All About Osteoarthritis
- Tuesday, 09 August 2011
Have you ever had 'one of those days' where your whole body seems to ache and you know how the Tin Man felt after a rain? If only squirting your joints with an oil can would make you good again! Unfortunately we don't live in a land where 'all the streets are paved with gold, and no-one ever grows old'. Those aching joints cannot be fixed with an oil can and are most likely caused by Osteoarthritis (OA).
Often called degenerative joint disease, OA can cause pain and stiffness in any joint, where two or more bones make contact, such as your spine, ankle, fingers, or knees. Your joints are protected by smooth cartilage, allowing bones to glide over one another, and synovial fluid (your body’s equivalent of joint oil). Sometimes there is a breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage, usually from stress and wear, as well as the synovial fluid becoming thinner and losing its elasticity and ability to provide a good cushion. As a result the bones rub together causing pain, swelling, and stiffness - also known as Osteoarthritis.
The following signs and symptoms may be experienced:
pain and stiffness after rest or activity
joint pain brought on by a change in weather
tenderness when you apply light pressure to your joint
limited range of motion
swelling and stiffness in one or more joints
hear or feel a grating sensationwhen moving joints
The following factors may increase your chances of OA:
having a family member with the condition
age, since your cartilage wears down with time
fractures or other joint injuries
small deformity of the bones in a joint
genetic defect in joint cartilage
work-related activities or high-impact sports which stress your joints
Osteoarthritis often significantly reduces mobility and quality of life. Since your body cannot replace cartilage and because there is no treatment to stop or reverse cartilage degeneration, early prevention is the key.
People at risk for osteoarthritis may be able to delay the onset of the disease or even prevent it with lifestyle modifications.
Managing a healthy weight is critical since being overweight puts extra pressure on your bones and joints
Exercise helps maintain joint and overall movement by improving your flexibility, as well as muscle and bone strength
Even if you have OA you should maintain your physical activity. The old saying 'use it or lose it' truly applies here. If you do not stay active, your muscles will weaken and you will experience more stiffness and pain. Switch to lower-impact sports, such as walking, swimming and cycling which are easier on your joints than higher-impact sports like running. If your competitive nature will not allow you to give up your favorite sport, ensure your footwear has good support and cushioning. Remember - investing in your health now will pay dividends later.
While there is no cure for OA, there are treatments that can ease your discomfort:
Rest will help decrease joint stress and relieve pain and swelling.
Some pain medication, such as Tylenol, can help manage the pain of mild osteoarthritis with fewer side effects than other medications, but does not address inflammation. Alternatively, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen help relieve pain and swelling.
Cortisone injections can rapidly decrease pain and restore function, and hyaluronan injections lubricate the joints.
Faster relief of arthritis pain can be achieved by applying cream to the affected area (i.e. capsaicin cream or methyl salicylate cream). These creams numb the pain by creating hot or cool sensations.
Use hot and/or cold packs and compresses for pain and inflammation.
Custom made braces or shoe inserts are available to immobilize or support problem areas andhelp relieve pressure.
In some cases surgery can help. Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive but since OA is a degenerative condition, relief is temporary. Alternatively, joint replacement can improve the lifestyle of seriously afflicted individuals.
A growing number of people are turning to complementary and alternative medicine for relief.
Alternative therapies that have shown some promise for OA include:
Physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles around joints, increase your range of motion and reduce pain.
Massage therapy can provide short-term pain relief.
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements seem to work for some people. The National Institute of Health's initial research on glucosamine and chondroitin in individuals with severe osteoarthritis has shown only a minor benefit in relieving pain. You should wait a three month trial period to see if glucosamine and chondroitin will work for you.
Acupuncture for the treatment of osteoarthritis has mixed reviews based on current evidence. New studies currently underway are designed to answer some questions regarding the beneficial effects of acupuncture for OA.
Some studies indicate that ginger extract may reduce OA pain. However, ginger can interfere with blood-thinning medication. Talk to your health care practitioner before taking ginger supplements.
Evidence suggests that a blended oil from avocado and soybeans (Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables - ASUs),may slow cartilage degradation and promote cartilage repair in hip and knee joints. Meta-analysis data supports better success in patients with knee OA than in those with hip OA.
Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM®) is a novel dietary supplement containing naturally sourced combinations of glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, found to be an effective and safe therapeutic option to treat the pain and inflexibility of joint and connective tissue disorders. In preliminary clinical trials involving 37 subjects with OA, oral supplementation with 500 mg per day of NEM® resulted in decreased pain in 7-30 days.
There are no quick 'oil can' fixes for osteoarthritis. Minimize your risk by protecting your joints, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Most importantly, even if you do wake up feeling like the 'Tin Man', keep moving so you can skip down that yellow brick road of life with your friends!