Moving Freely – osteoarthritis

Medically, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are classified as different diseases, but in the natural treatment approach, they’re considered similar. The primary aim of natural treatment is to suppress or control the pro-inflammatory factors through food supplements, herbal remedies, diet adaptations, exercise and stress management while the underlying mental-emotional blocks are made conscious in order for them to be surrendered and released. This approach will benefit anybody with musculoskeletal or joint health challenges.

Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis (OA) is also called degenerative joint disease because it is characterised by degeneration of the joint/s, or articular cartilage. The changes also involve the synovial membrane covering the joint as well as the bones adjacent to the cartilage. The gradual decay involves mostly the weight-bearing joints, namely the hips, knees and spinal joints, as well as the hands. The degeneration causes friction and accumulation of debris in the joint, with pain, swelling, deformity of the joint and reduced joint mobility.

Within the old mind-set, OA is synonymous with normal ageing, affecting 70 – 80% of the population over 50 years of age. With the baby-boomer generation and the explosion in human consciousness has come the era of pro-ageing or positive ageing, where OA is not regarded as inevitable and if it does arise, many tools exist to control and even reverse the process. The natural treatment approach provides all these tools. These are mostly aimed at reversing the sensory-motor amnesia or SMA, as discussed in Thomas Hanna’s book Somatics. The secret is to restore the alignment of the spine and the rest of the skeleton through sensory-motor remembering, releasing all the blocked cell memories from years of stored wrong thought patterns and emotions with the associated stress responses causing the deposit of sediment inside the cells so that the physical body becomes distorted and shaped according to these wrong memory patterns. Body alignment, craniosacral therapy, yoga, Nia-technique dance, tai chi, and so on, all help to recover sensory-motor memory for the body to heal itself, so that we can move freely until we reach our allotted human lifespan of 120 years!

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s own immune cells attack and damage joint tissue. RA is characterised by inflammation and thickening of the synovial lining, as well as destruction of cartilage. Inflammation in the small joints of the hands and feet are key to the diagnosis. Low-grade fever, weight loss, general malaise (feeling unwell or sick), fatigue, joint deformities and pain often accompany the disease. Many of the symptoms of RA are reminiscent of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, as is the underlying mental-emotional pattern. RA affects three times more women than men and affects people at a younger age, often starting in their 30s. Identifying underlying mental-emotional blockages is important in the natural approach to the treatment of RA.


  • Declining ability to repair the collagen-matrix in joints.
  • Fractures and mechanical damage often associated with excessive exercise and extreme competitiveness in sport at a young age, linked to repetitive overuse, joint instability and hypermotility (excess movement).
  • Inflammation.
  • Hormonal factors.
  • Genetic predisposition. This again is a clear indication of faulty thought patterns, linked to emotions of insecurity and feeling unsafe in the world, carried from one generation to the next. The inner drive to over-excel in sport is also often to prove one’s worth.


Diet. A healthy diet is aimed at restoring nutrition and oxygen supply to ailing, degenerative joints, as well as assisting in the anti-inflammatory process. Avoid simple, processed carbohydrates, and eat a varied diet of complex, high-fibre carbohydrates, plus lots of berries and their extracts.

A small percentage of people with osteoarthritis might be sensitive to nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. Eliminate them for 2 weeks, then add them one by one to ascertain whether you are sensitive to some.

Avoid saturated animal fats that encourage inflammation. Use extra-virgin olive oil, a tablespoon of crushed linseeds and a handful of nuts every day, and eat cold- water fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines) at least 2 – 3 times a week. Some polyunsaturated vegetable oils favour the synthesis of inflammatory prostaglandins, as do trans-fatty acids found in brick margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oils. So avoid them.

The omega 3 fatty acids as found in cold- water fish oil, and omega 6 fatty acids, gamma linolenic acid (starflower, evening primrose, blackcurrant and grapeseed oil), and the mono-unsaturated omega 9 fatty acids found in extra-virgin olive oil, favour the synthesis of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and help with all forms of arthritis, joint and muscle inflammation. So do ginger, B-complex vitamins, glucosamine, chondroitin, green- lipped mussel, swimming, acupuncture, yoga, antioxidants, hot and cold packs, ergonomic adaptation (such as higher chairs, lower desk, better mattress, joint support), body stress release and relaxation exercises.

