What is arthritis?

There are two forms of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, both tend to affect more women than men.

What is osteoarthritis (OA)?

Osteoarthritis is degeneration of the joints, generally affecting: the hips, knees, ankles and small joints of the fingers.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis?

  • Pain and stiffness of your joints
  • Worse with inactivity
  • A larger or knobbly appearance to the joints

What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Rheumatoid arthritis also affects the joints but it involves an autoimmune response. The body develops antibodies which attack the joints. It causes joints to become inflamed, painful with restricted movement, and ultimately leads to thickening of the joints and deformity.

Generally, it starts from age 30-50, affecting about 1-3% of us – although there are cases of juvenile onset (which is slightly different).

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Pain and stiffness, maybe with illness and fever
  • Initial stages: pain brought on by movement
  • Later stages: stiffness worse in the morning or after resting, but improves with movement
  • Affects the small joints of hands and feet, wrist, elbow, knees and ankles
  • Joints affected are warm, tender and swollen
  • It may start for only 1-2 days, then eventually develops into a more generalised form of arthritis
  • It can develop to cause muscle wasting, tingling and numbness if the nerves are affected
  • Movement can be affected if there is inflammation of the tendons
  • If it develops to severe RA it may affect the body more widely, including the eyes and the skin

What causes arthritis?

What causes osteoarthritis?

  • Wear and tear as we get older, (generally 60+)
  • A family history of osteoarthritis
  • Injury to a joint earlier in your life
  • Heavy exercise – running, weight lifting, etc

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

The cause is unknown.  Some suggest an infection or virus may be a trigger.  There may be a family history, although this is less common than osteoarthritis.

In my own clinic I find extreme stress or life conflict is commonly a factor running up to the initial symptoms, and this can also cause on-going flare ups.

It tends to be worse in damp and cold weather.


Conventional treatment for arthritis

Conventional treatment for osteoarthritis

Your doctor may prescribe Paracetamol before NSAID medication is started. Corticosteroids may be injected into affected joints although generally this not be performed repeatedly.

If it is really bad, hip and knee replacement surgery replaces the worn out ends of the bones forming the joint.

Conventional treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

The doctor's diagnosis is based on clinical features, but blood tests are also taken, looking for ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and CRP (C-reactive protein). Rheumatoid factor is found in 70% of cases, and anaemia is detected. At a later stage of the condition, X-rays will show joint degeneration.

Your doctor will aim to reduce inflammation using NSAID and disease modifying anti-rheumatoid drugs (DMARDs). Physiotherapy is important: in acute flare-ups the joint can be splinted, in between flare-ups: exercises and hydrotherapy can help mobility and muscle strength.

In 25% of cases there is complete remission. If you address the symptoms at first onset, your chances of remission are higher.


How do I treat arthritis?

Treatment is recommended at an early stage, it is more difficult to treat as symptoms progress.

It will appear that I treat both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in a similar manner, but there are subtleties in application.  For example, using acupuncture for osteoarthritis, I might clear “cold-damp”, but in contrast in rheumatoid arthritis, I might clear “hot damp”.

Kinesiology for arthritis

Kinesiology can test for any food intolerances specific to you - your diet can alleviate joint pain. Muscle testing eliminates the guessing game, and identifies which foods are problems for you.

We will muscle test to identify CRP (C-Reactive Protein) or other inflammation markers – and identify any supplements that might help. We will also test for parasites, virus or bacteria.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture helps to relieve pain and stiffness, whether osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.  To keep it simple I do not include the treatment principles because to talk about Damp, Phlegm, Yin deficiency, Spleen deficiency, hot-Bi and cold-Bi, might be too much information, which doesn't help comprehension without a framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine to base it on.

EFT

Helps both physical pain and stiffness and emotional issues that might be behind them.

Louise Hay identifies the emotional roots of arthritis to include: “feeling unloved, criticism, and resentment”.  Not everyone’s emotions conform to Louise Hay’s model, but derivatives of the themes are common.

