Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Still More on Inflammation

Following on my previous posts on inflammation, here is another. I don't want to bore anyone with this subject but it is so far-reaching in its effects that it needs to be explored as far as possible.

I have had problems with tendons for many years. As a very active person, I thought that it was all caused by the repetitive actions of some of my activities.

In the 1980s I was building a big boat, by myself. That involved lots of carrying of heavy parts, with attendant stress on my bones, muscles, joints and the tendons and ligaments that tie them all together. I did not use many powertools aside from saws and sanders, so there was lots of hammering and there were many, many screws to be driven by hand. I lived in an area of strong winds and spent many hours sailboarding, which puts heavy loads onto arms, shoulders and legs. As if that was not enough abuse of my body, I was also playing squash a few times a week, with massive impact loading on feet, knees and hips, as well as sharp twisting movements of elbows, wrists and shoulders.

Eventually I started to experience sharp pains in my right wrist and pain in my right elbow followed. Being right-handed, this was naturally the more heavily loaded side of my body. I started wearing wrist and elbow braces but the pain got worse. The solution was simple, or so I figured. I changed over to working left-handed and playing squash left handed as well. My game suffered badly, of course, but it is good for a boatbuilder to be ambidexterous. My left arm is not as powerful as my right, so it didn't take long for my left wrist to start giving the same problems.

The doctor diagnosed tendonitis in my wrists and classic tennis elbow in my right elbow. He advised that I get myself an electric screw-driver to take the heavy rotational loads off my wrists. So I bought myself a reversible electric drill and that piece of equipment did good service for me, relieving my wrists for many years and allowing the boat to be completed.

It all came to a head when I was slalom waterskiing and overloaded my already damaged elbow. I rested it as much as possible but continued surfing and sailing. My wrists improved but were not cured and my elbow remained very painful. Then I was offered a crew position to sail in the 1993 Cape to Rio trans-Atlantic yacht race. I knew that my elbow wasn't up to it, so had a tennis-elbow operation done on my right arm. That cured my elbow problem and magically the pain in my right wrist disappeared as well. My improved right arm meant that I no longer had to use my left arm as much, so that improved as well.

I have also had occasional bursitis problems in my elbows but remain convinced that this was due to impact injuries incurred while surfing and sailing. Psoriasis may have aggravated this but was not the cause.

A more persistent problem has been my left Achilles tendon, which has been painful and a bit swollen for a few years. It prevents me from running and seriously limits the shoes that I can wear. I can only wear shoes that put no pressure onto the back of my heel. I thought that this was a sports injury from too much squash, until I read in Vol 3 No 2 of  Health Monitor last month that tendonitis in the Achilles tendons is common among psoriatics.

That helped me to the realisation that my tendonitis through the past 30 years has been closely tied to my psorisis. It started a year or two before psoriasis started but may have been the first sign of internal inflammation. More recently I have done a small amount of internet research into associations between tendonitis, bursitis and psoriasis. It seems that there is a strong connection and some of it is stated on the talkpsoriasis website, which has useful information.

I think that my realisation of the psoriasis/inflammation connection has been an important one. For a long time I have been progressively moving my diet further toward foods that have anti-oxidant properties, for the resulting anti-inflammatory benefits. That was before I realised that psoriasis appears to be almost entirely an inflammation condition. Now I am moving more resolutely in that direction. For example, I have used turmeric in my cooking for a few years but in fairly small quantities (making yellow rice or sprinkling into soups and stews).

Now I am also taking turmeric capsules as a supplement. I increased my hyaluronic acid supplement intake at the same time (to boost the synovial fluid in joints and disks) and the two in combination seem to be helping considerably. Reinforced by increasing my core-strengthening exercises, the result is that my back pain is now less than 25% of what it was only a month ago.

I will no doubt post on this subject again in the future, hopefully with  positive results from my changes to diet and supplement intake.