Tag Archives: spinal stenosis

surgery for arthritis

Gentle Reader,

There comes a time when surgery for arthritis makes sense. I have reached that time. I began blogging at www.NoWheelchair.wordpress.com in 2004, to share strategies a person with arthritis could use to avoid taking medication or having surgery. My posts have been about my own journey to manage increasingly severe osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis, and more recently a condition known as listhesis, or the collapsing of vertebra to the left and to the right. As my Feldenkrais practitioner keeps telling me, “You’ve got a complicated spine.”

It has been an interesting process to dedicate this year to a protocol of my own making. I have gone to a physical medicine specialist, Dr. Ren, at the Polyclinic who suggested physical therapy for eight sessions. The PT exercises did nothing to alleviate the weakness in my legs, nor the pain, lovely as it was to show up to the attention of admiring young men twice a week.

I decided to take Dr. Ren’s offer of an injection of steroids in L5 and L4 and I had a good four pain free weeks. With less pain, I was able to pay attention to my gait and realized I was so unstable on my right side that my right hip was swinging out with every step. I decided to go back to Becci Parsons, my Feldenkrais practitioner for help getting symmetrical again. Walking everywhere with hiking sticks helps with symmetry. My strong upper body lifts my weaker legs up and the hiking sticks keep me parallel. They are less for balance than for lifting weight off the collapsed vertebra.

Nerve pain came back after a short time. Dr. Ren thought I might be a good candidate for surgery. Becci has had two operations for very similar conditions so I went to her neurosurgeon, Dr.Peter Nora. Dr. Nora has twenty years of back surgery under his belt. When I met him, I looked at his hands which are small and delicate. A good sign. He put me through the diagnostic paces where you resist pressing your knees together and then apart; your feet in and then out; your knee lifting against pressure; all of which I passed with flying colors. It seemed obvious this 79 year old woman showed no sign of weakness. He tried one last diagnostic tool: I stood against the wall pressing my heals, my back and my head against it. The test: stand for ten minutes in that position. I lasted 5 seconds before my legs gave way.

I so appreciated Dr. Nora’s willingness to listen to my experience. When I stand around for a while, the right leg loses feeling and will not support my weight. Think about when standing around is what we do as humans: hanging out in the kitchen with family while we cook; looking at a painting in the museum; holding a drink at a cocktail party or reception; singing in the choir at church; waiting in line at Starbucks, at the airport, at the bank. All of these scenarios result in weakness and the sensation of getting ready to fall over. Dr. Nora heard me and kept trying moves so he could reproduce my experience in a controlled clinical setting. Thank goodness. I once had an orthopedist kick me out of his office after I told him I walked to Broadway and Madison from the 3rd Ave bus stop, a distance of about a mile, most of it up a steep hill. I was using my sticks so I could do it.

Dr. Nora explained the surgery by showing me the MRI of my spine from the bottom to the top as if you were looking up a tube in which the spinal cord runs. Between L3, L4 and L5, the poor spinal cord disappeared completely. He will carve off the bonein those areas to stop the pinching of the nerves. It could be a big change for the better. Since I have been avoiding surgery for so many years, there is no guarantee all the nerves will come back, but the pain should reduce considerably.

You would think I would get in for surgery for arthritis as quickly as possible. But my calendar is full this summer with harvesting the raspberries (bending, lifting and twisting), camping with family, traveling to Hawaii with a granddaughter and several graduations. The first stretch of time when I could commit to no bending, no twisting and no lifting for a month begins August 16th. So that is when the surgery is scheduled.

In the mean time, Dr. Ren’s Assistant, Diana Ferdana, who calls me pharmaceutically naive, meaning I have little experience with drugs, prescribed Gabapentin. This drug prevents seizures and also blocks nerve pain. Side effects bother me as I am a little loopy, a little sleepy, but the benefit of the smallest possible dose is considerable. I still take Shaklee’s Pain Relief Complex to keep other arthritis under control, like my thumbs and fingers and shoulder.  She also gave me an industrial sized back brace which I wear when picking raspberries, doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping the floor. You get the idea, bending, lifting and twisting.

I still go to the Xgym every week. My trainer has talked to Becci and together they have a workout plan that stabilizes my core while building upper body strength. These exercises don’t ask much from my weak legs other than stability although I am doing controlled lunges with hiking sticks. Staying fit is important when heading for major surgery. The guys at Xgym will help me get back on my feet when the surgery is over.

I am still walking most days although forty minutes to an hour is as long as I can go without sitting down to give my back relief. So no hiking with my group. This is the hardest loss for me as I have been in the wilderness nearly every week since 2004, summer and winter. Happily there are plenty of parks nearby with old growth forest and trails, but there is nothing like deep wilderness. I miss it and my hiking buddies.

