Monthly Archives: December 2015

Nature’s Law – ‘Management of Degenerative Changes’

You should never fight your feelings, when your very bones believe them…

… you have to follow nature’s law.

This dictates that with the passing of time, our bodies get older, and with this ageing process come inevitable changes that cannot be fought. Instead it is important to understand these changes and learn how we can help ourselves.

Often the phrase ‘degenerative changes’ is used by health professionals when describing why someone has back pain or knee pain. What does this mean? This refers to osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative condition or joint disease. It is most common in the neck and lower back, followed by peripheral joints such as the knees.

In osteoarthritis of the spine, the spaces between the vertebrae narrow, and bone spurs can often form as the pressure on the vertebrae increases, so new bone is laid down to help distribute the pressure. However, these bone spurs (osteophytes) can impinge on spinal nerves, causing shooting pain on movement as the nerve is compressed. When the bony surfaces rub together, such as at the facet joints, the area can become inflamed and painful. Gradually, the spine stiffens and loses its flexibility.

Similarly, osteoarthritis can affect joints like the knee joint. This begins with damage to a structure in the knee, such as the meniscus, which serves as a shock absorber during activity such as running. This tissue damage causes the body to attempt repair, but during this repair, inflammatory cells are released which damage the cartilage in the joint. The process of osteoarthritis then begins.

So what can be done to ease the problems associated with osteoarthritis? Freeing up stiffened joints is one of the most effective ways of managing osteoarthritic pain and reducing disability as a result of the condition. Reducing tension in the muscles around the affected joint can aid in reducing pain and inflammation too. Exercises can also be prescribed to help the person help them self, as treatment will provide relief and help, but self-maintenance is just as important in the days between seeing the clinician.

If you are having pain and feeling stiffness, or have any muscular or joint pain or stiffness, it may be worthwhile coming to see us at Atlas Osteopathy (with clinics in East Finchley and Moorgate, as well as the option of home visits), where we can explain your problems to you, why they occur and whether or not you are suitable for osteopathic treatment. Often this can be done via email or on the phone.

Winter Blues… Joint Aches and Pains

My bones ache, my skin feels cold…

There are conditions affecting the body that can flare up in cold weather, and with winter approaching soon, it is important to understand what can be done to ease the symptoms of these flare ups.

Pain when getting out of bed in the morning, or when picking up a child are not necessarily an inevitable consequence of the ageing process. Often people will give up activities that are dear to them due to the pain they feel. In cold weather, this pain/ache/stiffness can be exacerbated. In cold weather, joints in the extremities (arms and legs) do not receive as healthy a blood supply as in warm weather. Pain receptors are also more sensitive in cold weather, and a drop in barometric pressure can cause inflamed tissues to expand and become even more painful.

Joints are formed when two bones meet, connected together by strong bands called ligaments. Muscles attach to the bones by bands called tendons, and the muscles facilitate movement of the body. Healthy joints are surrounded by a joint capsule, and gaps in the joint are filled by fluid-filled sacs called bursae. Within the joint capsule, the bones are lined by a smooth cartilage and synovium that serve to protect the joint and reduce friction during movement.

The two main types of inflammatory conditions commonly known to flare up in cold weather are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). OA is the type of arthritis that gets worse as the day progresses, and as the joint is used more. The inflammation generally occurs as a result of cartilage degeneration. RA is an autoimmune disease characterised by chronic pain and stiffness in the peripheral joints, worst in the morning and can last throughout the night. With this type of arthritis, the pain generally eases with use of the joint.

Now the question is, what can be done to manage and potentially reduce the inflammation and pain? In cold weather, it is more important to wrap up and wear extra layers, especially protecting the hands and feet with gloves and extra socks. Aside from this, it is important to control diet, with particular regard to ‘inflammatory’ foods. This involves reducing the intake of fried foods, red meat, saturated fats, soft drinks, fruit juices and sugars. Instead of these, it is recommended to consume dark green vegetables, vitamins C and E, raw nuts and seeds, omega-3 rich fish and soups made from raw ingredients. The avoidance of ready-made packaged meals is important!

If you are having arthritic pain and flare ups associated with this, or have any muscular or joint pain or stiffness, it may be worthwhile coming to see us at Atlas Osteopathy (with clinics in East Finchley and Moorgate, as well as the option of home visits), where we can explain your problems to you, why they occur and whether or not you are suitable for osteopathic treatment. Often this can be done via email or on the phone.