Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disorder of the joints and cartilage that becomes more common with age, although it may also affect young people. Joints that are commonly affected include the knees, hips, spine and hands. Osteoarthritis causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints, and may reduce mobility.

Symptoms

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness
  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Reduced range of motion and restricted mobility
  • Joints may creak or click
  • The muscles around the affected joint may be weak
  • Joints, especially in the hands, may become misshapen and deformed
  • Osteoarthritis in the spine or hip may cause pressure on nerves, causing referred pain in other parts of the body (e.g. down the arm or leg)
  • Symptoms may be worse after exercise or exertion (for example at the end of a busy day), but may also be worse after periods of inactivity (for example, first thing in the morning, or after sitting for long periods)
  • Tends to occur in individual joints (unlike RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS, which affects multiple joints and is a systemic or 'whole body' condition)

Causes

  • Osteoarthritis is associated with damage to the cartilage that lines the joints. As the integrity of the cartilage declines, the characteristic symptoms of pain and inflammation occur, and over time, the joint's range of motion may become restricted
  • Osteoarthritis often occurs in joints that have experienced some form of trauma, over-use, or 'wear and tear'. For example, it is common in people whose occupations involve physical work, those with weight problems, and those who have participated in high impact sporting activities (such as running or football)
  • Other risk factors include being female, getting older, having a previous joint injury, and having a family history of the osteoarthritis

Nutritional & Herbal Solutions

  • Glucosamine is a natural constituent of cartilage, where it helps cushion joints against pressure, and helps ensure that joints are flexible and move smoothly. It works by stimulating the repair and regeneration of cartilage, and relieves the symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as joint pain, swelling and tenderness. It may also help to increase the range of motion of arthritic joints. Research studies have shown it to be as effective for the relief of osteoarthritis symptoms as some pharmaceutical medicines (e.g. ibuprofen and NSAIDs), but with fewer side effects. The recommended dose is 1500 mg per day, taken for at least four weeks
  • Glucosamine is often taken in combination with chondroitin, another constituent of cartilage that performs similar functions, along with an additional role in the lubrication of the joint
  • Boron is also included in some high quality glucosamine supplements. This trace mineral is required for healthy bone structure, composition and strength
  • The anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and salmon oil help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, including pain, swelling and tenderness. Because omega-3s are needed in large quantities to be effective, many people find it beneficial to take fish oil supplements (alone or in combination with glucosamine) in addition to including several serves of oily fish in their diets every week
  • New Zealand green lipped mussels have been used by Maori for the treatment of arthritis for many years, and in clinical studies, have demonstrated the ability to decrease arthritis pain and improve joint function. The recommended dose is 50-100 mg of green lipped mussel oil, taken twice daily for at least eight weeks, often in combination with glucosamine
  • Celery seeds are traditionally taken to relieve pain and swelling in rheumatic or arthritic joints and may work by promoting the excretion of the waste products that contribute to irritation and inflammation of the joints

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Exercise helps keep arthritic joints moving and improves the strength of the muscles and ligaments around them. It also improves pain management, helps you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight (which relieves pressure on the joints), and enhances circulation (and therefore nourishment) of the joints. However, it's important that your exercise program doesn't aggravate your arthritis. Don't exercise joints that are inflamed or painful, as doing so may worsen the tissue damage. Gentle forms of exercise, such as walking, tai chi, swimming and aquarobics are suitable options; talk to your doctor or physio about an exercise program that's specially tailored to your individual needs
  • Adequate rest is also important, but don't avoid activity altogether, or your joints may become stiffer and your muscles weaker
  • Eat plenty of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and high quality proteins. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are an excellent choice because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Increasing your omega-3 intake at the same time that you decrease your consumption of saturated fats (from animal products) and trans fats (used in the production of some margarines, take away foods and baked goods) may be particularly beneficial
  • Many natural therapists encourage those who suffer from arthritis to avoid tomatoes, capsicum, chilli, potatoes, eggplant and other foods from the nightshade family of vegetables, believing that they promote inflammation. Although this is controversial, it's worthwhile trying as many sufferers report that avoiding these foods helps manage their symptoms
  • Learn and practice meditation or relaxation techniques in order to improve your ability to cope with STRESS and manage your pain. Hypnotherapy, acupuncture, osteopathy or chiropractic treatment may also be beneficial for some people
  • Use heat packs to warm up stiff joints and muscles, or ice packs to relieve acute episodes of pain and inflammation
  • Many people benefit from devices that modify household appliances for ease of use by arthritis sufferers. Talk to your doctor or physio for more information

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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