Thursday, November 8, 2018

Arthritis update and some sea

Catchy title hey?!  I thought I should share some of my coping methods as I always get a lot of hits on here when I mention the A word.

I have both Osteo and Rheumatoid arthritis and I do not take prescription medication for either as often the side-effects are ghastly. My dad suffered terribly with RA and was unable to walk a step by the age of 65 so didn't get to enjoy his retirement as planned.  Sadly the medicine that was prescribed for this arthritis also damaged his kidneys adding an extra health problem so I have always been wary.

The Osteo started in my 20s with my left index finger developing a huge lump on the knuckle nearest the nail.  My right index finger joined the party in my early 30s, as did my toes and my left knee which had been damaged in a riding accident as a teenager.  Rheumatoid left me alone for a few more years before it made its unwelcome appearance.

Many people ask how on earth I run and how come it doesn't it hurt my knees and feet.  Aha, now there's the thing; running has actually helped my knees. The damage to my left knee had caused me to walk with a slight limp for decades but running has strengthened the surrounding muscles which give it extra support and I haven't limped for many years now.  When I first started to run long distances it hurt my feet, especially on concrete surfaces, but then I discovered running shoes with extra cushioning and they haven't troubled me since (touch wood!).

My first pair of HOKA One One

Ironically, the main issue I have in running is with my hands and wrists as what you may not think about is that you hold your arms in the same position for hours on end in long distance events.  I tried wearing crepe wrist supports but they annoyed me and got really sweaty so what I do now is make sure I release them from the same position every so often and do jazz hands and circle my wrists (and sometimes the moment is captured in a photo!).

There are lots of day-to-day things that cause me consternation and I've had to adapt accordingly.  My mum used to have special gardening tools with chunky handles which she said helped her grip but I'm still OK with my ordinary tools at the moment.  When my dad's hands were completely twisted and gnarled, and looked more like claws than hands, he used cutlery with big handles too.

Here are a few examples of everyday things sent to test me:

I find it hard to grip simple pull tops such as this one on a carton of milk.  If Mike isn't around I just puncture it with a knife then peel it back a bit.

This little gadget, a Zyliss Strongboy is priceless in my world as I simply cannot open factory-sealed screw-top jars without it.  I had one my mum used in the 1980s and it only packed in about 2 years ago so I bought this as a replacement.  Annoyingly, the first one broke within 18 months but as it has a 5 year guarantee it was easy to get a replacement.

You just extend the cord to fit round the lid, hold the body of the jar in one hand (in my case I hold it and press it against my body as well because my grip is a bit weak) and twist the handle with the other.

The other main issue I have in the kitchen is lifting heavy pans as my wrists seem to give way nowadays.  We've gradually replaced the really heavy ones so that all our large pans now have 2 handles which has solved the problem.

Oh how simple this looks doesn't it........

.......but if I extend my had to reach the bits you have to squeeze then I haven't got enough strength to squeeze!  To get around this Mike undoes the top for me when I get a new pack and I just leave the top loose so I can manage it.

Here are few other things I find helpful:

These strange-looking fingerless gloves (bought from Damart years ago but they don't seem to stock them anymore) really help sooth my hands when it's really cold and I wear them when indoors.  The fabric is quite thick and very warm but I can't wear them for too long as I don't like the pressure on my fingers.

I think I've shown these wrist supports before but they are worth mentioning again as they have become invaluable for when I do Yoga:

They are styled for left and right hand with a stretchy loop fitting around your thumb and a velcro fastener on the wrist.

They are sold as weight-lifters grips but they are perfect for giving me extra stability in yoga positions such as 'downward-facing Dog' or the plank.  The only problem I have is that if I forget to take them off before we do poses lying down I sometimes get my hair caught in any exposed velcro!

The other things I find invaluable for doing anything using weights such as 10-1s - are these palm weights. People suggest you do 10-1s holding 500ml bottles of water or a can of beans if you don\t have weights but I simply cannot grip things like that for long.

These nifty little hand weights are shaped to each hand and weigh .45kg each so you get a good resistance workout without having to worry about losing your grip (no comments thank you!).

Dietary help

Now this is an area in which there are Old Wives Tales and much mis-information so I always take the supposed miracle cures with a pinch of salt.  For decades I've taken a tablespoonful of cider vinegar in a glass of water each morning.  Did it make any difference?  Nothing noticeable, it just makes me pull faces!

