ARTHRITIS: A Non-Professional Point of View [Archives:1998/28/Health]

July 13 1998

By: Yusuf Abdulhamid
Arthritis is a very common disease in Yemen. It produces so much pain that it interferes with our work. The root causes in my opinion are faulty diets, habitual over-eating of unsuitable and acid-forming foods deficient in vitamins and causing digestive troubles, etc.
We city dwellers suffer more as we are either standing up a lot or sitting down a lot during the performance of our duties at home and office; thus, exerting more pressure on our knees, hips, ankles, feet and spinal column. Our walking activity is very limited as we don’t walk much due to lack of free time.
I’m 68 years old. I eluded arthritis for quite a while by regular exercise, proper diet and proper guidance from an orthopedic surgeon. But I now have a sore knee. The marrow of the bone is beginning to wear out, causing pain and restlessness, not withstanding my jogging and other sporting activities.
According to my estimation, 80% of the middle aged and old aged people in Yemen suffer from arthritis. In rural areas this proportion may be smaller as both men and women routinely exercise by doing physically-demanding work, which helps in maintain their health and keep their bones and joints in sound condition for a much longer period through old age.
Thus how can we city dwellers in Yemen keep away from this menacing disease which afflicts most of us, and makes our lives miserable?
I understand that there are two forms of arthritis. Rheumatic arthritis which is a disease of the joints. It can result in deformation of the hands, feet, wrists, ankles, knees and cervical vertebrae, and can restrict the movement of the joints.
In Osteo-arthritis the bones and the cartilage on which we move are affected. Degeneration sets in. It results in a mineralized deposit enlargement of the large bones in the neck, hip, knees and back. Most Osteo-arthritic patients are over the age of 40, and often overweight.
Let me now tell you how I keep my arthritis under control, and how we can all ease our pain, and halt this menacing disease. My views have been endorsed by an orthopedic surgeon.
1) If we lose weight, we can to a great extent get relief from pain in our ankles, hips, feet and spinal column.
2) Yoga exercise is a key to restoring health to arthritic joints. Moving the painful joint may hurt, but if we don’t move it we’re likely to destroy the joint.
3) Less stress can give relief to arthritic sufferers, tensing up could hurt even more.
4) All arthritic patients suffer from morning stiffness. We should apply a good muscle ointment before going to bed. It will relax our sore muscles and give us a psychological boost too.
5) We ought to learn to relax mentally and physically. We should listen to our body, and follow what it tells us.
6) Water exercises are excellent for arthritic patients. The pain reduces in water. We become more flexible. The exercise could consist of waving, walking and bending motions.
7) When a joint is stressed from over use or over work, use ice in a plastic bag to cover the sore joint for 20 minutes, then repeat as above for another 20 minutes. When a joint becomes hot or swollen, rest it. And when the pain is reduced, exercise the relating joint.
8) Calcium is needed by every cell in the body. It is needed for bones, teeth, muscles and other organs. Lack of it can cause cramps and convulsions. Its deficiency can also be a cause of arthritic crippling. Milk and yogurt are full of calcium. Let us take them abundantly.
9) Arthritic joints may not be fully corrected once damaged. The process can be halted by correct foods and correct living. We must avoid the intake of high protein especially when we have gut troubles.
10) High protein includes all types of meat products which are not easily digested, and cause intense acidity in the stomach. Take alkaline foods, namely lemons, oranges, salads, carrots, tomatoes, grapes, papaws, raisins, apples, green peas, apricots and dried fruits etc.
11) Carrot juice, celery juice and tomato juice without white sugar reduces pain for many arthritic patients. I enjoy these drinks in the summer and winter climate.
12) White sugar neutralizes calcium in the blood stream. It should be eliminated from the diet and should be replaced by dates, raisins, honey and other items which contain natural sugar.
13) Omitting salt from food is good for arthritic patients. Salt is unnecessary. It coats veins and arteries, stiffens the joints and makes them painful.