Osteoarthritis is caused by damage to the Joint Cartilage. Damage to the Cartilage can be caused by injury (old and new), poor circulation, obesity, repetitive strain injuries, poor joint alignment and poor absorption of the nutrients required for good joint health.
THE ARTHRITIS PAIN CIRCLE
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.
BREAKING THE 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 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
To introduce supplements to help your body provide the nutrients required to maintain good joint health. One of a new generation of joint supplements that uses the smaller molecules that make up Glucosamine and Chondroitin making it more easily absorbed (like Cortaflex) and an Omega 3 Fish Oil to lubricate the joints, have proven to be effective for my clients.
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), and try and eat more oily fish (Mackerels, Sardines and Tuna).
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.
I've always found that by getting the patient to invest effort into their own treatment, by offering a direction and agreeing a clear objective, it allows them to have more control over their treatment and condition.