Because most members of MAG are approaching the twilight years, we are interested in those aspects of medicine, including diet and alternative therapies, which can enable us to maintain our health and fitness. Also, being gay men, we are interested in the medical aspects of the prevention of HIV-AIDS in our day to day lives and prevention of the spread of HIV-AIDS throughout the community. We are particularly interested in current treatments for persons with HIV-AIDS.
Arthritis Needs Exercise - Dokta Who
By the age of 60 about 50% of Australians have this disease.
Copper bracelets are not the solution to the problem of arthritis. If you have arthritis, by all means use complementary medicines with a scientific proven benefit, but there is absolutely no clinical evidence that copper helps relieve aches and pains in the joints.
What is arthritis? It's a deserts of the joints that occurs in 150 different forms. About 2 million Australians have it. Osteoarthritis, one of the most common forms of arthritis, strikes at many older people when the cushion of protective cartilage around the end of the bone begins to break down. The warning signs for any form of arthritis are clear and simple: pain, swelling, and difficulty with moving. If any of these symptoms continues for that 14 days, go see your doctor.
Move it or lose it! If the signs are arthritic, the doctor will give you some very useful advice about how to start managing the problem. (This is quite apart from any medication prescribed.) Pills are not enough - you will have to make a serious commitment to helping yourself.
First, lose weight! Doing this is something that a majority of MAG members should do anyway - the range of benefits are strongly in your favour.
Second, follow a weekly exercise program that does 3 things: Helps the mobility of your joints, strengthens your muscles and works on the heart and lungs. Remember, you do need to exercise your joints every day. Go walking, dancing, cycling or swimming. Join a yoga or Tai Chi class. There are free of very inexpensive classes available in most suburbs and towns. At the very least, there's a lot of joint exercises you can do on the lounge room floor or a patch of grass in the sun.
More words of advice - wear supportive shock-absorbing joggers when you exercise; don't sit in low soft chairs.
Rest? Everyone agrees that rest is essential for settling a flare-up or a particularly inflamed joint. But too much rest will weaken your muscles and increase joint stiffness. Only you can find the balance. My experience is that while it is hard to start exercising it is to form the habit because relief is so obvious; my day starts with 20 minutes of ankle, knee and hip stretches; 4 simple routines that take 30 seconds each; 10 repeats.
Copper bracelets are popular because they look good and give you something to talk about. But they did not work for the ancient Egyptians and they won't work for you.
What alternative remedies are worthwhile? Well, for the relief of acute arthritic pain, my money's on Acupuncture. It's important to know about acupuncture because the Western medications prescribed for arthritis often have drastic negative effect on mood - the pain recedes in intensity but you feel angry or, at the least, irritable with family and friends. The unfortunate side-effect is often associated with depression. For mild or moderate arthritic pain, the evidence about acupuncture isn't there.
Ask your doctor of the Arthritis Foundation of NSW about other aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine - careful massage of the affected joints is often beneficial. There are many Western suburban practices that incorporate TCM into their range of services. Some of them bulk bill.Otherwise once you've talked the idea over the value of joint exercise with your doctor ask at one the many booths available in the suburbs. I'd also suggest you exercise regularly in warm water. Of course, warmth is always soothing in the way it relaxes the muscles, but the point is to exercise. So shallow spas or household baths are not what I'm writing about, no matter all the pleasure you can find there. Only in a deep spa or pool can you get the buoyancy you need for exercise. Ask your local council or district hospital about availability.
Free advice: The Arthritis Foundation of NSW has clear and useful handout material on Exercise. Telephone (02) 9683 1622, or write to Locked Bag, 16, North Parramatta NSW 2151.
How to cope? The Arthritis Foundation of NSW offers a Self-Help Course aimed to help people with arthritis live a better life. Call or write for information.
Specialist medical centre: For Sydney residents there is an internationally reputable Arthritis and Pain Research Centre in Darlinghurst, a few away from St Vincent's Hospital. There are 6 consultant doctors at the centre, together with 3 graduate experts in pain management, postural adjustment and physiotherapy. Telephone: (02) 9362 5900.