I share all this personal experience with the hope that you or someone you know will take heart in their own struggle with arthritis. Don’t give up and sit down. We have to keep moving to avoid further damage and disability. At this point for me, I can do damage by over-doing so I have to learn to listen to the signals that say, enough. Most days at least a mile of walking works. I begin each day with tiny Feldenkrais movements to activate the core, the psoas and the multifidae that go up and down my spine to stabilize it. Just half an hour of that careful “exploration”, as Becci calls it, makes the difference for movement all day.

So, Be well, Do well and Keep Moving.
Feel free to share this. And don’t forget to like me on Face book.

Comments and questions are encouraged.

Betsy

206 933 1889

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Cortisone for Sciatica

Gentle Reader,
Sciatica, sciatica, sciatica.  On every hand I hear people complaining about sciatic pain, drop foot, back difficulties and arthritis in general.  I have had more acute sciatic pain plus a long stretch of time at home (no travel plans until July) so I decided to try cortisone for sciatica.  I first focussed on discovering the cause.  What would a medically trained physician have to say about my condition?

Cortisone for sciatica injection
Cortisone for sciatica injection

I imagine most people begin in the doctor’s office.  You, who read my posts, may be among those who seek alternative care first.  I have done Feldenkrais, Deep tissue sports massage, private pilates, Myofascial Release, Raiki, Alexander, Therapeutic Yoga, chiropractic, Physical Therapy—what am I forgetting?  Ah, yes, my wonderful team at the Xgym, half the time and twice the results.  Personal trainers who tailor my 25 minute workout to build upper body, leg and core strength while protecting my back.
My first injury happened in 1989 with a major exacerbation in 1992.  Back then I did all the above and my doctor of choice was Stan Herring, a neurosurgeon who now limits his practice to the University of Washington Huskies and the Sea Hawks.  He’s the doctor who looked at my x-rays and a later MRI and asked if I’d come in a wheelchair.  “Get strong, Betsy.  Your bones are no good for surgery so get strong.”
If you know me and see me on Face book, you know that is exactly what I have been doing.  Weekly hiking, daily walking up and down the hills of West Seattle, long walks in exotic places in the off season, cross country skiing and snow shoeing when we have snow in our Cascades.
The sciatic has gotten progressively worse affecting my right leg and causing numbness and sometimes extreme pain.  I put myself under the care of Dr. Ren at the Polyclinic. She is a physical medicine doctor who specializes in keeping people moving who suffer from back related problems (among other things).  She confirmed that I have extreme spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis, two herniated disks at L4 and L5.  She sent me to physical therapy for eight session.  As has been true with previous visits to PT’s, I had fun with those young specialists and enjoyed their stretching, icing and exercises, but nothing beneficial came of it.  In fact, the gross motor activities prescribed may have made my condition worse.
Next step was to get the shot of cortisone for sciatica in the L5 area where the narrowing is so small, it’s a wonder any nerve impulses get through at all.  I’ve been scheduled for this procedure three previous times and canceled each time.  I wasn’t ready.  Dr. Ren did a fabulous job.  Her needle found the spot producing an electric shock that sprung my leg all the way to my two middle toes to life with a jerk.  After I caught my breath, I congratulated her.
The first day I felt wonderful and so moved stuff around in the garage.  Stupid.  Without the pain, I realized my gait was completely cattywampus—right hip collapsing with each step, left leg struggling to hold me up.  Something whispered to me, “Go back to Becci Parsons and let her healing hands remind you how to stand and walk and sit and roll over.”  Becci is the Feldenkrais therapist who got me back on my feet after the herniation so many years ago.  She is a former dancer and has the same “keep moving” spirit I have.  She has suffered from a similar herniation and has ended up with surgery.  She can move fluidly with nearly equal strength on both sides (her right side has some weakness and lack of nerve response when her foot gets caught).
Becci, after three session, has me sitting on my sits bones with a nature curve in my lower spine, pressing one heal to the floor on the exhaling breath while lifting the right heal ever so slightly.  I am paying attention to the distance between my arm pit and my hips on both sides, keeping that distance equal.  I am paying attention to every muscle group that tries to help lift that right heal.  Tiny movements with laser focus to re-pattern the injured nerves and muscles.  She checked out my gait with the hiking sticks and said it was remarkable how my shoulders remained even, my right side did not collapse and my left hip didn’t swing out.  That decision on my part to walk everywhere with hiking sticks was the best self care for my condition.  It gets me a seat on a crowded bus, too.
I have an appointment for a new MRI although Dr. Ren’s assistant Diana didn’t see how the stenosis could have gotten any worse.  Then I will have a surgery consultation with Becci’s neurosurgeon.  I hope I don’t have to go there, but I am willing if it would help me gain real strength on my right side.

pain free from cortisone injection for sciatica
Hiking sultan canyon trail off hwy 2 in the North Cascades

