With the onset of winter chills - and I'd say they've come rather quickly this year - joint pain becomes more of a problem. I've had a few clients recently with joint pain and for the first time, after 20 years of practicing reflexology, I find that my fingers are sometimes a bit sore. So I decided to do a bit of research about osteoarthritis and here it is:
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) causes joints to feel stiff and painful. It's the most common form of arthritis and is more common in older people. Symptoms of OA can vary: joints, especially finger joints can become swollen and change shape; sometimes the joints make creaking or cracking noises; sometimes there is pain, but not always; sometimes moving the joint can be difficult; the joints can lose surrounding muscle and this can make them feel weaker. Almost all joints can develop osteoarthritis but the most common places are the fingers, thumbs, knees and hips as well as the low back and neck.
What causes osteoarthritis?
No-one knows exactly what causes osteoarthritis. It used to be called wear and teat and was thought to be part of the ageing process, but now it's thought that it may be due to: repeated small injuries that happen as part of daily life and which don’t heal completely; an after effect of sporting injuries; genetics (it can run in families); being overweight which puts extra strain on the weight-bearing joints, especially the knees and hips.
Inside the affected joints there is quite a lot of healing and repair going on: cartilage - which acts as a shock absorber - is lost and new bone is formed which can cause joints to change shape. This formation of new bone can contribute to some of the pain and stiffness.
Can we do anything about osteoarthritis?
I would highly recommend having a look at the Arthritis Research UK website, from which most of this information has been gleaned. I spent a lot of time looking at research papers, particularly for natural remedies for osteoarthritis and I have to say the Arthritis Research UK website provided the most complete and useful information for a non-scientific readership. The website provides information for Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. I'm disappointed to note that Reflexology is not one of their listed complementary therapies - it's my belief that the relaxation provided by Reflexology can help dampen down inflammation, relieve pain to some degree and stimulate the body's own healing resources.
From my research the following supplements may help:
Fish oil provides an anti-inflammatory effect which is well documented and provides benefits for osteoarthritis as well as supporting heart health. As part of my Reflexology continuous professional development I sat in on a nutrition webinar by Marilyn Glenville. Her professional view of supplements was to be very careful and do lots of research - fish oil quality can depend on the process of extraction, the type and part of fish used (fish liver is likely to be the most toxic part of the fish) and the quality control of the company. Also look out for the
GLA (y-Linolenic acid)
There is some evidence to suggest that Borage Seed Oil also helps fight inflammation and improve pain and swelling (https://academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article/42/5/652/1784589). This paper compiled the results of a number of studies to determine the benefits (or not) of a range of herbal remedies in treating Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Capsaicin is extracted from chilli peppers and can be effective in reducing pain and tenderness in affected joints. There seem to be no major side effects although when applied topically it can cause skin blisters and must be kept well away from eyes, mouth and open wounds to avoid irritation.. It's available on prescription in the form of gels, creams and plasters. Most trials have used either 0.025% or 0.075% of capsaicin gel applied to the skin four times a day.
S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a chemical compound found naturally in your body and laboratory studies suggest that it has some painkilling activity and stimulates cartilage production. As yet there's insufficient research to be clear how SAMe works. It's available as a nutritional supplement, but mostly from US suppliers. Side-effects, which are usually mild and infrequent, include: nausea; restlessness; headaches; a dry mouth; stomach upsets.
SAMe can also increase the activity of antidepressants and severe side-effects of anxiety and mania have also been reported in people taking anti- depressants. People on anticoagulants, you should take SAMe under a doctor’s supervision because it might increase the risk of bleeding.
It's unclear what's the best dose of SAMe is, but most studies have used daily doses of 400–1,600 mg.
Indian frankincense is an Ayurvedic remedy that can be purchased over the counter in capsule form. It can prevent the production of inflammatory substances in the joints. Current evidence, based on four RCTs, suggests that it might have some beneficial effects in treating participants with osteoarthritis of the knee which might last for a period of time after treatment is stopped. It prevents the production of hormone-like substances in your body that act as triggers for joint inflammation.
Trials have used a daily dose of 1g which seems to be safe, but studies are not extensive and interactions with outer medications haven't been well studies. High doses have been shown to have a serious effect on the liver.
Frankincense can also be used topically by mixing the "pure essential oil" (ideally organic) with a carrier oil (jojoba) or unscented body lotion and rubbing it on the affected part to reduce pain and inflammation. But beware, essential oils can be extremely powerful and a little goes a long way. Frankincense oil can also be used in a bath. Frankincense oil should not be used by people taking anticoagulant medications and may cause minor skin rashes, nausea, stomach pains (and in my case too much gives me a headache).
If you're going to try any of these remedies, I'd strongly suggest you try them one at a time and do your research. Supplements vary in quality and efficacy - and of course price - and if you try more than one at a time and get a benefit (or no benefit) you'll not know which one worked or if they cancelled each other out. Most of these remedies have an anti-inflammatory effect and I don't know if too much anti-inflammatory is a bad thing.
This link provides more information about Capsaicin, SAMe and Frankincence:https://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/complementary-and-alternative-medicines/cam-report/complementary-medicines-for-osteoarthritis.aspx
And of course, I'd definitely recommend that you give Reflexology a try because you never know, although it's not listed in the research, it might just work for you! You can book a treatment here: http://www.lothianreflexology.co.uk/book-a-treatment.html
Special Offer available until 31 May 2014 at the end of this blog...
Over the past few months I've had a number of clients who have come to Reflexology for the first time and I've been absolutely delighted by their response to the treatment.
I've been a reflexologist for the past 16 years and although I try not to take it for granted, I do sometimes forget just how amazing Reflexology is. So, it's wonderful to have clients who remind me just how blessed I am to be able to practice such a gentle, yet powerful treatment.
One of the biggest surprises, for clients new to Reflexology, is just how relaxing it is: someone recently said they'd never been so relaxed in their life. Well if that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is! For me, I love the fact that clients can get really, really relaxed without having to do a thing.
And that sense of relaxation can create a powerful healing space. We spend so much of our time and energy - physical and psychic - out in the world trying to get results, or cope with the results of the efforts of others, that we often forget to come back to ourselves. It's a bit like going out in the morning, but forgetting to come home at night.
I often wonder if that's why Yoga and Meditation seem to be increasing in popularity at the moment. Einstein's 3rd Law of Motion says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (I'm sure I've not got that exactly right, but the meaning's there). The more stressful life becomes, the bigger the demand for a space of stresslessness (OK, so it's not a word, but it does look relaxing, don't you think)?
Therapies like Reflexology have never been more popular and I think it's because they give clients an opportunity to relax, to be still and to take stock. Our bodies are amazing healing machines which, with the right fuel, maintenance and recovery strategies, will keep going strong. The relaxed feeling that Reflexology can create offers a healing space in which the body can re-calibrate, re-balance and repair. So, Reflexology is fabulous for keeping you healthy!
But Reflexology can also help you recover better health. Relaxation may help reduce inflammation in the body and that can have a beneficial effect on many conditions, such as IBS or arthritis. It also has a positive impact on the hormone system by reducing the production of stress chemicals and hormones in the body.
And, for me, one of the most significant effects of the relaxing effect of Reflexology is that it helps to develop awareness in the client of the distinction between tense and relaxed - for without awareness, nothing can change. Some of the biggest "Ah Ha" moments in my Reflexology practice have been with clients who seemed to me to be stressed, but didn't feel themselves to be stressed. By the end of the treatment they felt relaxed and were then able to recognise how high their stress levels had actually been.
Relaxation also helps with pain management, so painful conditions can often be helped through Reflexology - and there is research to support this.
So, if you've never tried Reflexology before, why not give it a go, because you'll never really know what you're missing until you try it out for yourself.
And to put my money where my mouth is, I'm going to give a £5 discount to all new clients who book before 31 May 2014 - just call me (Doris), on 07724 197627 and quote Blog when you book your appointment. Looking forward to meeting you.
Retirement is that halcyon time when work has ended and we often feel that life is really begining. It's a stage in life when our time is our own, we can slow down and relax a bit more and we're free to do whatever we want, whenever we want.
Many now see retirement as a time of change and the beginning of a new stage in life - a time to spend on new projects, travel and hobbies or perhaps continuing with work on a part-time basis or even starting a new business. All of this needs energy and vitality and Reflexology can be the perfect support.
Reflexology can be applied vigorously or lightly depending on the needs of the client, so it's easily adapted to older clients with stiff or inflammed joints but equally can be a stimulating, vigorous treatment for more robust clients.
As a holistic treatment Reflexology works on a physical, emotional and energetic level. It's common, as people age, for them to feel that they can't do as much as they could when they were younger and that feeling can undermine confidence, especially if it's accompanied with health challenges. One of the most common pieces of feedback I get from clients is that Reflexology helps them "cope better" - that feeling that they're going to be able to deal with whatever life throws at them. I'd call that confidence!
Reflexology is an easy treatment to have - it only requires the removal of socks and shoes, so there's not a lot of fuss and bother and no stripping off - perfect for the more modest of us.
And it's relaxing.
The benefits of relaxation - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual - are usually under-estimated. Being relaxed:
And a Reflexology treatment is about connecting and caring: caring about ourselves and allowing ourself to be cared for. Who doesn't need that!
If you'd like to treat your mother to a Reflexology treatment on Mother's Day just call Doris on 07724 197627.