you are in pain you reach for a pill. However, depending on the severity of your discomfort there are some foods that you might like to try. If you prefer a natural solution, you may want to visit your health store for white willow bark. In 1827, a French chemist named Leroux extracted a substance from the bark of a white willow tree that he named “Salicin.” This substance is the main active ingredient of white willow, and it works as a pain reliever. Many years later two other – Felix Hofman and Fredrick Bayer – found a related compound to salicin, and later developed a synthetic version of that compound. This led to the development of the commercial product known as aspirin. White willow doesn’t have the side effects of aspirin because it is naturally converted in the body to salicylic acid, which is mild and does not upset the stomach. You can use it wherever you would normally use aspirin: pain relief, to reduce fevers, and as an anti-inflammatory where it is particularly useful for arthritis and rheumatism. It is available as tablets or capsules, though the capsule form has a faster action.

However, if aspirin is your drug of choice for pain relief, then its effects will be accelerated if you drink a cup of strong coffee at the same time, according to research conducted by Dr Bernard Schachel of Yale University. If you are a cook, then there are a range of options available to you: eating chilli peppers can help reduce pain because they are an excellent source of caspsaicin, a substance found by researchers at the University of Alabama to diminish many kinds of pain, especially chronic pains, including those associated with pinched nerves, as in sciatica. Many everyday foods also have a high content of salicylates, like white willow bark, and they too have both analgesic effects and can also combat inflammation. Good sources of foods that are proven to have pain-reducing properties include: garlic, ginger, onions, cherries, prunes, blueberries, curry powder, dried currants and dates, paprika, liquorice, and peppermint.

Killer diet for rheumatoid arthritis?

Diet is important with rheumatoid arthritis?
Diet is important with rheumatoid arthritis

First on the hit list are tomatoes, maybe not killers exactly but if you suffer from arthritis they are certainly to be avoided. They are among a group of foods that trigger inflammation and general discomfort because they contain solanine, an alkaloid that is known for its toxicity. Other foods that are high in solanine are potatoes, aubergines and peppers, all of which you might know better as the nightshade plant family. The solanine is found in their leaves and roots and its purpose is to provide natural protection against insects for the plant. When we eat those foods the solanine is neutralized in the intestine, but because of their ability to trigger joint pain, some researchers believe that arthritis patients may not be able to adequately process the solanine and so it is still toxic in their system.

If you suffer from arthritis then you know that dietary solutions can be very helpful for some people, so that taking all the nightshade family out of the equation can be beneficial. Unfortunately this does not make any difference at all to other people with arthritis and that it is another factor entirely that causes the most problems. An excellent book by Patrick Holford called Say No to Arthritis  made this point many years ago, and pointed out that certain foods can increase the severity of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and these include milk, pork, red meat, cod, eggs and cereal. This is now confirmed by research done in Norway and Sweden, which has shown that certain people may be predisposed to develop rheumatoid arthritis when their diet includes plenty of high-protein foods. If you do suffer from this painful condition then an investigation into what foods affect you might well be very beneficial, and the book I just mentioned is a good place to start with that.

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