Sunday, October 12, 2014

That Damn Chikungunya!

So, me and 3 of my ‘liming partners’ got Chikungunya about the same time – we are all over 45, female, if that makes any difference, I don’t know…we are all suffering periodic bouts of joint pains 5 weeks on from the original symptoms. 

Inline image 1How can we deal with these arthritis-like pains caused by Chikungunya? First of all, everyone – including doctors seem to be referring to it just as arthritis, but in all my googling, I see it referred to as ‘arthralgia’ and it seems it is not quite the same thing as what we normally call arthritis, even though it feels the same; it is a viral arthritis. 

“Patients with long-term arthralgia did not display biological markers typically found in autoimmune or rheumatoid diseases. These data helped define the features of CHIKV-associated chronic arthralgia and permitted an estimation of the economic burden associated with arthralgia.”

So, since it’s both viral and arthritis-like or maybe we can just say it’s viral-arthritis, seems we should approach it from both standpoints. I know I popped the NSAIDS when the pain was too bad, but I am wary of taking NSAIDS longerterm as I know more studies are showing they can worsen joint problems when used longterm. Paracetamol/acetaminophen well, it may not be so bad for your joints but it seems it is one of the most common poisoning causes – liver toxicity and if you are susceptible and OD on it, can be fatal. Ouch.

Yes, so, on to that economic burden – I have one friend – mid 30s, who got Chikungunya in June…she has had ‘relapses’ so bad she still has to rely on her boyfriend to carry her around some days. She makes jewelry as a side business…well, it ain’t easy to bend wire and hold jewelry tools when your hands can’t close even if you could get over the pain. I am glad to say I am nowhere near that bad, but my knees now won’t let me squat down…and I take a good few steps before the pain eases enough for me not to hobble. 

When this mosquito-borne scourge first came to our little paradise chain of islands in the Caribbean, we were told only – it is not fatal (except in rare immune-challenged cases) and it only lasts a few days to a week. Eh-heh. A friend of mine first broke that illusion with a post on Facebook asking why the authorities were not telling us the full story…well you know I went a-googling immediately…and yes, I started to find reference to this ‘arthralgia’ and even cognitive challenges in some patients. Well, of the people I know who have gotten this thing, I’d say nearly half are suffering longer-term arthralgia. That’s a lot of reduced quality of life and lost economic activity.

Back to that article quoted earlier

“Patients were submitted to clinical investigations 4, 6, 14 and 36 months after presentation with acute CHIKV infection. At 36 months, 22 patients with arthralgia and 20 patients without arthralgia were randomly selected from the cohort and consented for blood sampling. During the 3 years following acute infection, 60% of patients had experienced symptoms of arthralgia, with most reporting episodic relapse and recovery periods. Long-term arthralgias were typically polyarthralgia (70%), that were usually symmetrical (90%) and highly incapacitating (77%). They were often associated with local swelling (63%), asthenia (77%) or depression (56%). The age over 35 years and the presence of arthralgia 4 months after the disease onset are risk factors of long-term arthralgia.”

36 Months!!!!! That’s 3 years!!!!! Bloody Hell.

So my approach, based on researching both arthritis and virus recovery (aka – building your immune system) 

Make a ‘tea’ – see one of my recipe’s here for an evening one – lemongrass is a good sleep aid.

Get some sun – vitamin D helps. Early morning 30 minute doses so you don’t burn.

Eat lots of healthy fruits and veggies - and for Caribbean people - zepina / bhagee is great - it is actually a wild amaranth and is full of virus-fighting, immune building goodies. 

Use virgin coconut oil - as a base oil, with caster oil or alone and with anti-inflammatory oils added - cinnamon, eucalyptus, bay, ginger, nutmeg are a few or buy this Dominican product - Oil of Ojas. Eat VCO also and drink lots of coconut water.

Just be aware also if you are already on blood thinners, or you have low blood pressure or tend to diabetes - all these spices and supplements can affect your pre-existing conditions, so check with your doc.

Exercise – I know swimming is not weight bearing so not considered effective for bone health, but in the Caribbean, a good sea bath is healing, that massaging of the waves, the mineral salts, the temperature of the water, the sun…and you can gently (and intensely) exercise and improve flexibility by using the water as a resistance. So go take sea baths...

Weight bearing exercise – now, I was thinking this morning, there’s no way I could do a downward facing dog or a plank because my wrists scream at me if I lean on them too hard. But I guess I have to find some ways to gently get them to bear weight, same for my knees and ankles. Dancing has been recommended and considering it’s depressing to have this stupid arthralgia, I think that could work wonders!

And, for those of us in cocoa-growing islands….Make cocoa tea BUT sorry traditionalists! No Milk, no cornstrach – make it with some rice or almond milk and sweeten with honey – the bayleaf, ginger, nutrmeg – all good anti-inflammatories and the pure cocoa helps too – studies have found various anti-inflammatory effects and helps with your mind, so if you get the added cognitive issues from the Chiky…well, drink cocoa tea. (Mexican cocoa can be substituted) See recipe here - but adapt as advised above

See these links for more info on anti-inflammatory advice