Arthritis – more than physio, painkillers and joint replacements?
Arthritis – more than physio, painkillers and joint replacements?
Arthritis is the medical name for conditions where the joints of the body become inflamed. Inflammation is the common factor in all types of arthritis, whether it is osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis or other forms of arthritis.
Nearly 350 million people worldwide have arthritis. That’s more than the whole population of the USA! More than half are under the age of 65.
The economic burden of arthritis is huge and increasing – both due to direct and indirect costs. These include costs of medication, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication and side effects associated with medication, joint washouts or replacements and costs to economy of work days lost and disability payments.
- In one year in the UK over 36 million workdays were lost due to osteoarthritis alone, resulting in loss of economic production of £3.2 billion
- Arthritis is the most common cause for people to receive disability living allowance – more than the total for heart disease, stroke, cancer and chest disease combined![i]
Thus there is a huge potential for savings if we are able to address the underlying cause of arthritis, such that we can treat and heal it earlier or even prevent it from occurring.
Arthritis is just one of many conditions that are a result of inflammation, and inflammation necessarily involves cells of the immune system. The immune system is the body’s natural defence system, for example, it helps to protect us from infections and is actively involved in healing.
We tend to think of inflammation as something bad as it causes us pain, but inflammation serves a purpose and is part of the body’s healing and repair mechanism. We recognise an acutely inflamed joint as one that is red, hot, swollen and painful and occurs over a short time span. Chronic inflammation occurs over a long time and does not have all of these obvious signs, but can be associated with pain and stiffness.
Many people assume that arthritis is just part and parcel of getting older, ‘wear and tear’, or that it’s due to our genes, bad luck or just one of those things that happens which we have no control over and no say in. Having such an approach of course means there is little we can do about it other than take painkillers, anti-inflammatories, have physiotherapy, joint injections or even joint replacements in more advanced cases. It means we are dependent on the medical system to fix us, to provide medications, remedies and operations and we are somewhat impotent to affect any change ourselves. A bit disempowering to say the least!
But if we understand that inflammation is part of the body’s healing process, we could come to see and understand arthritis differently.
Rather than thinking something has gone wrong with our body when we get arthritis, what if we were to see it as a message from our body and our joints in particular, that there is something about the way we are living that is requiring the body to instigate its defence and healing mechanisms?
Our bodies are not just pieces of meat that we cart around from A to B – they are highly sensitive and respond to everything we put into them or do to and with them. They experience all of the life we live. They have to digest and process all the food we ingest, cope with all our emotional reactions and deal with all our negative and critical thoughts – no wonder we get sick!
Every time we are angry, it has an effect on our physiology and our immune system. An angry person is often incensed or ‘inflamed’ about something – their face may even go red, their pulse and blood pressure may get affected and the cells of the immune system can be activated. So it’s not really a surprise that the outer inflamed person is mirrored by inflammation going on inside the body.
Of course, some people are not outwardly angry, they can in fact be very nice and polite but are inwardly seething and this too still has an effect on the body. There is in that sense, no escape, as the body will always reveal the truth of what is really going on.
For some, it may be that it wasn’t safe to display emotions like anger when growing up – so we learn to suppress or repress it, particularly if we are angry at our parents for example, as we are told we should love our parents and so the anger we can feel as young children growing up is suppressed. We might get angry that they are too busy to play with us, that they don’t spend time with us, that they do or say things that hurt us – the reasons can be many and varied.
Understanding that our emotional reactions affect our health and in this case our joints, means we are no longer a victim of a disease just happening to us, but we can take steps to address the underlying issues and the way we live and that can then have a beneficial effect on the pain and inflammation.
For example, we can look at why we get angry:
- What expectations do we have that are not being met or fulfilled?
- Are we using anger as a form of protection?
- Is there something behind the anger that we don’t want to feel?
- Are we angry at ourselves or others, or even the world and God?
- Do we feel angry and deeply sad that no one has truly met and seen us for who we really are?
Being open to feeling and naming these buried issues that are often the source of our emotional reactions, is in itself healing. We can be more at ease and at peace with ourselves, less inflamed if you like.
We can begin to live in a way that takes more care of our body and what we put into it – be that food, thoughts, emotions or movements. For example, there is increasing evidence that certain foods are ‘pro-inflammatory’ – that means they induce or cause inflammation, with great examples being wheat/gluten, dairy and sugar. Eliminating such foods from the diet can help reduce the inflammation.
In addition to diet, we can develop a more gentle and loving way with ourselves that feeds into many of the choices we make in a day. Everything from moving, walking, sleeping, talking and any action can be done with a deeper level of care and tenderness, instead of push, drive, hardness or emotional reaction. Complementary therapies like Esoteric Connective Tissue Therapy and Sacred Esoteric Healing are also available to assist the person who has arthritis.
There is much more that we can do to help treat and heal our arthritis – we don’t just have to rely on painkillers, physiotherapy, joint procedures and operations. Whilst these can all be needed, the real healing comes when we address why we became inflamed in the first place.