Monday, November 19, 2007

Review: The Arthritis Handbook

The Essential Guide to a Pain-free, Drug-Free Life by Grant Cooper, MD. DiaMedica, 2007. Advance Review Copy compliments of Library Thing Early Reviewers.

I was happy to be one of the early reviewers chosen by LibraryThing for this book because I have suffered from arthritis for years. I had Lyme disease back in 1989 and I have had painful joints ever since. It runs in my family too on both sides. My dad had knee replacement surgery last year and my mom had one replaced just last month. Many days I can feel pain in my joints from my fingers, neck, shoulders, elbows and toes. I have talked to doctors about it and the basic advice I get is to take OTC pain reliever. That's pretty typical advice and it doesn't really help much. I was anticipating things getting a lot worse as I get older.

The first thing I learned from Cooper's book is that pain doesn't have to be my future. There are significant things I can be doing right now to protect and rejuvenate my joints. What good news!

I am taking this very seriously and optimistically because of what I learned from Cooper's book about my joints in the first three chapters. I never understood this before:
"up to eight times more slippery than ice, and with the ability to soak up and push out water as easily as a sponge, cartilage is perfectly designed to permit seamless motion between bones, while at the same time providing ideal shock-absorbing capacity."
Cartilage is slippery and sponge-like. That's why drinking water is so important. Cooper continues to explain the anatomy of joints in clear, simple language. He explains how joints, bones, muscle, tendons and ligaments work together, support each other and react to injuries. He give rules for arthritis management and discusses the diagnosis process.

The second section of the book tells us about how important nutrition is and how to optimise our diet for pain reduction. His five nutritional basics are:

1. Drink plenty of fluids, mostly water.
2. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
3.Eat more cold-water fish.
4. Eat red meat sparingly.
5. Eat fewer processed foods.

We've heard these rules before certainly, but this time I heard the message with the compelling motivation to give my joints the tender loving care that they are crying out for, with the hopes that I will be able to reduce or eliminate the daily pain I am enduring. As a result I am taking the necessary steps to change things immediately. I am drinking water as I type.

I didn't realize the impact cold water fish would have on my joints, but in fact they are full of the omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3 fats "fight depression, improve insulin sensitivity, and potentially aid in cancer prevention." They also have proven anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritis capabilities.

Cooper goes into detail about which fruits and vegetables are most beneficial based on their antioxidant levels, vitamins and minerals. Some of the very best that I already have in my diet include red beans, blueberries, other berries, onion, citrus, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, and carrots.

Section three in the book discusses the best exercises for flexibility and strength training. Cooper gives practical advice for starting a new regime, including checking with your doctor first, joining a gym and choosing what level of activity is best for your situation. If you are already in significant pain more exercise may seem foolhardy. The problem is, Cooper explains,
"joints degenerate if you don't exercise them. Without movement your joints will not receive sufficient nourishment because they do not have a direct blood supply. The cartilage will begin to erode, the shock-absorbing capacity of the joints will diminish, and the supporting ligaments and muscles will weaken. Your joints will fell stiff and hurt when you need them to support you. what's the good news? By exercising, you can nourish and strengthen your joints, and reduce your pain and stiffness. It's never too late to start exercising."
It is always hard to get into the habit of a new exercise routine. I have started and given up on them many times over the years. This time I am wondering how in the world I will find an extra half hour in the day to walk or do tai chi. I am determined to do it though, and I am starting slowly with just ten minutes extra stretching in the morning and evening. Cooper gives us some good warm-up stretches, strength training exercises and aerobic exercises. I believe that if you just learn to do all the ones in this little book you will be way ahead of the game, no extra equipment or gym memberships needed.

A word about achieving lasting lifestyle changes. Cooper says,
"Intentions are important, but results are what count. Results come from two inner resources: purpose and discipline. Purpose carries with it a sense of fulfillment. To find your purpose, you must first identify your core set of values - the principles by which you live your life. This is imperative if you truly want to accomplish lasting change."
One of my core values is to stay healthy so I can continue to explore my full potential as a parent, a teacher, a librarian, a writer and a human being. I want to stay active and pain-free and involved in new projects, learning new things and trying new adventures into the next three or four decades. To do that I need to be at my optimum health. That is why this book is having such an impact on me.

The fourth section of the book is about what nutritional supplements are best for managing arthritis. I have heard about glucosamine and chondroitin before, but I never understood why they were supposed to be so good. This book explains it clearly and patiently. Glucosamine and chondroitin are both sugars that hold water and stimulate cartilage growth as well as act as anti-inflammatory agents. Numerous studies have shown them to be highly effective against arthritis. I went out and bought a supply last week and I am getting into the habit of taking them every day. It will take a few weeks to show a difference. If I can get into really good habits of eating, exercising and taking these supplements I will be on my way to a pain-free happy new year!

The last section of the book talks about further therapies including prescription medications, injections, and surgery. I am not considering any of those options at this time, but it is good to know Cooper's clear-headed advice will be there if I ever do. The back of the book contains a glossary full of terms, a list of web sites and books for further reading. I highly recommend it to everyone struggling with arthritis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Arthritis is a disease or condition which causes inflammation of the joints.In most cases of arthritis there is no pain and the patient does'nt realise it.But when the disease flares up it is very painful and can cause loss of energy.Therapys such as acupuncture,massage,relaxation and meditation can help slow down the life of the disease.