The blessing is not being in pain.  I stopped taking Shaklee’s Pain Relief Complex which inhibit the pain path without any side effects.  Low and behold, other arthritis pain showed up in my hands.  I don’t hike as far as the other members of my gang of hikers, but I am strong enough to lead the pack and am pain free.  My hiking friends have been solicitous, gradually increasing the length and the elevation gain.  Last week and next will be 700 ft of altitude gain and six miles round trip (Boulder Creek trail of Hwy 530).  I know it well and there are places to stop if I need to let the others go on.
There is something about spending a day in the wilderness every week that keeps my spirit soaring and my sense of well being strong.  I’ve mentioned before that our gang has scouted out wheel chair accessible wilderness walks for that time in the future when one of us can’t walk.  So far, I don’t need to be pushed.
I share my pain, suffering and healing stories in case they resonate with something you are going through, or someone you know.  If you have any interest in connecting with any of the practitioners I have used, please follow the hot links to them.  If you are interested in trying the supplements and dietary changes that have been so helpful to me, please check out this post in particular.  If you have questions or comments from your own experience, I and my readers would love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading,
Be well, Do well and Keep Moving,
Betsy
206 933 1889

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Physical Therapy

This article is part of a series of posts I have written about various therapies that may be helpful to relieve suffering due to arthritis.

Physical Therapy has not been high on my list of therapies helpful to relieve sciatica.  However, pain up and down my right leg emanating from pinched nerves at L5 and L4 sent me back to the Physical Medicine doctor at my HMO, the Polyclinic here in Seattle.   Dr. Ren recommended the Physiotherapy Associates at Greenlake.  Eight sessions later, I still have pain, but I am stronger and less fearful.

Perhaps you have had similar responses to pain.  When you hurt every time you walk a couple blocks, pretty soon, you stop walking altogether.  When that happened to me, I stumbled on Tarama Gillest, Therapeutic Yoga instructor and owner of Bend n Move.  In four sessions with her, I learned to manage my anticipation of pain with deep breathing and a series of body loosening and strengthening moves.  I got out my sticks and took them everywhere so when the pain came, I have help.  The hiking sticks help me lift my body with my arms, taking the pressure off my back.

 

In spite of this therapeutic intervention, I still experienced increased weakness in the right leg. This is where Physical Therapy came in.  Two things to tell you about Physical Therapy with Physiotherapy Associates.

 

1. the exercises and stretching moves they employed did not increase pain.  In fact, the opposite.  Several of their stretches and exercises were ones I feared because they mirrored the actions that have caused pain in the past, such as the doggy leg lift when on all fours.  In the controlled environment at the Physical Therapy office, I have been able to do leg lifts, strengthen the ham string without fear.  Fear of pain is one of the problems that keeps us from moving.

 

2. Repetition increased strength.  Do you know how many reps these guys make you do?  15 to 20 with each leg, twice or three times.  You have to increase strength with that kind of workout.

 

They always end with icing and a ten minute rest.  I recommend this PT experience for anyone who is struggling with the results of arthritis.

 

Finally, the therapist and my personal trainer talked to discuss my strength training at Xgym, so I have a tailored program to keep the upper body strong while I am working on the muscles and tendons and nerves below the waist.

 

The experience that pushed me over the edge was cross country skiing last week.  The pain was so great, I had to stop after 2 hours and sit in the car while my companions enjoyed another hour and a half of skiing.  I decided to follow the advice of my skiing/hiking buddy’s husband.  I am going to see an orthopedist who specializes in a mildly invasive surgery to clean out the spinal stenosis bone growths.  The real culprit is a narrowing of the spinal opening.  If he can help, he will.  If he looks at my MRI and decides he can’t help…….. well, I will have to continue doing the things I am doing in order to get into the wilderness and hike or ski the trails.

 

Shaklee’s Pain Relief Complex is helpful.  I still recommend it.  You can take lots without hurting your stomach, and by that I mean, 4 – 10 a day.

 

Wish me luck.   Betsy

 

Be well, Do well and Keep moving.  Above all else, Keep moving.

 

Betsy

 

Be well, Do well and Keep moving, Betsy

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resveratrol for joints

Gentle Reader,

There is so much I could share about this past weekend at my alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, just outside Philadelphia on the MainLine.  In keeping with the goal of this blog, I will single out arthritic joint issues and focus on possible remedies for joint pain.

Twenty-nine of my classmates came to celebrate our 55th reunion.  Everyone looked great:  not too many wrinkles, lovely hair, sparkling eyes.  But when it came time to walk up a few stairs, joints fail and pain ensues.  The cart is called to drive people where they need to go.  I’m wondering if the anti-aging product I’ve been taking for ten years has helped my joints so the same is not true for me.