Drink 6 – 8 glasses of purified, filtered water every day, with a clear intention to heal, love and accept yourself. We are 75% water, our brains are 90% water, and our thoughts and the molecules of emotion are carried in a water basis into every cell in our bodies.

Exercise and physical therapy. Arthritis has everything to do with movement. Often, movement will be curtailed because of fear of the pain involved. The vicious circle continues – lack of movement will cause joints to freeze up and become stiff. This increases the pain, which leads to even less movement, atrophied muscles, increased injuries, and more lost function. Wrong movement can also be the cause of arthritis, especially stressful, excessive and arduous movement over time, as described above.

Avoid muscle strain and too much weight- bearing exercise. Visit a chiropractor and/or therapeutic masseuse for deep tissue massage, body alignment and corrective exercises. Swimming and water aerobics work well to gently massage and mobilise sore and stiff joints. Yoga, slow gentle walking, hydrotherapy, and joint mobilisation therapy are all very effective.

Aromatherapy. Rotation exercises can be done in a spa or ordinary bath with warm water (not too hot!). Add 5 drops of essential oils of eucalyptus (anti-inflammatory), chamomile and lavender (both calming and relaxing), juniper (cleansing and clearing), clove, marjoram or cypress (the last three to create a sense of safety and security) to the bath water. Massage inflamed joints every day with 2 drops each of juniper, ginger, black pepper, red chilli powder and chamomile oils and 5 drops of lavender oil mixed in a carrier oil of 5 dessertspoons of olive, grapeseed, sweet almond or jojoba oil and apply the same as a compress over the joints.

Weight loss. Weight loss should take place according to body fat percentage, body mass index (BMI) and waist hip ratio (WHR). As little as 5 kg of weight loss will reduce the strain on the knees and back, relieving pain.

Nutritional supplements/nutriceuticals.

  • Chondroitin and glucosamine sulphate: 500 mg 3 times a day.
  • MSM (methyl sulphonyl methane): 200 mg per day.
  • B-complex: 50 mg each of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, inositol, choline; 50 μg of B12 and biotin, 400 μg folic acid.
  • Vitamin C: 500 mg 3 times per day.
  • Vitamin A: 10 000 IU (3 mg per day).
  • Vitamin E: 400 IU (or 320 mg per day).
  • Minerals: zinc, copper, boron.
  • Essential fatty acids: starflower and cold- water salmon oil (2 000 mg of each/day).
  • Calcium and magnesium in a food state or amino acid chelate (calcium 900 mg and magnesium 450 mg taken at night also help you relax).
  • Studies show that S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), the activated form of methionine, has many actions inside the body, and therefore many health benefits. SAMe protects the synovial membrane by reversing depletion of glutathione. This has an antioxidant effect in arthritic joints, but also a blocking mechanism to prevent the deterioration of joint cartilage.

Herbal help. Nettle leaf extract, alfalfa, Indian celery seed, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and bromelain (an enzyme found in pineapples) all have anti-inflammatory effects. Ginger is a well-known anti-inflammatory herbal cure. Drink it fresh, steeped in hot water, with some honey, mint, or lemongrass as a tea or use it as part of a herbal mixture with standardised extracts of turmeric, feverfew (anti-inflammatory and analgesic), frankincense (Boswellia serrata) and white willow bark. This natural form of aspirin does not harm the mucosa of the stomach. Buchu tea helps for gout and rheumatism. Aloe vera or Aloe ferox helps for arthritis and rheumatism. Stinging nettle and coriander tea help with gout – they assist the kidneys in the excretion of excess uric acid. A dessertspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of hot water with a teaspoon of honey can be taken every day for pain and inflammation. Apply menthol-based creams with 0.05% capsacain (from red chillies) to the skin around the inflamed area four times a day.

Acupuncture and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) are helpful for relief of inflammation, pain and discomfort. The latest NES Biophysical Scanner is very helpful in identifying physical and energy disturbances and then providing solutions with the help of very specific and individualised Infoceuticals (substances that correct the information sent to systems and organs) prescribed to address the imbalances.

Stress management, relaxation and addressing the underlying mental-emotional patterning are important. Also regular and profound connection with Nature, reconnecting to its rhythmical ebb and flow and the natural progression of seasons and time.

