With the promise of warmer weather just around the corner, it won’t be long before many of us will be resuming our outdoor activities. Whether picking up a tennis racket for the first time since last year or simply pruning in the garden, physical activity brings with it enormous health benefits. But for those of us with some form of arthritis – an estimated 20% – pottering in the garden and other such activities may not be as enjoyable as they once were.
Arthritis is somewhat of an umbrella term and literally means ‘inflammation of the joints’.
As you grow older your body is often unable to replace new cartilage to counteract any loss, allowing insufficiently cushioned bones to rub together causing inflammation, pain and stiffness. Excessive sporting wear and tear, through running or cycling for example, can accelerate this process, and some forms of arthritis are hereditary.
The good news is there are measures you can take to help reduce pain and stiffness.
Diet is important. Eating less of the foods that can increase inflammation and lots more of the anti-inflammatory foods that can help to reduce it, can help: reduce your intake of coffee, alcohol, fizzy drinks and foods made from refined white flour and white sugar, as these foods are known to promote unhealthy levels of inflammation.
Do eat lots of oily fish or plant oils, nuts and seeds, and plenty of fresh vegetables and berries; they are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that can help to reduce inflammation, and our spiky friend pineapple is worth singling out as it contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain. Replace refined foods with brown rice, millet, barley, quinoa or buckwheat. These foods can be eaten in their whole form, or try the pastas, noodles, breads and crackers made from them in place of your usual choices.
Anti-inflammatories can also help. Devil’s Claw for example, or Harpagophytum, a plant only found in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, has been used for many years to help reduce rheumatic, muscle and joint pain. Studies suggest that long-term use of Devil’s Claw is not only safe but may also lead to improvements in those with chronic lower back pain.
For topical relief from inflammation you may wish to try an Arnica containing gel.
Arnica is well-known for its homeopathic use for bumps and bruises but fresh Arnica herb can also be very effective when applied topically. It can inhibit one of the main triggers of inflammation helping to relieve muscular aches, pain and stiffness, sprains and swelling after injury, and can also help with osteoarthritis of the knee, rheumatism, fibromyalgia and RSI. Simply apply 2-10 cm gently to the affected area 2 to 4 times daily. Do not use internally or on broken, cut or irritated skin.
Finally, stay active. Regular, gentle exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn lessens the stress you place on joints, helping to improve the pain of arthritis.
For further advice, ask Richard Sambridge and his team at The Natural Way, 82 High Street, Braintree, Essex, or visit www.thenaturalway.co.uk