Q: I’ve had chronic pain in my shoulders and elbows for six months but a blood test showed no arthritic signs. I’ve been having therapy and taking antidepressants for six weeks for an emotional trauma but it hasn’t helped the pain. Would acupuncture or natural remedies help?
A: Emotional problems can provoke or exacerbate physical pain, so the trauma treatment you’re receiving may help eventually. ‘If the joint pain predated your emotional problems, it may take some time to fade,’ says GP Dr Rob Hicks. ‘Longer-standing conditions take longer to heal.’
There are several types of blood test but, because of your upper-body symptoms, your GP probably organised a specific ESR test for inflammation caused by polymyalgia rheumatica, according to Dr Hicks (drrobhicks.co.uk). However, this doesn’t rule out other inflammation.
Natural anti-inflammatory supplements may help ease the pain and benefit your general health. Try omega-3 essential fatty acids (Ideal Omega-3, £23.70 for 60 capsules) or Superior Joints (£29.95 for 60 capsules), which contains natural eggshell membrane (NEM ), a clinically evaluated pain-relief ingredient, plus turmeric and ginger which are both anti-inflammatory extracts. Check with your doctor first.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet of mainly vegetables and salads, a little fruit between meals, nuts and seeds, oily fish and chicken instead of red meat. Try swapping cow’s milk products with plant milks such as oat, almond, rice, soya or coconut.
For immediate relief, spray on Magnesium Oil – the most effective thing I’ve found for aches and pains. Arnica, a homeopathic remedy which comes in pilule or topical form, helps heal physical and psychological pain and will also aid sleep.
Acupuncture may well help, and research supports its pain-relieving capacity. Make sure you choose a qualified and experienced practitioner (acupuncture.org.uk). Other complementary therapies are chiropractic (chiropractic-uk.co.uk) and osteopathy (osteopathy.org.uk), as well as cranial osteopathy (cranial.org.uk), a subtle treatment that can realign your body and mind in an extraordinarily effective way.
DIY head and neck massage can give quick, if temporary, relief. Useful books are Head, Neck and Shoulders Massage by Eilean Bentley and Indian Head Massage by Narendra Mehta*.
Other contributing problems include poorly fitting bras, using laptops and carrying over-stuffed bags. Organise a bra fitting at a specialist shop such as Rigby and Peller (rigbyandpeller.co.uk) who recommend having them every six months. Raise your laptop to eye height and use a rucksack for heavy items.
Practise therapeutic iyengar yoga (iyengaryoga.org.uk), pilates (pilatesfoundation.com) or the Alexander Technique (stat.org.uk). Avoid swimming breaststroke as it can exacerbate problems in neck and shoulders.
A Sore Eye Soother
As well as making eyes stream, hay fever tends to make the skin around them red, dry and sore. This summer I’m going to try Dry Eye Gel by the Skin Shop, which contains extract of cardiospermum, a plant that’s known to help dry and inflamed skin – I’ve used it successfully for eczema too. It is specially formulated to avoid aggravating existing conditions. £6.95 for 15ml, from Victoria Health.
Listen To Your Heart
Doctors still consider chest pain to be the most common heart attack symptom in both men and women. In a recent US study, though, fewer than 30 per cent of women reported chest pain or discomfort before the heart attack; yet nearly all of them had noticed new or different symptoms for a month or more beforehand. Common symptoms included sleep disturbance, fatigue and shortness of breath as well as indigestion, anxiety and weakness in the arms. If you notice these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately. Visit bhf.org.uk
Three Of The Best Food Fortifiers
Add these to meals to boost nutrient value
1 Raw Mix by Purp le Balance
A trail mix with whole hemp seeds, black mulberries, goji and incan berries – plus cacao nibs for a chocolate fix – to sprinkle on yoghurt or snack on the go. £8.69 for 150g, planetorganic.com
2 Milled FlaxSeed, Cocoa and Berries By Linwoods
This powder sprinkle has antioxidant flavonols, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium and vitamin B1, plus omega-3 fatty acids. Good for fortifying home bakes or on top of cereal. £5.85 for 360g from Holland & Barrett.
3 ProGreens with Advanced Probiotic Formula by Nutricology
This green powder for juice or smoothies is packed with alkalising superfoods including spirulina, chlorella and beet juice, with added probiotics. Great for digestive problems. £39.75 for 265g from thefooddoctor.com