Colours and crystals. Ruby, agate, garnet and smoky quartz may be worn next to the skin and placed on affected joints and the lower back and sacral area during massage therapy.


Our skeleton, muscle and joints represent our connection to the earth, grounding, survival, nourishment, safety, trust, family, home, and our foundation. These are linked to the basic stress reaction or ancient fight-or-flight survival response common to all creatures. The underlying issues to examine include fear, anxiety about financial security, feelings of deep insecurity, longstanding bitterness, anger and resentment, being critical of self and others, and being rigid, judgmental, holding back, and pulled down by one’s own victim mode and experience of life as a heavy burden.

This perspective is not meant as a criticism or as a judgment, saying you cause your own disease! Rather, it is meant as a tool of empowerment, suggesting that disease often has deeply unconscious symbolic meanings and can act as a powerful and gifted teacher in helping you to return to health and wellness.

Alpha mind training allows the prominent left brain waves with stress-inducing thoughts and emotions, also called the beta mind, to resonate and find balance within the right brain or alpha mind pattern through relaxation, visualisation, massage therapy, cognitive re-patterning, meditation and breathing exercises. All of these can also be very helpful in managing pain. Long-term unrelenting stress leads to constant preparation of the joints to ‘fight or flee’. Common emotional stressors or triggers for this stress response that gradually become deeply embedded in the unconscious mind over years, include feelings of anger, frustration and irritation. This then often combines with a genetic tendency or weakness in the joints as well as various lifestyle factors (e.g. over- exertion or strenuous exercising for years, poor eating habits, high stress, etc.) to produce inflammation and degeneration of joint tissue and function. Muscle and joint cells ‘hold’ these memories and the body is constantly pulled out of balance by tension in certain areas, excess weight on specific joints, with wear and tear and muscle spasm.

All these emotions have to do with control issues – from minor daily life situations to obsessions about controlling another person or resentment over the perception of being controlled by situations or people. Excessive exercising during younger years is often an unconscious wish to control the individual’s life by exerting control over the body. Everyone has irritations and feelings of anger. How well these are made conscious and balanced on a daily basis with effective stress management and relaxation techniques, will determine the long-term seriousness of conditions such as osteoarthritis.

The specific joints affected also have strong symbolic meanings to help people realise that disease can be a very effective teacher in showing where deep-seated emotional problems need the light of consciousness. Once this realisation takes place, the matter can be brought from the deep unconscious to consciousness to be ‘treated’ with the right tools and techniques. The person with arthritis can then work consciously with the deeply unconscious thoughts, emotions and cell memories to help the body heal itself.

For more information visit


  1.  Govinda K. A Handbook of Chakra Healing. Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky and Konecky, 2002.
  2. Hanna T. Somatics. Cambridge, USA: Da Capo Press, 1988.
  3. Hawkins D. Power vs Force. California: Hay House, 2002.
  4. Life Extension Foundation. Disease Prevention and Treatment. Hollywood: Life Extension Media, 2003.
  5. Murray M, Pizzorno
  6. J. Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine. London: Little, Brown, 1998.
  7.  Payne L, Usatine R. Yoga Therapy. Random House, 2002.
  8. Winchester T. The Secret of Happiness: It’s all in the Mind. Wandsbeck: Reach Publishers, 2004.

Further reading

  1. Van der Merwe A. Health and Happiness. Pretoria: Health Stress Management Publishers, 2004, revised edition and reprinted 2010.
  2. Van der Merwe A. Herbal Remedies. Pretoria: Health Stress Management Publishers, 2005.
  3. Van der Merwe A. Stress Solutions. Pretoria: Health Stress Management Publishers, 2006.
  4. Van der Merwe A. Stress Solutions CD: Relax and Unwind for Body- Mind Resonance. Pretoria: Health Stress Management Publishers, 2006


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Moving Freely – osteoarthritis

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| Family Health |
Dr Arien van der Merwe
About The Author
- MBChB NHA MISMA. is a natural, integrative medical doctor and registered Holistic Counsellor, an experienced public speaker, bestselling author and has developed a number of online health courses. Arien specialises in natural integrative medicine, stress management and workplace wellness. She is a registered trainer with the ASCHP and NHA, as well as a member of the International Stress Management Association. Her latest book is Managing Diabetes and Related Health Challenges. Other books include Health & Happiness and the newly edited and revised Stress Solutions.