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  • September 2013
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Using Heat (And Other Self-Help Methods) For Wrist Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease where the tissue which covers the ends of the bones forming a joint (or cartilage) wears away.

Symptoms associated with wrist osteoarthritis are pain, fluid around wrist joints, wrist swelling, crackling when wrist is moved, stiffness and limited flexibility.

The goals for treatment of wrist osteoarthritis are to relieve pain and improve joint function. Some self-help tips you can do:

  • Resting the joint helps acute inflammation to subside. However prolonged inactivity may cause a stiff joint.
  • Eat foods that decrease inflammation such as: flaxseeds, garlic, onions, watercress, horseradish, mustard, parsley, celery, rose hips tea, pickles, lemon, and oils found in nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish, soy and soy foods e.g. tofu and tempeh.
  • Avoid foods which may increase inflammation such as:  potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, high saturated fats, red meat, white flour products, processed foods and high sugar foods.
  • Glucosamine/chondroitin can be beneficial for joint health when taken for at least a 2-month period.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil help decrease inflammation.
  • Bromelain enzyme comes from pineapples and is said to reduce inflammation. Turmeric is sometimes combined with bromelain, because it makes the effects of bromelain stronger.
  • Ginger may reduce joint inflammation and pain. One study found that ginger extract blocked COX-2, a chemical in the body that causes pain.
  • Occupational therapy or physiotherapy range-of-motion and stretching exercises can improve your wrist motion. Strengthening exercises for the arm and hand help steady the wrist and protect the joint from shock and stress.
  • Support braces help strengthen wrist movements and are useful at night or for specific activities.
  • A heated wheat bag can help loosen tissues. Apply the heat treatment for no more than 20 minutes at a time.  Continuous low-level heat has been shown to be effective for the treatment of wrist pain associated with osteoarthritis which may progressively increase with the length of time of the heat application.  Other benefits may include an increase in grip strength.
  • Willow bark acts similar to aspirin.

NOTE: Those with diabetes, multiple sclerosis, poor circulation and rheumatoid arthritis need to be cautious about using heat therapy as it may cause skin distress or increased in­flammation. When using heat, skin should be protected and application time should be restricted.

If you are on any medication, especially blood thinners, consult your GP or a qualified nutritionist before taking supplements.

Zhu-Zhu microwaveable heated glove

Zhu-Zhu microwaveable heated glove

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Conditions of the Feet

Poor circulation
The foot is the part of the body furthest from the heart; thus, the feet are often the first to suffer from inadequate blood supply due to circulatory problems.  Keep your feet wrapped up (try microwavable slippers) and have an occasional foot massage to keep the blood flowing.

Chilblains
Chilblains are an extreme reaction to cold, in which superficial blood vessels contract excessively causing skin to go pale and numb, then red, swollen, and itchy. To help prevent chilblains, keep feet and legs warm.  Take a vitamin E supplement to help.

Ingrown toenails
An ingrown toenail occurs most frequently in the big toe. As the nail grows deeper into the flesh the toe becomes infected, then red, shiny and swollen with a throbbing pain.  Don’t clip your nails down too far and cut them evenly across.

Athletes foot
The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is usually picked up from walking barefoot across communal changing rooms. The infection starts between the little toe and the one next to it. At first the skin is itchy and sore. Then it starts to crack and peel and can spread to toe nails and soles of the foot.  Don’t wear shoes without socks or tights and wear footwear which allows your feet to breath.

Fungal nails
Fungal nail infections occurs when a fungi infects the nails. Symptoms of a fungal infection may include brittleness, discoloration, thickening and crumbling of the nail. Treatment of this condition is either Lamisil tablets (prescription only) or fungal solution/cream preparations.   Apply Vapor Rub to infected toenails morning and night.

Corns and callouses
Corns occurring on top and sides of toes are usually due to pressure from shoes. Callouses usually form on the soles of the feet, especially around the heels. Useful treatments for corns and callous are reusable gel pads and adhesive paddings.   Use a pumice stone and then apply papaya juice on the affected area.