Do you have any resentment that has been harboured before or during the flare up of this condition? If not, was there high stress 18 months before, or at the onset? I commonly find arthritis has an emotional root.

Effectiveness of treatment:

If treating at an early stage, treatment can be highly effective, at later stages of deformity it is unlikely a restoration of the joints to their original healthy form can be achieved, although further deterioration may be arrested.

Research fact sheet by the British Acupuncture Council:

BAcC fact sheet: Osteoarthritis

BAcC fact sheet: Rheumatoid arthritis

Each case is slightly different, so to discuss your symptoms further call 020 7370 4693 or email.


Case studies for arthritis

Julia, 35: rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Julia came to see me in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis. She was diagnosed a year ago with RA, but until recently, it had cleared and she’d been symptom free. Over the last week or two, the stiffness and heat in the ankles, and sometimes the hands had returned, particularly first thing in the morning.

I muscle tested using kinesiology for food intolerances and found coffee, sugar and dairy were problems for her.

The supplement Reduced Glutathione, a strong anti-oxidant and hence anti-inflammatory, kinesthetically tested well for her symptoms, which she started taking.

I treated with acupuncture to clear Heat and Damp, and to nourish Blood and Yin.

EFT was used directly to address the pain, but as we worked it became clear the pain was connected to a relationship that had ended 18 months earlier. We used EFT working on both the physical symptoms (pain, stiffness and heat), and sometimes the emotions.

I saw Julia weekly for 2 months and then monthly. If she gets very stressed her symptoms may flare-up, but otherwise the symptoms have cleared.

Julia was younger, and at the early stages of RA, for the older the patient, or someone with long-standing symptoms, more treatment will be required – still weekly, but it may be on-going over months. However, from each session you will notice a difference to your symptoms, and how you feel in yourself.

 

Sheila, 65: osteoarthritis (OA)

Sheila, 65, was an active lady, but recently her knee was really troubling her, and she was panicking. She came for treatment, and the key to transformation for her, was finding her intolerance to sugar. Once she abstained from anything with sugar, there was no pain. Occasionally she would indulge, but her knee would start to trouble her again – so it was a rare indulgence. Acupuncture and EFT were also used during treatment.


Lifestyle advice for arthritis

Tips to avoid or reduce the pain of either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis:

Lifestyle:

  • Avoid repetitive stressful use of the joints
  • Lose weight (symptoms are much worse in obese people)
  • Take on exercise that relax and strengthen the muscles around the joints, (swimming, Tai Chi and gentle yoga can be helpful to relieve pain)

Diet:

  • Eat a diet of whole foods (not processed, and additive free).
  • Drink at least 2 litres of water a day

Many people with arthritis have food allergies.  Without testing foods, you could try avoiding the following and observe any change to your symptoms – perhaps eliminate just one or two at a time (try for 10 days) so you can track it:

  • Sugar*
  • Gluten* (grains including wheat)
  • Dairy*
  • Citrus fruits
  • Nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, aubergine, chilli)
  • Corn, safflower, soy, oils
  • Egg yolk from intensively reared hens
  • Corn fed meat
  • Transfatty acids and hydrogenated fats (margarine)
  • Cut down on red meat (and ensure it’s grass fed, naturally raised meat)

* Very common

Natural anti-inflammatories to add to your diet include:

  • Oily fish (mackerel, sardines, wild salmon, trout, anchovies,
  • herring)
  • Flax seed
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Orange, red or blue fruits and vegetables, eg. blueberries, blackberries, cherries, papaya, raspberries, and carrots – but NOT citrus fruits
  • Pineapple
  • Kelp
  • Japanese seaweed
  • Green tea
  • Shitake Mushrooms

Supplements:

I don't like to recommend supplements without actually testing you specifically, since they are not always "one size fits all" and can result in wasting money, however as a general guide nutritionists would suggest:

  • Glucosamine (one combined with just a sulfate, rather than chondroitin sulfate)
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Reduced Glutathione: a strong anti-oxidant

Each case is slightly different, so to discuss your symptoms further call 020 7370 4693 or email.