• Homeopathy talk: 12th September by Tracy Southern 7pm St Paul’s Hall, Ramsey (small hall). Event is free to attend but there will be a collection bucket in aid of Without Wings.
  • Calling all complementary therapists
  • Tales of the Unexpected: video update

Hello everyone! We hope you are having a lovely summer, despite the fairly cold weather (at least it’s not raining??) And well done if you’ve managed to escape to warmer climes! Just a couple of updates before we launch Naturopath, Jamie Wray’s very interesting article regarding movement.

Firstly, the lovely Tracy Southern, local homeopathist, will be hosting a talk on Tuesday 12th September 7pm at St Paul’s in Ramsey. The event is FREE to attend but there will be a bucket collection in aid of Without Wings! Thank you so much Tracy 🙂 This is very kind. We are also very pleased to say that Tracy, who was diagnosed with JIA in her early teens, will also be featured in our Inspirational Stories in the week leading up to the event. We have received so much positive feedback about these stories so are always grateful when people have something – both positive and ‘real,’ to share. They serve as a fantastic reminder that life goes on, as well as providing useful tips and enabling others to realise they are not alone.

Secondly: Without Wings can provide funding for both essential and compassionate services – services that enable people to feel better supported and therefore better able to cope with their illness. This of course can have the added benefit of reducing stress and therefore symptoms! As well as our counselling initiative – which we prioritise to fully fund, we are also therefore committed to contributing towards the cost of services that provide essential emotional support – such as complementary therapy. To highlight this, and on the back of the success of our last event, we are planning a complementary taster day late Winter/ early Spring. If you know of anyone who would like to promote their services at this event, please get ask them to get in touch! This is our first shout out!

Thirdly! Apparently there is a video of our event! Tales of the Unexpected: Natural Healing Against the Odds. We hope to have this loaded either here or on our Facebook page (or both!) by early September. We will also chase up Danny and Andy for their presentations and load these in September too

Fourthly, Jackie’s swim to the Calf in October will not be happening as she is still not well enough. :'( This will happen as soon as she is back in action – even if the water is freezing.

And FINALLY! Jamie’s article! We really hope you find articles such as these useful and informative, and thank you SO MUCH to Jamie for providing this information for us. Enjoy. 🙂

The Importance of Movement
By Jamie Wray NHF Dip
Naturopathic Nutritionist
Facebook or Twitter (@GreenMoonJay)
Website: greenmoonorganics.org

Most people would acknowledge the importance of exercise, but for people with systemic movement disorders such as autoimmune arthritis, the often heard call to ‘exercise more,’ can be a frustrating issue. Or, they might manage their daily dose of exercise only to collapse into a chair for the rest of the day – a habit in which they aren’t alone. Most people in Western societies, whether movement affect or not, understand the importance of exercise. What we don’t tend to hear so much about, is the importance of just plain movement. 

In general, yes, we all know movement is vital. The impact of walking for example helps strengthen our bones. It does this by both encouraging our osteoblasts to produce more bone and by moving our lymphatic system. This, in turn, helps us maintain our muscle mass. Clever eh? Yet it’s very easy when you struggle to move well, to choose not moving, or moving as little as possible, as the easiest option.

With autoimmune arthritis, there might be times when not moving much is genuinely the only option – for example, if you are experiencing a major flare-up. However, if you are working closely with your main health care practitioner, it would be hoped the worst of this can be swiftly brought under control. After this point, as well as looking at your exercise regime (which should form part of every person’s coping strategy when living with these illnesses), just thinking about how you move in everyday life can be immensely beneficial. This is because significantly reduced movement patterns over the long term cause major stress to the whole body, resulting in issues such as secondary dysfunctional movement patterns*, and adaptive shortening. The long term effects of not regularly putting your body through as wide a range of movements as possible, can be problems such as osteoarthritis, injury, weak bones, weak muscles and repetitive strain.

A good example of adaptive shortening is prolonged chair sitting. Basically, the body says, ‘if you want to sit like this all day, I’ll help you do it.’ Everything is then moved to accommodate this. The unfortunate repercussion is that this affects the way all of the joints are lined up; sitting on a chair day in and day out, puts the knees at a 90 degree angle, which causes the calf muscles to shorten. Not only does this result in tightness when standing, but it can put the person at greater risk of ankle injury.