Have you heard about Resveratrol?  It is the anti-oxidant found in red wine.  Shaklee started working on producing a pure tonic that combines the resveratrol and polyphenols found in the muscadine grade about ten years ago.  I have been taking my daily dose of this delicious liquid called Vivix since they made it available for sale.

There is no question that my body, like my class mates, suffers from the aging deterioration of cells that is normal for a 77 year old.  It appears we do not all age in the same way or at the same rate.  I have had severe osteo arthritis and spinal stenosis for years, probably brought about by factors such as stress, poor diet, and environmental toxins. I’ve worked hard on the diet part, but you cannot always eat perfectly, now can you.  These factors can weaken cells’ natural defenses, lower cell energy, damage DNA, and decrease cell performance. All of these can contribute to cellular aging.

Clinical Studies show Vivix® ingredients positively impact four key mechanisms of aging at the cellular level.

Shaklee scientists conducted a study to see if Vivix could defend against cell damage.

Cell Defense

 

Blunts Biological Stress
A clinical study published in The Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that key ingredients in Vivix blocked a key marker of biological stress response after the consumption of a high-fat fast food breakfast totaling 930 calories.

The results were exciting, while the study had nothing to do with joints, it showed that Vivix protected cells from damage.  My joints were damaged long before Vivix came along.  Perhaps protection is less important than repair.  Let’s see what happened with repair.

 Cell Repair

DNA Protection & Repair
Laboratory studies show that key Vivix ingredients help protect against DNA damage, supporting DNA replication for healthy cell function.

Shown in laboratory studies, Vivix protects and repairs DNA, which is assaulted millions of times every day. These assaults can damage the cell’s DNA, creating a “typo” that may compromise cell function and longevity.

A recent visit with my sports medicine doctor revealed a smaller than average spinal passageway for the cord to pass through.  Like my father before me, my spinal cord has little wiggle room.  That is the result of inherited DNA.  The data suggest that DNA can be repaired by resveratrol.  I am convinced that my joint health has improved instead of worsened over the last ten years.  The recent MRI indicated improvement.

Could it be that resveratrol reduces joint pain?  This is certainly my experience.

To learn more about Vivix and the ingredients, studies and results, click here.

Vivix is expensive.  It may be worth it if you want to slow down aging at the cellular level.  It certainly seems to help with joint pain and there are only side benefits from drinking a swig from the bottle every day.   I would give the body 90 to 180 days before deciding Vivix has made no difference in your joint function.  It is possible you will feel a positive difference much sooner.  Your blood is all new in 90 days and the joints, because of lower blood flow, will take double that to show results.

There are other resveratrol products on the market, but none have the muscadine grape’s extra anti-oxidants which seems to enhance the punch provided by resveratrol.  In addition, purity of product makes a difference and Shaklee scientists have been able to produce a 95% pure tonic.  Less purity may result in loose bowels.  Get some and see what your results are.

Good luck and keep moving, as moving is always the best single antidote to painful joints.

Be well, Do well and Keep moving,

Betsy

206 406 5940

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Healthier bones

Gentle Reader,

Do you ever have the experience of anticipating a really big event that is going to make demands on your body?  You become more aware of the little aches and pains, the warning signals that all is not well?  Maybe bone health has gotten worse. You worry about an escalation of the little twinge into something big right in the middle of the planned for event.  You think about Traveler’s Insurance and then read the fine print that says unless you buy it with 14 days of purchasing your plane ticket and paying for the experience, you have to declare a pre-existing condition.  Are these twinges enough to be called a pre-existing condition?

By now, you know that I have been living with a diagnosis of spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis.  These are both age-related and trauma induced arthritis.  My first trauma was in 1989 and then the herniation in L5 was exacerbated in 1993 by sitting in a slouched position in an airplane for 7 hours.  At that time, I went to Dr. Stan Herring, sports medicine doctor to the Huskies sports teams and neurosurgeon.  He told me my bone health as revealed in the MRI pictures were so bad, he was surprised I wasn’t in a wheel chair.

Over the past year my right leg has been going numb and weak from time to time, especially when standing for a long time, like in choir or wandering through a museum.  Last June, I walked all over Paris with a numb right leg.  No pain, just a feeling of distance, dissociation from that limb, even when walking around without a hiking stick or other means of extra support.  In fact, I hardly ever experience pain above a 3-4 on the old 10-point scale.  Probably because I pop an herbal Shaklee Pain Relief Complex tablet at the slightest twinge of pain.

I decided to call Dr. Herring’s office to see how he is treating his athletes these days.  His practice has changed and he directs other doctors now.  He is not a provider in my AARP Advantage insurance program. So, I met Dr. Ren at the Polyclinic for a review of my most recent MRI and a comparison to all the others I have had in the past.  Three conclusions are worth sharing with you.

