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Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

The human joint is a miracle of engineering; efficient way beyond any manmade imitation. When healthy, it is virtually friction-free, self-lubricating and self-repairing—adjusting automatically to changes in movement, weight and stress. Given optimum conditions, it can function without problems or interruptions for a hundred years.

This being the case, why do so many people suffer from joint problems? What are the 'optimum conditions' required for a life of trouble-free service?


 
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What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the exaggerated normal ageing process of joints - and as such, is more accurately described as ‘osteoarthrosis’. (In medical terms—'itis' describes an inflammatory process, whilst—'osis' is used for a degenerative condition.) The process is well under way by the time any symptoms appear, and starts with gradual roughening and wearing of the previously very smooth cartilage inside the joint. At this point, there is usually some ‘grating’ from the joint and also progressive stiffness, usually in the morning or after exercise. The joints also become more vulnerable to strains, which take increasingly longer to heal.

As the problem becomes worse, there is involvement of the joint capsule and its lining, causing swelling, stiffness and discomfort, which are present on a more permanent basis. Symptoms are usually worse after rest, improving initially with movement, then recurring again after progressively shorter periods of exercise. 80% of adults over 50 years of age have evidence of this degree of joint degeneration.

Advanced osteoarthritis leaves the joints with little or no cartilage, and causes enlargement and distortion of the bony outlines, sometimes associated with mild inflammation around the supporting ligaments. At this stage there is permanent disability and significant pain, which may eventually necessitate surgical intervention.

 
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Why do only some people suffer from osteoarthritis?

There are a number of factors:

  1. Genetics – if your parents were sufferers then you are more likely to suffer also.
  2. Exercise – reasonable amounts of exercise help to maintain joint health. However excessive exercise increases your rate of degeneration. Sportsmen, keep-fit enthusiasts, and dancers have a very high incidence of joint degeneration, usually starting at quite a young age.
  3. History of injury - previous injury to the joint itself or to the bones close to it can cause extra strain on the area and lead to problems many years later. This applies not only to serious strains and fractures, but also to the small repeated strains sustained by sportsmen and dancers.
  4. Nutrition – nutritional deficiencies of many kinds can predispose to early degeneration in all body systems. Serious disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome etc. can have disastrous effects on the joints. Less obviously, years of restricted diets for weight control, food allergies and so forth can also wreak havoc with bone and cartilage.

 
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What can be done to prevent and treat osteoarthritis?

  1. Exercise moderately
    Keep joints flexible and muscles strong by exercising regularly, but avoid doing only ‘high-impact’ exercise for long periods of time. Alternate with ‘low-impact’ activities such as swimming and non-weightbearing gym work or Pilates exercise. Ballroom dancing is an ideal exercise for maintaining joint health, especially as it can be continued indefinitely.
  2. Avoid injuries
    An intelligent approach to exercise will minimise injuries. Train sensibly and always 'warm up' and 'warm down'. Should problems occur, be sure to allow enough time for full recovery, and seek professional advice if symptoms persist. Regular 'maintenance' in the form of occasional osteopathic treatments and Pilates exercise can help to reduce the incidence of injury.
  3. Eat sensibly
    Eating a wide range of foods regularly helps to maintain good general nutrition. Some foods have particular properties which make them especially valuable e.g. oily fish (mackerel, salmon, pilchards, herring); flaxseed/linseed oil; fruit especially blueberries, bilberries, cranberries and tomatoes.
    Once osteoarthritis has established itself, nutritional approaches can be very helpful, but these need to be individually tailored.
  4. Maintain a sensible weight
    Each extra kilo of body weight exerts at least four kilos of extra stress on your knees!
  5. Check for food allergies
    Severe joint problems can be due to food sensitivities. Ask us for details of the most accurate testing available.
  6. Take regular supplements
    Individuals who are at high risk of developing osteoarthritis or those who are already sufferers can often benefit from taking regular nutritional supplements.

 
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Joint Nutrition

Which supplements are useful?

There are many substances which can help, but do not try everything at once—you might have difficulty deciding which was responsible for the improvement. Take any supplement regularly for 3 months before assessing its effectiveness. It is often a sensible idea to start with a specially formulated complex which contains a wide range of ingredients. Extra supplements can then be added later on, once the initial response has been assessed.

 
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  1. Glucosamine and Chondroitin
    These are naturally occurring substances which help to maintain and repair joint cartilage. They are particularly effective when combined with shark cartilage. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are two of the most thoroughly researched supplements, and are widely available—however, quality varies enormously between brands. Vegetarian glucosamine is now obtainable.
  2. Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5)
    This vitamin is used by the body to produce its own anti-inflammatory hormones.
  3. D-L Phenylalanine (DLPA)
    DLPA acts as a natural pain suppressant, which has none of the disadvantages of commonly used anti-inflammatory/pain killers. Results increase with extended use.
  4. Manganese
    Manganese is believed to reduce degenerative joint damage, and is particularly effective for knee pain.
  5. Antioxidants
    These substances help protect joints from damage caused by environmental and internal pollution, excessive exercise and bad diet. They include Vitamins A, C and E, Selenium, and certain plant extracts.
  6. Fish and Flax Seed Oils
    These are thought to improve joint lubrication and reduce inflammation.
  7. Green-lipped Mussel Extract (‘Seatone’, ‘Musseltone’)
    Produced in New Zealand, this is a useful anti-inflammatory, with few reported side effects. It is often helpful for individuals with advanced degenerative changes. It is not suitable for those with shellfish allergies.
  8. MSM
    An organic sulphur derivative which can reduce inflammation. Particularly effective when applied as a cream over the affected area.
  9. Serrapeptase
    Serrapeptase and other related protein-dissolving enzymes have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory action. This is valuable in both acute problems,such as joint strains, and long term chronic joint disorders.
  10. Herbs
    Several herbs have been found to be helpful in some cases, including Boswellia, Devils Claw, Ginger and Turmeric. These herbs are strongly anti-inflammatory when used as a potent herbal extract.

 
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Products Featured in this guide include:

Some of the products mentioned in the "Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain" guide can be found on these links:

 
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