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Coping with osteoarthritis during Covid-19

Blog post written by Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis

 

The Covid-19 pandemic is the number one health issue everywhere, but despite that we still have to manage osteoarthritis. According to a recent article in the British Medical Journal, Covid impacts on osteoarthritis in a couple of ways:[1]

  • There is more likelihood of being hospitalised when suffering from the virus if you already have osteoarthritis.
  • OA sufferers are likely to have additional pain in the joints when they contract Covid.

A key recommendation in the BMJ article is that physical activity is extremely important, regardless of age. Although this would seem to be difficult during a severe outbreak of the virus, it is feasible if the symptoms are mild. Also, all activity keeps us healthy and more able to fight illness.

I emphasise the importance of exercise in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, in order to keep us active and mobile and enjoying a good quality of life. A glowing statement from Professor Sir Sam Everington, GP in Tower Hamlets, Chair of NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group, and a board member of NHS Clinical Commissioners, who wrote in his foreword for my book: ‘This book should be prescribed on the NHS by all doctors. It can’t be, but if you have osteoarthritis or want to live a happier and healthier life, buying this book is the best investment you could ever make.’

Professor Sir Sam’s involvement in the social-prescribing initiative increasingly being adopted by GPs (pre-Covid) would account for his enthusiasm. The main message in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis is taking responsibility for your own health through:

  • exercise
  • weight management
  • healthy eating
  • supplements
  • complementary therapies
  • practical tips (shoes, keeping warm, bathing, etc.)

Even in lockdown we can walk locally and there’s no limit to how long you can stay out. If you are used to doing yoga, Pilates or other classes, there is a wealth of sessions being provided online either free of charge or for a nominal sum under £10. For those people who find exercise very hard due to chronic arthritis or other conditions, Chair Yoga provides a good alternative and that too is available online.

Finally, try not to overeat when confined at home and stick to the Mediterranean diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Recognised by doctors as the best diet for all conditions, it can also help us to keep our weight down, an important factor for reducing pressure on weight-bearing joints. Both Vitamin C and Vitamin D are essential for supporting the immune system, helping all conditions and giving us a fighting chance against Covid.

 

[1] https://ard.bmj.com/content/80/2/151

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Eating to Protect Your Health and Your Arthritic Joints

Fruit and Vegetables

Eating healthily is more important than ever at a time like this. Notwithstanding the problems with finding food available in the supermarkets, there are still regular deliveries of all foods to the stores.  As explained in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis, The Mediterranean diet is recommended for both osteoarthritis and general health and well-being.   In addition to fruit and veg, this plant-based diet also comprises pulses, beans, nuts and fish,  chicken and turkey, and the all important olive oil – best drizzled over vegetables or salad.

Supplements boost the immune system

There are several supplements that can be helpful for osteoarthritis, and which boost the immune system at a time when you need all the defences you can muster.

  • Vitamin C is reputed to fight viruses, and has been proven to be effective in reducing inflammation in osteoarthritis and impeding its progress[1] Taking high amounts (such as 1,000mg or more) of Vitamin C cannot harm you as excess is excreted out of the body, although some people find it upsets the stomach.
  • Turmeric too has a good reputation for easing inflammation in osteoarthritis and is often taken as a spice, as a liquid, or in capsules. What is lesser known is that it has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties as well.
  • Vitamin D is made in the body when your bare skin is exposed to the sun a lot, but in reality after a British winter it’s likely to be low. Dr Andrea Darling and Professor Susan Lanham-New, the University of Surrey, claim, ‘Vitamin D can help prevent respiratory tract infections[2] so it is important to have good Vitamin D levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.’

Dr Rod Hughes, rheumatologist at St Peter’s Hospital, Surrey,  is convinced of the importance of Vitamin D for those with osteoarthritis, ‘About 50 per cent of the population is deficient in Vitamin D, due to lack of exposure to the sun. Deficiency can mimic arthritis providing the same symptoms. It’s very easy to take a blood test and treatment is simple with capsules or injections, and the patient gets better very quickly.’

Cider vinegar

Although not the most tasty of drinks, taking a dessertspoonful of (apple) cider vinegar in water every day is helpful for easing osteoarthritis, and it also is full of beneficial bacteria and minerals.  It’s important to buy Cider Vinegar with the Mother, which means it is not pasteurised and retains all its health benefits.

While it seems counter-intuitive to have an acidic drink, the body metabolises cider vinegar so that it turns alkaline. However, it does taste acidic so if you find it unpalatable add a teaspoonful of honey, another healthy food.

So do eat healthily and exercise regularly all the time, but particularly during this difficult period in all of our lives.  Stay home if you can and stay safe.

Blog post written by Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis.

[1] Chiu PR, Hu YC, Huang TC, Hsieh BS, Yeh JP, Cheng HL, Huang LW, Chang KL.

Vitamin C Protects Chondrocytes against Monosodium Iodoacetate-Induced Osteoarthritis by Multiple Pathways. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Dec 27;18(1). pii: E38. doi: 10.3390/ijms18010038.

[2] Martineau et al (2017)

Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data.   Br Med J 2017; 356 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i6583 (Published 15 February 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:i6583

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Exercise in Lockdown for Osteoarthritis

Knee

We are all facing the very real threats of Coronavirus and many of us are self-isolating now, especially the over 70s. Life as we knew it has completely evaporated.  For anyone with osteoarthritis, there are plenty of things that you can do to help the condition and keep yourself generally healthy in the face of such a threat.

What better way to spend all our cooped up time than doing some exercise, at whatever level you can manage?  It helps to have an exercise slot during your very long day so that you remember to do it and it gives you something positive to do.

If you have an exercise bike, now is the time to build up the muscles around the knee which protect arthritic joints and make legs stronger.  Just 10 minutes a day can make your legs feel good and strengthen the knee area.

There are also specific exercises for  osteoarthritis in the knees,  hips and hands.

  • For arthritic fingers: try some gentle stretching/splaying of the fingers, or make a fist with your hand and then completely relax it.
  • For knees: sit well back in the chair with good posture. Straighten and raise one leg. Hold for a slow count up to 10, then slowly lower your leg. Similar exercises can be done lying down or standing. If you are unsteady on your feet hold on to a firm surface and do a few squats bending your knees so that they are over your feet, making sure you only do as much as you can.

Knee squats

  • For hips: Hold onto a work surface and march slowly on the spot bringing your knees up towards your chest alternately. Don’t raise your thigh above 90 degrees. Also, holding on to a surface, bend each knee in turn, putting your heel up towards your bottom with the kneecap pointing towards the floor.

Heel to butt

There are more diagrams (courtesy of Versus Arthritis) in One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis with helpful instructions.

So with all this time on our hands, do something helpful for your fitness, to keep your joints working well and avoid getting bored.  Above all, stay safe.

Blog post written by Frances Ive, author of One Step Ahead of Osteoarthritis.