Osteoarthritis affects about 25% of the adult population. By around 40 years of age, 90% of all persons begin to show some degree of joint degeneration associated with joint symptoms. Often, major symptoms don't appear until age 60, but it is in that 40-60 age-range that problems begin to appear, particularly if you are not exercising and using your joints correctly.
Here are some of the common SYMPTOMS associated with osteoarthritis:
- Insidious, gradual onset that worsens with weight bearing activity and improves with rest.
- Morning stiffness or stiffness after prolonged immobility lasting less than 30 minutes. So after you get up and start moving around, and experience that initial stiffness, that stiffness seems to subside after half an hour
- "Crepitus", or grinding on motion, is a symptom of advancing degeneration, as well as joint tenderness to pressure, and limitation of joint motion.
- Joint deformities such as formation of bony cysts; Heberden's nodes are the name given to osteophytes that form in the finger joints.
- Redness and swelling, if present, are usually mild and limited to the affected joint. It is also mostly the central weight-bearing joints that tend to be affected (i.e. back, hips, knees, ankles). This is different from Rheumatoid arthritis, which more often affects peripheral joints such as the fingers, and tends to happen symmetrically. (i.e. the same fingers on each hand).
WHAT IS OSTEOARTHRITIS?
Osteoarthritis is a progressive structural breakdown of the cartilage that lines the joint surfaces; essentially making it a "wear and tear" form of arthritis.
Normally, the cartilage-covered ends of our bones are in minimal contact, allowing them to slide freely past each other, enabling easy and painless joint movement. The joint space between the bones is filled with a liquid called synovial fluid, which serves as an essential lubricant. Any decrease in the synovial fluid, and thus the joint space itself, increases contact between the ends of the bones, and therefore leaves them open to friction, mechanical deterioration, inflammation, and pain.
DID YOU KNOW?
One of the most basic things you can do to help prevent the advancement of osteoarthritis is to make sure you are well-hydrated, so that your joint spaces can be well-perfused with synovial fluid. Six to eight glasses of water per day is the minimum, and more should be consumed under hot or highly active conditions.
SOME FACTORS THAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF DEVELOPING OSTEOARTHRITIS
- If there is history of injury, such a tear to the meniscus or the cruciate ligament, which are cartilagenous and ligamentous structures in the knee, the joint will be less stable and more prone to the wear and tear process that leads to osteoarthritis.
- Aging is another one. Again, it's a wear and tear form of arthritis, so the more time there is for wear and tear, the more degeneration you tend to see.
- Obesity will increase the strain on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips, knees and low back, and also contribute to the wear and tear
- Occuational overuse can be a risk factor, if your job involves a lot of lifting and bending, or even a lot of typying, causing you to strain the neck a certain way.
Any kind of work that involves sitting in one position for a long period of time, such as at a desk, proper ergonomic posture is important for long-term joint health.
- Weak muscles around joints
Strong muscles around joints have a stabilizing effect on the joint and assist in the healthy circulation of the synovial fluid that nourishes the chondrocytes (cartilage cells) of the joints. This promotes overall joint health and can help prevent the wear and tear process.
If you are not exercising your muscles enough, the joint will be less stable and less capable of regeneration!
- While exercise is important, proper form is equally important. Performing squats or weight-bearing exercises with improper form can put your joints at unnecessary risk of further injury.
If you run or jog for exercise, try to favour soft earth or gravel as your running surface, rather than hard pavement to reduce the impact on weight-bearing joints such as your knees.
STRATEGIES TO MANAGE OSTEOARTHRITIS and improve quality of life:
1. A well-planned EXERCISE PROGRAM is one of the best things we can do to invest in the long-term health of our joints; especially as we age and our bodies become less tolerant of neglect. Exercise simultaneously promotes the healthy circulation of synovial fluid to nourish our cartilage, strengthens muscles across the joints and stabilizes them, and promotes weight-loss and thus a reduced burden on our weight-bearing joints.
Regular exercise reduces pain, improves strength and function, and improves sense of well-being. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise on most days is all you need. Water exercise is best, since it doesn't put weight on any joints. If there is already some osteoarthritis present, reducing stair-climbing, and avoiding prolonged sitting or jogging is advisable, as these tend to impact the joints in a detrimental way. Walking aids like canes can be helpful. Make sure you have suitable footwear for proper weight distribution, especially if there is ankle involvement.
2. HERBAL & NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS that aid in managing existing disease:
also known as Harpagophytum procumbens, is a South African herb which has been reviewed for its effectiveness and safety in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Though the exact mechanism of action is not established, it has been shown to be especially effective for pain relief.
also known as Indian Frankincense, has shown some evidence of being a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, and pain-relieving agent. A recent double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial of 75 patients with osteoarthritis demonstrated that an extract of Boswellia conferred significant improvement in pain scores and physical function scores. These changes were recorded in the treatment group as early as 7 days after the start of treatment.
Fish oil supplementation, as well as a Mediterranean-type diet
an help to ensure adequate omega-3 fatty acids in the body, which are anti-inflammatory and thus help to mitigate inflammation and pain associated with any kind of arthritis.
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation
may be advisable, as these are nutrients that serve as building blocks for cartilage. Supplementation with these, along with other diet, exercise, and lifestyle strategies, can help rebuild cartilage and/or prevent further degeneration of the joint space.
Visit www.choicenutritiononline.ca (password "choice") to order any of the above products online!
NOTE: Please consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any kind of supplement program, especially if you are already taking one or more prescriptions drugs.
3. LOW LEVEL LASER LIGHT THERAPY:
also known as Photobiomodulation, is a therapy that has been shown in many studies to have clinical benefit in a variety of conditions, including enhanced wound healing after injury or surgery, resolution of diabetic ulcers, as well as joint conditions including Osteoarthritis.
Laser therapy involves the administration of infrared light to a target tissue, where the photons are absorbed by the mitochondria in the cells. The mitochondria are stimulated by this exposure to increase their respiratory/energy production activity, and are able to produce more energy for use by the cell.
This increased energy availability allows for increased cell-division and proliferation so that tissues can heal more easily and quickly.
Laser Therapy is offered at both Choice Nutrition offices in Melfort and Saskatoon.
Click here to learn more!
Please also note that each person's osteoarthritis may have other contributory factors so Contact Us to book an appointment with any of our practitioners for a full assessment into your specific situation.
Remember, services by our Naturopathic Doctors are covered by most extended health insurance plans.
DO NOT ACCEPT ILLNESS!
Yours in health,
Dr. Evan McCarvill, B.Sc., Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND)