Patient Query: Osteoarthritis
I have been suffering for some time from pains in my knees and stiffness in my lower back. As I am in my mid 50s, I am wondering if this might be a form of arthritis. What can I do to relieve the pain?
By mid life, the body can start to show the effects of ageing, including signs of a degenerative joint condition known as osteoarthritis.
The disease is the result of wear and tear of the joints and tends to affect the weight-bearing ones, such as those in the spine, hips and knees. This is especially true if you have been overweight, but it may also occur in joints that have been damaged in earlier life.
Symptoms vary but usually include pain, swelling and stiffness of the affected joints. Stiffness is usually worse in the mornings, and pain can increase after excessive exercise or prolonged activity. Sometimes movement can be difficult, and the pain may interfere with normal activities. Osteoarthritis is not a life-threatening condition, but it may affect your quality of life.
There is currently no cure for arthritis, but there are some things that will help reduce your pain and keep you active and independent. As being overweight does not help, you should try to overcome any weight problem. Being the correct weight for your frame will help minimise stress on your back and knees.
It is important to maintain your muscle strength and suppleness. If walking is causing you pain, you should investigate other forms of exercise that do not involve bearing weight, such as swimming or yoga. The important thing to remember is that you should stop exercising if you experience pain.
Medication, in the form of painkillers, injections for the joints or anti-inflammatory preparations, should help. You should see your doctor, to confirm the diagnosis. A referral to a physiotherapist would be helpful with a view to maintaining your optimum level of mobility and independence.
Dr Muiris Houston
Although your condition may sound like arthritis, Yoga Therapy Ireland therapists prefer to leave the formal diagnosis of your condition to your GP.
If osteoarthritis is diagnosed, much can be done to relieve your pain and stiffness. Gentle yoga and yoga therapy offer great holistic benefits to those suffering from osteoarthritic or rheumatoid-arthritic conditions.
My suggestion would initially be to spend some time with a fully qualified yoga teacher or therapist.
The qualified yoga therapist will take your full case history, then design a range of gentle movements and modified classical yoga postures to create freedom in your joints. Joint freedom is the ability to move freely through a joint's full range without muscular stress, cracking, discomfort or causing movement in the adjacent joints.
To ease the stiffness in your lower back, gentle, specific stretches will be suggested to create freedom and openness in your hips and groin. This will release any compression in your lower back. Again, modified classical yoga postures will be used to take the spine through its full range of movements - standing or sitting up straight, extending the spine to the side, arching the back and rotating the spine from side to side - and bring improved flexibility and mobility.
Having taken the spine and all the joints through their full range of physical movements, it is of vital importance to then give some attention to the mental and spiritual body through breathing and relaxation. Focused breathing and relaxation techniques will help manage and alleviate pain and discomfort.
Maureen Nightingale is a yoga therapist and a member of Yoga Therapy Ireland (01- 2352120)
The advice in this column is not intended as a substitute for advice received directly from a medical doctor or alternative practitiouner. Individuals should receive a thorough diagnosis of complaints before embarking on a course of treatment