"I have painful arthritis"

The following information is provided from a pharmacist in Sydney, John Bell, who is one of Australia's premier authors of consumer health information, promoting the services of Self-Care Pharmacies who participate in The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia's Self Care Program. We at Hatton and Laws are proud to participate in this excellent program, and have the 'Self Care Cards' as noted below, as being available for FREE within our pharmacy.

"It’s almost certain that you, someone in your family or a close friend will have some form of arthritis.

Arthritis is Australia’s major cause of pain and disability. It directly affects about 4 million people and impacts indirectly on millions more. It’s an enormous economic cost burden on the community too – collectively we pay some $24 billion every year – and the extra hidden social and emotional costs are immeasurable.

Arthritis is often thought of as a single disease, but it’s really an umbrella term used to describe well over 100  different medical conditions - conditions which are similar to the extent that they all involve our bones and muscles and particularly the joints where two or more of our bones meet.

Arthritis Awareness Week (25 – 31 March) gives us an opportunity to reflect not only on the problem, but also, in a positive way, how we can control the symptoms and enable people with arthritis to lead normal active lives.

In conjunction with Arthritis Australia (the peak patient support organisation), the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has developed information and materials to help ensure arthritis can be managed effectively. These materials include three fact cards on the most common forms of arthritis – osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

Osteoarthritis (OA) mainly affects the weight bearing joints: the legs, the shoulders, the knees and the lower spine. Often the hands are also affected, especially at the base of the thumb and the end joints of the fingers.

Presently there is no cure of OA, so all treatment is aimed at achieving symptom control. Effective management of OA involves a combination of strategies: joint protection and energy conservation, periods of both rest and exercise, physical aids, medication – both oral and injectable and, usually as a last resort, surgery.

In so far as medicines are concerned, as the primary aim of treatment is to reduce pain, simple pain relievers are the first choice for OA; and paracetamol is the best option.

For optimum results paracetamol should be taken not just now and again but routinely – 3g to 4g per day. This can be either two 500mg tablets up to four times daily, or two of the higher strength (Panadol Osteo) three times daily.

As with all chronic conditions, particularly when conventional therapies are less than perfect in every case, there is plenty of interest in alternative or complementary treatments.

There is some evidence from clinical trials that glucosamine sulphate (1500mg/day) decreases the pain associated with OA of the knee joint. There may be benefit for other joints as well; however, it should be noted that results from later studies have not been universally supportive of the early trials.

Gout is the only form of arthritis where it is likely that some foods can aggravate the condition (check out the Gout fact card), but there is evidence that some foods will actually help other inflammatory forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Specifically, the beneficial foods are those rich in what we know as omega-3 fatty acids, and the best sources of the omega-3 are oily fish. Olive oils and oils and spreads from flaxseed, canola and wheat germ are also beneficial.

Supplements of fish oil, and the more concentrated krill oil, are now available if fish is not a regular on your menu. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on the most appropriate product and the correct dose.

Meanwhile, the arthritis fact cards are available from pharmacies around Australia providing the Pharmaceutical Society’s (PSA) Self Care health information. Check out the PSA website at www.psa.org.au and click on “Self Care” then “Find a Self Care Pharmacy”. There are also a few other fact cards with helpful advice for sufferers of arthritis. These include Pain Relievers, Preventing Falls, Relaxation Techniques and Weight and Health."

The above column written by John in March 2012, does not elude to any rubs or creams. This is most likely due to there being very varied results upon their use in different forms of Arthritis. You may or may not have tried rubs or creams in the therapy for your arthritis, but we in the pharmacy find that every individual responds differently to arthritis creams and rubs; some people find they work very well, and some unfortunately try every rub and cream available without any luck.

We do not condone the 'advertising' of arthritis creams and rubs as 'cures' on television programs such as A Current Affair or Today Tonight, and wish to make it known that the majority of time, these programs do not elude to the different types of arthritis, what the products being investigated are similar to, nor what people have tried before. We recommend discussion with your healthcare professional prior to trialling any new products, rather than wasting your hard earned dollars on a product that may or may not work for you.

We do have some products available in store including Arthritic Rub, Pindari Aches & Pains Cream, and Pindari Calendula and Comfrey Cream. It should be noted that these products most likely will not work for everyone, nor every type of arthritis.

Please contact us should you require any further assistance.

Recommended links for further reading include:

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