1. I do have bulging discs including a new one at L2, moving up the spine.  But none is penetrating the spinal cord.  I have what she calls a genetically narrow passageway for the spinal cord.  This explains why I am so like my father in arthritis of the back; he suffered terribly.  It was ironic, since he was an Orthopedic surgeon and performed hundreds of laminectomies and fusions over the course of his practice.  He couldn’t operate on himself, so he never had his own back fixed. You can see where I get my “do it yourself” attitude.

2. There has been some improvement in the spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis since the last MRI.  This I count as a victory and I attribute it to the fact that bone replaces itself slowly over time.  Given proper nutrition and other care through strengthening and toning muscles, bone can improve.  I am thrilled that my bone health has improfed.  What a fabulous result!  I will continue to visualize the formation of healthy new bone.  I will certainly continue with a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables and lean meats and fish, plus little or no gluten or dairy.  I am committed to continuing my workouts at the Xgym, because stronger muscles build stronger bones.

3.  Dr. Ren called me her poster child, to be improving bone health at 76, almost 77, instead of getting worse.  She also told me that low back problems on a major trip would only cause discomfort and was not life threatening.  No need to update my will on account of my back issues and numb leg.  Whew…

Let me review my early morning routine in case it would be helpful for you.

Back2Life
a neighbor on my Back2Life machine

1. Lie on the floor for 12 minutes with my knees bent over the Back2Life Machine.

2. A Feldenkrais hip opening exercise, 10 counts with each leg.  This video shows an extended version of my routine.  A full hip opening practice in two parts.  I limit myself to the dropping of the knee, extending the heal and back up again, 10 times on each side.  If you are a beginner with Feldenkrais, I recommend following her program from start to finish for best results.  You can later incorporate the segment that seems to give you the most benefit.



3. hanging upside down on the gravity inversion table for a total of 25 breathes.  Here is a video of an expert doing her back mobilization exercises on this inversion table.  It makes me seasick.  I have never been able to work the way she does, but I can vouch from the success I have had with lengthening a stretching my spine.  She inspires me to work up to what she demonstrates.

All this before breakfast.  In addition, each week I walk a couple miles most days which include steep uphill climbing (I live in West Seattle on top of a hill and my destination is on the top of another hill a mile a way, therefore Up and Down going and coming.)  On Tuesday I practice yoga with an instructor who builds slowly to the big poses and I stop when a twist gets to be too much.  On Wednesday I hike in our mountains surrounding Puget Sound, usually 6 miles, more or less.  On Monday and Friday, Clayton works me out at the Xgym, concentrating on 5 muscle groups and in a controlled manner, bringing them to complete fatigue.  It takes 25 minutes.  None of this takes a long time, except for the luscious outdoor experience on Wednesday.  I hate to miss it when I have to.  Nearly anyone could put this into their schedule.

I also take several supplements that improve joint mobility and strength muscles tissue: Fish oil, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Calcium.  They all work better because of an excellent catalyst, Shaklee’s multivitamin and mineral tablet.  I take the one for seniors which is especially formulated for the aging absorption for someone over 50.

The special event, you might ask?  A friend and I are going to hike 100 miles in England following the “highway” used by Lady Anne Clifford, a 17th century noble woman who owned most of Northumberland and Yorkshire.  We will walk from castle to castle beginning just north of Leeds, hiking for 9 days in the dales, wild and dramatic country to Penrith in the Lake District.  It will be June, long days and with any luck, not too much rain.  I will leave the end of May, feeling confident that my self-care and hiking sticks will see me to the end.  I’ll be home on June 20th.

Be well, Do well and Keep Moving,

Betsy

Let us know of your adventures.  How you are preparing or maintaining your body to meet your travel goals?  Sharing makes it all better.

betsy@hihohealth.com

206-933-1889

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Yoga for Arthritis

Gentle Reader,
I have a diagnosis of arthritis, osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. I gave up yoga for arthritis about 6 years ago, as it seemed to exacerbate the pain in my hips and spine. However, when my youngest daughter Ruth raved about her 6 a.m. yoga class and the teacher, I took notice. She convinced me that Laura could instruct me in a way that would build from the core so that I would not hurt myself. Furthermore, Laura and Beattie, her partner, were conducting a yoga retreat at the hot springs retreat center in Oregon called Breitenbush. I have always wanted to go. It would be wonderful to spend a weekend with my daughter. I signed up.

Have you ever enrolled in a program only to have buyer’s remorse? My thoughts raced around my head: I can’t do yoga for arthritis. I’ll hurt myself again. How will I spend my days with no internet or telephone? (That’s right. No connectivity at Breitenbush.) I planned to take a book, attend the first hour and bow out politely.