***What I'm going to experiment with next is combining it with honey (dissolve a teaspoon of honey in boiling water, add cold water and a teaspoon of cider vinegar, mix and take before food 3 times a day). Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest this is helpful I will try anything, with an open but somewhat sceptical mind. ***edited to add: I was told by someone on Facebook that using honey was a bad idea as any form of sugar can have an inflammatory effect so I contacted Arthritis Research UK about adding honey and they said the opposite!

I always use a cider vinegar which includes a bit of the 'mother' which has strands of good bacteria so if the vinegar doesn't do much at least it will help your gut bacteria to flourish!

I'm also experimenting with making my own 'Apple Scrap vinegar' but it won't be ready for a while 

Golden Paste

I knew that turmeric is often bandied around as a 'cure' for arthritis.  I use it a lot in my cooking but apparently the benefits are lost if it's cooked for a long time so although my curries taste wonderful I'm not getting the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric.  Boo.

Then a friend sent me a recipe for making something called 'Golden Paste' which is a mixture of water, turmeric powder, coconut or extra virgin olive oil and ground black pepper.  I thought it sounded pretty disgusting and ignored it but when my pain went up a notch I thought I'd give it a go.  I made a small batch up as directed (without getting my hands stained although the kitchen looked somewhat worse for wear) and tried it.  Oh my goodness it tasted disgusting! I tried putting it into a glass of Kombucha (yuk), into my morning kefir (yuk), then into my evening meals (yep, yuk again!).  I threw it away.

Fast forward 12 months or so and my arthritis was getting even more irritating. I joined a Turmeric Users UK group on Facebook to see what people on there said about it. Apparently they give it to animals too (horses and dogs were mentioned).  They all think it has wonderful powers but there was a divide between those who love the taste and said things such as "I just eat it spread on a cracker, yum!" (really?!!!!) and those who said they disguise it in their food which is OK if you add it at the end of the cooking time. I viewed comments such as "I tried this last week and it's made such a difference already" with complete scepticism but I was at the stage where I just had to try something to reduce the pain without resorting to medication.

I saw someone post about delihart catering, run by Rachel, who provides ready made sachets of turmeric, each sachet being enough for 3 weeks, or longer depending on the dosage you choose.  It costs £6 a sachet plus £3 postage but if you buy 3 sachets she offers free postage for members of the FB group.  She makes it fresh each week and you can open one sachet and freeze the rest for when needed.  So I ordered some.

It came complete with lots of information about how to use it, dosage and warnings about checking it's  OK to use with any medicines you might be taking.

I started taking it at the beginning of September and increased the amount I took each day gradually and it hasn't affected my tummy which is good.  After a week there was no change in my pain levels. After a month it was just the same.  The sceptic in me resurfaced with a smug look on her face.

Now in my 3rd month I have noticed that my fingers aren't as sore even after doing 4 hours of heavy garden work - pulling weeds out of clay usually induces chronic arthritis pain but my fingers felt OK. Plus, my tiresome left thumb is not bothering me when I knead dough. My left wrist has stopped throbbing but my right one is still sore.  Wet weather usually gives me a problem, even though those in the know reckon that it has no affect on arthritis, but this current wet spell hasn't troubled me yet.

I've also got more used to the taste and have developed my own way of taking it - in the morning I get a teaspoon of it and swallow it quickly, swiftly followed by chewing 3 prunes to take the taste away (part of my 6 prunes taken daily to help keep my bone density in good nick which all post-menopausal women should do.  I picked this up from a Scientific analysis of bone density in a programme on the BBC a few years ago). At lunchtime I do the same with the remaining prunes or perhaps add it to my soup in the colder months.  In the evening I just add it to my food at the end of the cooking time and I don't always notice the taste quite as much now.

It's amazing what you can get used to out of necessary!

I've just received my fresh batch of Golden Paste from Rachel and I reckon that by the time I've finished the next 3 packets I'll be able to give my final verdict on it.  Keeping everything crossed that it continues to make a difference, even if it just stays the same as any reduction in pain is welcome.

Beautiful sea

We were out and about in Hastings this afternoon and I just had to share these photos of the sea I took before we headed home as it looked magical!

This one made me smile because.....

.....I was wearing my favourite kidsilk haze jumper and it matched!

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