Breaking the Arthritis Pain Circle
For those people who are unfortunate enough to have Arthritis, pain can be the most debilitating part of the disease and its often the hardest part to manage. Within this post, we’ll provide some useful easy tips from our resident specialist sports massage therapist, Adrian Whitworth, to help you break the arthritis pain circle.
So, what is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is caused by damage to the Cartilage – the soft squidgy bit between the joints that cushion your movement. Cartilage is strengthened by use, so it is important for you to remain mobile, as the constant squeezing of the cartilage by the joints is key in keeping your joints stable. This is why you can often hear the phrase “bone against bone” when medical professionals talk about Osteoarthritis and joint problems, because with limited or damaged cartilage, the bones rub against each other, causing intense & extreme pain. Damage to the Cartilage can be caused by injury (old and new), poor circulation, obesity, repetitive strain injuries, poor joint alignment and as well as poor absorption of key nutrients like Vitamin D, Hyaluronic Acid and MSM, to name just a few.
When there is damage to cartilage in a joint, the brain treats the joint as an injury site by isolating the joint and tightening the muscles around the joint to restrict movement. This makes the joint stiff and inflexible and also sensitises the nerves to activate the pain reflex. Pain occurs for a reason, to remind us not to use the joint while it is repairing. In rare cases with Osteoarthritis, the brain triggers an inflammatory response designed to give a protective pad around the injury site, which can be sore and tender.
Once the response to the injury is activated, it signifies the start of the Osteoarthritis Pain Circle. We tend to stop using the joint because it is painful, stiff and inflexible, which in turn results in the cartilage getting less nutrients – the building blocks it needs to repair the damage. The damaged joint deteriorates rather than improves, and creates more pain and stiffness, which inhibits our ability to use the joint, and exacerbates the condition, feeding the Pain Circle. The Pain Circle often becomes debilitating, with symptoms ranging from mild joint pain to excruciating agony which can lead to disturbed sleep patterns, extreme fatigue, weight loss, heart problems and depression.
So, how can you break the Arthritis Pain Circle?
Breaking the Pain Circle should take priority in the treatment of Osteoarthritis. As a practicing Massage Therapist, I have developed a treatment program designed to break the repetitive nature of the Pain Circle.
The program centres on four main areas of treatment, run in conjunction with each other:
1. Massage Therapy
Massage Therapy with a Massage Therapist that specialises in Arthritis, provides gentle manipulation of the joints with a direct targeted massage to surrounding muscles and soft tissue. The benefits of this treatment includes the easing of stiff joints and muscle structure, increasing flexibility of the affected areas and bringing blood flow to the joints to stimulate normal function.
2. Supplement Intake
Introducing supplements to help your body provide the nutrients required to maintain good joint health, can significantly help. Often Joint supplements only provide Glucosamine and Chondroitin which are larger molecules and not so easily absorbed. However, joint supplements that use amino acids with smaller molecules (like Moveit) are more easily absorbed and are more effective for my clients, and combined with an oil, like an Omega 3 Fish Oil, helps to lubricate the joints.
3. Review your diet
Certain foods can be pain triggers, and therefore it is a good idea to review your diet. Keep it simple at first by trying to give up or limit your intake of the nightshade family (Potatoes, Tomatoes, Peppers and Aubergines), but try and eat more oily fish (Mackerels, Sardines and Tuna) as they contain the key amino acids to help lubricate the joints.
4. Implement an Exercise Plan
Gradually introduce more exercise and stretching into your daily routine. Introduce where possible, exercises that are not too weight-bearing like Swimming or Walking and a stretching program like Yoga or Pilates. If this feels too much, try adopting a stretching program to start with to build up your movement flexibility. Keep any exercise or stretching routine proportional to the severity of the condition. Always start very gently as any overexertion or damage in the stages of early treatment will cause long term setbacks.
By implementing this 4 step plan, my clients have said they have significantly improved their pain and movement and I hope these tips can help you too.