With the right yoga instructor, yoga for arthritis is not only possible but builds strength, stamina and flexibility. That is an all-important caveat: the right yoga instructor.
I not only lasted the first hour-and-a-half session on Thursday night, but the morning two hours on Friday as well. I took the Friday afternoon session off. By 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, Ruth and I had soaked in the hot springs pools four times. I was ready to try again. Not only was I able to practice with the other 12 participants for two hours on Saturday, but again that afternoon.

And, Ruth and I took a spectacular 4 ½-mile hike through the emerald green forest surrounding the Breitenbush site. Sunday morning’s two-hour session was beautiful. I did not try handstands or back bends, but everything leading up to those poses was restorative and strong.

How do you choose a yoga instructor that will help and not hurt your arthritic joints? If you are serious about including yoga for arthritis management, I recommend you visit studios and sit in on the session labeled hatha yoga, slow-moving emphasis on arriving at the pose from a core-strengthened place. I found of the various yoga practices. If you have arthritis, I would not recommend the fast moving practices. Participate as best you can, stopping short of anything that twists or hurts.

If you are a Type A competitive person used to high achievement goals (that would be me), you need to monitor your progress in a class very carefully so as to not over do. The personal triumph of the weekend retreat at Breitenbush was to opt out of the Friday afternoon class without feeling like a failure. I needed to rest my body in order to benefit from the rest of the weekend.

Open heartedness and acceptance are two attitudes to cultivate as you find a yoga practice for arthritis. Leave your judgments at the door and listen to your body.

I have posted information about Peggy Cappy many times before. She is a Public Television personality and yoga teacher who works with older people. Her videos and especially her CD mediation for healing the arthritic back are part of my daily routine.

The joy of practicing in a room full of other people over the weekend reminded me how much I have missed breathing, moving and meditating with others. I loved the group experience so much, I have been to one of Laura’s and Beattie’s Seattle classes and I plan to incorporate their practice in my week.

Do not settle for less than a careful, hands-on instructor if you want to use yoga for arthritis. It could get you into trouble. I wish you luck in finding a good instructor. Let me know how it goes with yoga if you already incorporate this modality in your arthritis or other health management.
Be well, Do well and Keep Moving
Betsy
BetsyBellsHealth4U
206 933 1889
betsy@hihohealth.com

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Grandmas on the move

Gentle Reader,

The first few moments of a hike and I confess, I do not feel like one of those Grandmas on the move.  I feel every twinge in my ankles as they wake up; in my knees as the right one clicks ominously; in my left foot where the old neuropathy pain can flair up.  After about 20 minutes and everything works like a well oiled machine, a steady climb or descent.  There is no snow to speak of in our Snoqualmie Pass, so the ski bus was called off for the second week.  Three of us went hiking on the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.  It was a beautiful day for us Grandmas on the move and we loved it.

Down in LA, the Trust for Public Land installed a fitness zone in a neighborhood park.  Here is what they found when they went back to check two years later:  Grandmas on the move.

Get your self out there and keep moving.  It makes a difference.  I have the choice of not moving when these twinges tell me my legs, joints and muscles are not working they way they did 50 years ago.  Sure, I have severe osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis.  These diagnosed conditions might give someone license to sit down.  Years ago, my neurologist told me I should be in a wheel chair, if my x-ray images were to be believed.  He said my bones were not good enough to operate.  “Get strong, Betsy.  Let your muscles carry you.”

These grandmas on the move have figured that out.  I hope you can find a way to do what they are doing.

Be well, Do well and Keep Moving,

Betsy

206 933 1889

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4 ways to get a sore back fuctional

Gentle Reader,

Sore back?  Been traveling, sitting in an airplane for hours?  Did you enjoy a vigorous hiking holiday slogging miles over boulders, roots and bogs for days in a row?  Maybe you had back surgery, successful but still stiff and cranky.  Or perhaps, you joined a new salsa dance class (that would be my recent experience) for the first time and the instructor had you swinging your hips in directions they hadn’t gone in 50 years.

There’s nothing that slows you down more than a sore back, whether it is caused by over-exersion, chronic arthritis, or a sudden move that sets everything zinging.  Here are four tips to get you moving comfortably again.

1. A muscle relaxant for a few days won’t kill you and will give those spasms a chance to quiet down.  There are a lot of over the counter medications to chose from.  My personal favorite is Aleve.  I can usually manage flare ups with frequent doses of Shaklee’s Pain Relief Complex, a herbal COX 2, 5 LOX inhibitor that will not damage your stomach.  99% of the time I can manage a sore back with Pain Relief Complex.  It gives me peace of mind to know I am not hurting my stomach or creating any bad side effects.

2.  To relieve a sore back my friend alternated between hot compresses and ice, getting the blood to move through the low back.  The joints are not easy to flush with blood flow so this is an excellent therapy, especially if you have the leisure to work on the problem.  The hottub is excellent for the heat.  I use mine every night sending the jets on any sore muscles.  In the case of acute sore back, more frequent cold/hot changes will speed the healing along.

