Round About Painful Joints

By Dorthe Krogsgaard and Peter Lund Frandsen, Denmark - September 2003

Very often joint pains are diagnosed as ”arthrosis, you must learn to live with”. In this article Dorthe Krogsgaard and Peter Lund Frandsen explore why this is not always true and how reflexologists with a proper knowledge about joint problems are often able to help.

With age almost everyone experience joint pains to some extent. The worst pains are often located to knees and hips. All joints are worn over the years and therefore establishing a correct diagnosis often causes doctors some difficulty. Far too many patients quietly accept the “arthrosis, you will have to learn to cope with it” diagnose. But if their reflexologist knows about the many possible causes for joint pain, besides arthrosis, it is worth while trying different treatment options, before giving up.
The majority of Danish reflexology clients suffer from problems in the movement system, so based on many years of experience in treating joint problems Touchpoint have set up a post graduate course in the “Round about….” series, this time going Round about: Hip and Knee.

What is Arthrosis?
Arthrosis is also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. Symptoms include pain upon weight bearing and reduced motility. Characteristic is the so called pain triad: Pain in the beginning of movements, reduced pain at continued movement and recurring pain at longer periods of movement and strain.
In arthrosis a chronic inflammation causes degeneration of the cartilage which protects and lubricates the joint surfaces. The cause can be mechanical wear or reduced blood circulation. An X-ray image does not reveal the cartilage itself, but you can observe a narrowing of the space between the joint surfaces and you can see how the surrounding bone tissue changes and grows due to the abnormal pressure it is subjected to.

Hip joint radiographs. Left: Normal joint. Right: Apparent degeneration

Is it Really Arthrosis?
It is estimated that 85% of the population will have radiographic evidence of arthrosis by age 55-65 and in higher ages the figure rises to almost 100%. At the same time several studies show, that not all arthritic joints cause pain, not even with severe degeneration. Therefore we have a situation, where joint pain combined with a positive radiographic finding is easily classified as arthrosis and the therapy constricted to pain killers, mainly NSAID’s with numerous side effects.

Case Story: Hip pains
A 59 year old male sees the reflexologist with left sided hip pains. Through the previous two years he suffered from increasing pains deep in the hip region, radiating into the groin and medial thigh. Pains are felt mostly while weight bearing and especially in the morning. Lately, he started waking up at night with pain and restless legs. He retired six months ago, when he could no longer manage his job as a dishwasher repairman. His GP has diagnosed osteoarthritis and prescribed pain killers and rest, which is difficult as he has always been very physically active. X-rays show obvious joint degeneration. Blood samples are normal, which with a high probability rules out rheumatoid arthritis.

The reflexologist examines the motility of the hip joint. It is more or less normal except for abduction which can only be performed by 10-15 degrees and immediately elicits the well known hip pains. This could indicate a connection to the adductor muscles of the thigh, which turn out to be very tense and the pelvic attachments very tender.

The reflexologist also looks at his gait and posture noticing how he stands with over stretched knees and an exaggerated lordosis of the loin. She instructs him how to stand and move around in a more appropriate way (a method called postural correction). This enables him to “carry” his body instead of “hanging” in the joints, and instantly he senses a moderate pain relief.

Client Education
Now she explains the client about the many possible causes for his hip pains and how much uncertainty is involved with the classical arthrosis diagnose. He is very attentive and eager to carry on with reflexology and wants to practice the new way of carrying his body.

Reflexological treatment
In the reflexology therapy itself, it is also important to be able to approach the problem from different angles. In this case a combination of classical reflexology (Ingham), reflexes on the lower leg and Nerve Reflexology was applied.
Here we will show two examples from the treatment. A reflex point from nerve-reflexology and a reflex on the lower leg:

Nerve reflex point for the Obturator nerve
(© Touchpoint, Denmark, with permission from Nico Pauly, Belgium)

The obturator nerve innervates the hip joint (assisted by the femoral nerve) and the muscles in the adductor group of the leg. The reflex point is located behind the medial malleolus and is treated by applying pressure in direction of the toes. Keep a steady pressure as long as the point is painful but maximum 15 seconds.

Hip joint reflex after the Karl-Axel Lind method (Hofte = Hip)
(© Touchpoint, Denmark, with permission from Medika Nova, Finland)

This reflex can always be included when treating problems of the hip joint or soft tissues surrounding it. The reflex is found on the lateral aspect of the lower leg on and around the head of the fibular bone.

The client in this case received weekly treatments for two months, following which he was more or less free of symptoms. He now comes once a month. This follow-up therapy combined with a few daily exercises and constant practice of the postural corrections keeps his symptoms to a minimum without requiring any medication.

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