One of the best solutions to this is to spend more time sitting on the floor. However, as floor sitting is not always possible with autoimmune arthritis, a useful, or possibly even a rehabilitation ‘progress to floor’ aid, might involve the use of a large pilate’s ball from time to time, instead of a chair. Easily available from Amazon, these can slowly enable you to move your knees out of that 90 degree position, so articulating your joints in new positions, providing relief from your usual sitting position, stimulating different muscle groups and actually encouraging you to stretch. In addition to this, forcing yourself to simply get up and move around, rather than succumb to the lure of the chair, will protect your body even further from the secondary effects of autoimmune movement disorders. (Once again, these are not necessarily recommendations during times of significant flare).

Counteracting the effects of prolonged sitting or periods of little movement, is not therefore just about exercise, and crucially, even exercise can often involve limited movement on a repetitive basis. Moving more is more about finding ways in everyday life to get up and about, to move more frequently and to use as much of the body as possible with a wide range of movement. One of the best ways to do this outside of the home, is to get out in nature.

There are many reasons why moving in nature is so good for people with chronic conditions. For example, getting out and about is going to naturally reduce your stress levels, especially if you’ve been spending a lot of time stuck inside stressing about what’s going on in your body. One of the issues with stress is that it has now been shown to change the genetic expression of your immune cells, making them more inflammatory, thus exacerbating chronic conditions such as autoimmune arthritis. (In some cases, it has even been argued that they can even be the primary cause.) By being out in nature, getting fresh air and some negative ions into your body, especially amongst trees or at the beach, and generally ruminating less, you will reduce your stress levels and therefore the inflammatory effect.

There is, however, a hidden benefit to moving more in nature: Walking in nature will naturally challenge your muscular-skeleton system and put it through a much wider range of movement due to the uneven terrain. Once again, if you are very stiff or have been fairly sedentary and want to start moving more, go slowly. Maybe choose somewhere like a flat, sandy beach. If you manage to go barefoot here, you will get additional benefits as you can really consciously work on moving all 17 joints between your ‘heel strike’ and ‘foot flat’ (where the ball of the foot meets the ground). This has additional benefits for people with autoimmune arthritis, as moving the feet joints can play a crucial role in keeping the feet mobile. Barefoot in general, is also a fantastic way of really ‘waking the body up.’ Most shoes tend to be 12mm higher than the forefoot, which causes us to heel strike (so increasing heel pressure). Mules and flip flops can cause stress through the way we need to ‘grip’ them to keep them on. This too creates uneven pressure. Our feet are incredibly sensitive. Through going barefoot we can help stimulate our entire muscular-skeleton system! Try it and see for yourself – muscles will wake up that you didn’t even know you had!

If you are mobile enough to get off the beaten path, for example into the beautiful glens we have here on the Isle of Man, you can really work on expanding the physical stimulation you give your body as you will move even more as you adapt to the more challenging terrains. Once again, if you are new to challenging your body, take it slowly. It is also important, especially if you have issues with your hips and knees, to ensure when walking on uneven ground, that you ‘push off’ with your back heel, rather than the common method of pushing forward with the ball of the front foot. This latter technique puts significant stress on the knee joints.

Finally, it is not only the lower body that will benefit from a wider range of movement. Once thought about, it can be relatively easy to incorporate more expansive movement into the lower body – as often the psychological barrier of moving whilst uncomfortable, or in pain, is the real issue. The upper body is easier to overlook. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the hands. Whilst walking it can therefore be helpful to exercise your hands and wrists, for example by making fists (as much as possible), or by holding each hand out flat and gently pushing them up and down into 90 degree positions. You can also experiment with stretching your hands and fingers out wide and then one at a time, bending your thumb and each finger into your palm; making a ‘panther claw’ by bending all of your fingers and thumb until they touch. To create more load on the arms and shoulders, especially if you are walking amongst trees, it can be a good opportunity to grip branches. The main thing is to start thinking about how to load your upper body more in none repetitive motions.

In conclusion, in Western society, just as we often tend to compensate for eating poorly by taking supplements, we also often tend to compensate for everyday poor movement patterns by taking relatively short, and very often repetitive, exercise ‘supplements.’ For people with movement disorders such as autoimmune arthritis, this can become an even more serious issue, possibly leading to secondary problems and further/future disability. It’s therefore important to be reminded of the value of slowly building more, and varied movement into everyday life and to consistently begin to build up a repertoire of movements that work for you. Most importantly, more movement can make people feel better about themselves as it will give them better control over how their body moves and works.
For more information about ‘Nutritional Movement,’ try reading Katy Bowman’s book of the same title.
Jamie 🙂

* (SCMPs – these are the body’s attempt to compensate for a mobility restriction in a certain area.)