3. For immediate relief for a sore back, rub Joint and Muscle Pain Cream or other menthol analgesic into the area.  For years I relied on Arnica Montana or Icy Hot cream, but I have found that the pain-relieving effect seems to penetrate more deeply and last longer.

4.  I use the Back2Life machine daily and when my back is more sore than normal, I will relief the sore back by getting on the floor with my knees over the top of this contraption several times a day.  It’s gentle motion is like a Feldenkrais manipulation.  The small, steady lifting and lowering motion of the Back2Life machine, relaxes and opens up the sacrum, allowing blood to flow into the irritated and inflammed area.  The machine is set to do its work for about 13 minutes which is just about as long as a busy person can stand to be still, lying on the floor.  Past posts about the Back2Life Machine.BAck2Life machine

In addition to these excellent sore back relieveing strategies, I like to put Peggy Cappy‘s soothing voice on before I go to sleep every night.  In fact, her voice usually puts me to sleep.  She takes you through a muscle relaxing meditation for about 20 minutes beginning with the eyes and facial muscles.  By the time she has progressed through the entire body, you are so still and relaxed, you couldn’t move an arm or a leg.  The last part of the CD takes you even deeper and she talks to your “inner mind” about the way sore and damaged joints restore through rebuilding healthy new cells using the nutrients offered by the blood stream.  I am convinced that if I were to get an MRI of my lower back and spine today, the deforming and pain-causing spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis would be less evident, just because of her CD.  Sound to woo-woo for you?  Never mind.  Listen to her relaxing CD anyway for relief from the SORE BACK that has you moaning.  To read a past post about Peggy Cappy, click here.

Probably the most effective strategy of all is moving.  As soon as you can tolerate even a little movement, get up and walk.  It is only by getting blood flow back into the disturbed joint that healing can be accelerated.

I wish you well in your journey to a healthy back, and the end of the sore back experience.

Be well, Do well and Keep Moving,

Betsy

206 933 1889

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Food Cures. Is there such a thing?

Gentle Reader,

I’ve joined an on line face book arthritis support group to learn from others how they suffer and what they are doing about it.  Following the rabbit trails I came to this web site  maintained by a Joy Bauer.  She has a slide show showing foods that are helpful for sufferers of arthritis.  You can also take a survey here that will give you a food suggestion list based on your answers to several life style questions.

Here are the suggestions that resulted from my survery:

Step 1

Understanding Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is due to a combination of factors, including genetics, past injury, joint use and overuse, and the aging process in general. The word “overuse” implies that it’s a concern for serious athletes, as well as those who have stress on the joints caused by excess body weight. Losing just a little weight can have a huge positive impact on OA. Because arthritis is a disease of inflammation, the most effective — and logical — treatment is anything that fights inflammation. Management of arthritis usually starts with ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medications, eating anti-inflammatory foods, and improving weight and lifestyle. I will go into more detail on how to manage OA in the following steps and on the Food Cures Web site.
Step 2

Foods to Avoid
In order to reduce inflammation in your body, you should dramatically limit your intake of pro-inflammatory foods. It sounds like you’re already avoiding foods high in saturated fats — such as fatty meats, butter, whole and 2 percent milk, full-fat cheese, and rich desserts. However, there are a few other foods you should add to your “foods to avoid” list. Trans fats, which are man-made fats added to baked goods to give them a longer shelf life, are very dangerous and even worse than saturated fats for your health. The good news is that laws now require food manufacturers to list trans fats on nutrition labels — so they’re easy to spot. Choose packaged foods that list 0 grams trans fat on the Nutrition Facts panel and don’t list any “hydrogenated oils” — codeword for trans fats — in the ingredients panel. The other food group to avoid is simple and refined carbs — which set up a state of inflammation in the body. These foods include soda and other sweetened beverages, candy, sugary refined cereals, white-flour baked goods, and white rice, bread, and crackers.
Step 3

Keep Drinking Your Water
Cartilage is 65 to 80 percent water, so staying hydrated is important for the health and lubrication of your joints. Maintaining proper hydration is even more important for individuals who suffer from gout. Water helps flush uric acid out of the body, and studies suggest staying hydrated may help prevent flare-ups. It isn’t necessary to count the number of glasses of water you drink in a day — the latest research suggests that if you take time to drink a glass whenever you feel thirsty, you’ll probably do fine. You are already drinking enough water, which is important for managing your arthritis. To spice things up, you might want to try flavoring your water with fresh fruit slices or drinking unsweetened green tea or herbal tea — there are so many delicious and fun varieties. And be sure to avoid sugary drinks like soda, sweetened water, fruit drinks, sweet tea, and froufrou coffee concoctions.
Step 4