Bunions/enlarged joints
A bunion is usually characterized by a lump or bump that is red, swollen and/or painful on the inside of the foot in and around the big toe joint. The primary cause is ill-fitting shoes.  Useful treatments for bunions are anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and Ibuprofen. Cold ice-pack compresses to reduce swelling.  Use gel pads and adhesive paddings to reduce pressure over joint.

Dry, cracked skin and heel fissures
Dry skin can lead to the painful problem of cracking and fissuring of the skin especially round the edge of the heels. This condition is sometimes associated with wearing open backed shoes with the rim of the sole causing the irritation.   A soft density gel heel protector pad will help to reduce stress on the heels. Take three spoons of honey and mix in one teaspoonful sesame oil. Warm and apply on the affected areas.

Verrucae
Verrucae are caused by a virus and are contagious.  Characteristically the verruca appears like a cauliflower pattern with black spots or streaks through it. Conservative treatments include topical medicines or your chiropodist/podiatrist may use a series of freezing methods (liquid nitrogen) or electrosurgery to eradicate the problem.

Thick toenails and ridged nails
Thickening of the nail may be caused by a fungal infection, injury trauma or the gradual irritation of a tight shoe. The nail bed and root can become irreversibly damaged, causing the nail to grow thick and discoloured.   Irrespective of the cause, the nail should be cut with nail clippers and filed down to as normal a thickness as possible so that the pressure on the toe is relieved.

Senior Man Hiking In Countryside

Planning Physical Activity

Health and Activity Helps to -

 protect you from diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, osteoporosis and heart disease.

 control weight by using excess calories that otherwise would be stored as fat.

√  improve mood and reduce depression and stress.

Types of Activity

Aerobic

Aerobic means “with oxygen”  and the purpose of aerobic conditioning is to increase the amount of oxygen that is delivered to your muscles which allows them to work better. Any activity that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time will improve your aerobic conditioning e.g. swimming, brisk walking, jogging, racket sports, bicycling, aerobic dancing and using aerobic equipment e.g. treadmill.

Dancing

Dancing is a weight-bearing activity and helps tone muscles, improve flexibility, makes your heart stronger and your lungs work better.

Lifestyle

To become more active throughout your day, take advantage of any opportunity to get up and move around, for example:

  • Park the car at the most distant point in the car park from the entrance to the building.
  • Walk the dog more often.
  • Walk while you talk on a mobile phone.
  • Play actively with the kids.
  • Walk the stairs instead of taking the lift.
  • Get out of your chair whenever you can at home and at work.
  • Use household chores as an exercise class.
  • Garden regularly.
  • Walk or ride a bike to work
  • Get off the bus before your usual stop and walk the rest of the way.

Water workout

Exercising in water helps increase flexibility. You can do shallow-water or deep-water exercises without being able to swim.

Walking

Probably the best activity to burn calories and increase endurance is walking. Try walking for 30 minutes each day. The faster you walk the more calories you’ll burn.

Bicycling

You can bicycle indoors on an exercise bike, or outdoors on a road bike. You could use a recumbent bike where you sit low to the ground with your legs reaching forward to the pedals (the seat on a recumbent bike is wider than the seat on an upright bike).  For biking outdoors, you may want to try a mountain bike which is heavier and has wider tyres.

Stretching

Stretching and muscle-strengthening activities e.g. weight training, use calories and strengthen muscles and bones.  Stretching helps increase  flexibility and relaxation, keeps muscles from getting tight after doing other exercises and improves blood flow. Yoga and tai chi are examples of stretching activities.

Top Tips for Better Activity

  • When you exercise early in the morning, it jump starts your metabolism and elevates it for hours meaning you’re burning calories all day long.
  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after exercise.
  • Do not do hard exercise for two hours after a big meal.
  • Wear the right clothes e.g. lightweight and loose fitting tops, good support bras for women, supportive athletic shoes for weight-bearing activities.
  • Start slowly allowing your body time to get used to new activity.
  • Allow time to slow down when coming to the end of your activity.
  • Using heat therapy with a wheat bag over tight muscles before exercise helps increase blood circulation. Heat is generally used for chronic injuries or injuries that have no inflammation or swelling.
  • Challenge yourself and celebrate every success.