Smoking and Arthritis
I know you don’t smoke, but I just wanted to share with you a few good reasons to stay smoke-free: Smoking delivers toxins throughout the body, causing inflammation and increasing the risk of arthritis. In one study, smokers were more than twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than people who didn’t smoke. In addition, researchers from a multicenter study reported in 2005 that smokers had a greater risk of osteoarthritis of the knee, possibly because smoking interferes with the body’s ability to repair its own cartilage. The bottom line is that staying smoke-free is a wise choice!
Step 5

Maintain Your Healthy Weight
One of the best things you can do for your arthritis is maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight — and you’re already there! Being overweight can put added physical stress on your joints, which can aggravate arthritis (particularly osteoarthritis) and increase your levels of pain. An unhealthy weight can also promote inflammation, which as I’ve mentioned is the root of arthritis. Another reason to keep eating right and exercising!
Step 6

Exercise and Managing Arthritis
You’re already exercising daily — good for you! Many people stop exercising at the first twinge of pain in a joint, but this can be a big mistake. Exercise can actually be a great tool for fighting arthritis. It can help you lose or maintain weight, which reduces the overall stress impact on joints. Strong muscles can absorb shock from daily movements, keep joints stable, and protect against additional joint injury. Stretching and yoga can improve flexibility and range of motion and reduce joint stiffness. Swimming and water aerobics allow free movement without added stress on the joints. Walking is another manageable, low-impact form of aerobic exercise appropriate for most individuals with arthritis. All good reasons to maintain your active lifestyle!
Good luck changing whatever needs changing to find the pain free movement you long for.
Comments?  Please leave your thoughts and comments.  Pass this along on your facebook page.
Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving,
Betsy
206 933 1889
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Watch out for the metal detectors!

Gentle Reader,

His long legs and narrow hips will soon carry him back to the gym.  He will be back on the machines and lose the ‘love handles’ that have crept on from lack of exercise. The long process of identifying what caused the sciatica, the sharp pinching pain radiating down the leg, making his once strong stride impossible is over.  It took months to identify a worn out hip as the culprit.  He has a new one now.hip replacement

No more arthritis pain from that degenerated joint.  His bones were healthy enough at 70+ to give the surgeon something to work with.  Other joints–knee, shoulders, ankles–still hold.  No advanced osteoarthritis everywhere.

Rehabilitation takes time.  His spirit is good.  He hates hurting or talking about hurting, so he will use the special chair lifters, the raised toilet seat, and take the procautions he must take to avoid damage to the new joint as the supportive muscles and tissue and tendons readjust to the trauma of surgery.

This world traveler will soon set off the alarms in the airport again.  What joy.  What thanksgiving.

Here are some tricks to rapid healing that his doctor may not tell him.

1.  Lecithin is an oil that helps emulsify, make more liquid, substances that are sticky.  After an incision or any wound to the body, our own mechanisms for repair rush to the task of healing.  This healing process causes lots of swelling, too many repair cells for the space.  To help bring this swelling down quickly, an emulsifier makes the spent repair cells easy to slough off through the normal waste stream.  Several lecithin capsules a day, not just one or two.

Caution: not all lecithin is the same.  Granuals or huge jars of capsules can go rancid quickly like any oil exposed to the air and light.  I prefer a small jar with 180 capsules.  There should be no smell of rancidity.  A rancid fat causes more damage than you can imagine, so take care what you buy.

2.  Alfalfa.  This food for horses and cows is King of Vegetables and helps all systems in the body with its nutrients.  In this case when the hip joint and surrounding tissue need held, it is there to do the job. Here are a few of Alfalfa’s contributions to our body:

  • a great aid in digestion, aids in peptic ulcers, great diuretic and bowel regulator,
  • effective barrier against bacterial invasion, anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine.
  • Natural body deodorizer, helps support the natural ph of the blood .   
  • High in protein: 18.9% protein as compared to beef 16.5%; milk 3.3% and eggs 13.1%.
  •  Remember, muscles are composed of protein and the lack of it causes them to break down resulting in fatigue and weakness. 
  • After surgery, naturally replenishes joints and tissues with its healing properties.

How much Alfalfa?  Lots and lots.  It is like eating peas.  Take a big spoonful and wash the tablets down with your favorite smoothie.  Or make a hot tea.  Or chew them up.

Caution:  Not all Alfalfa is the same.  Often genetically modified, the brand I use exclusively is grown by a very picky company’s organic farmers in Antalope Valley.  The leaves are picked at sun-rise.  No stems are included in the tablets.  Open the bottle and take a whiff of the farm land where it grew.

If I had to pick only one supplement to take, it would be Alfalfa by Shaklee.  Dr. Shaklee felt the same way.

Happy healing to my friend, the best travel leader I have ever known. And Happy Travels.

Fondly,

Betsy

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving,

www.GrandmaBetsyBell.com    206-933-1889

 

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