In this month’s health spotlight, our Sussex expert takes a look at osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting 8.5 million people in the UK. It develops gradually over time, causing joints to become stiff and painful. It can affect any joint but commonly affects the hands, knees, hips, feet and spine. Osteoarthritis is caused by “wear and tear” on a joint. It causes the cartilage at the end of the bone to get rougher and thinner. The underlying bone then thickens and grows outwards, creating outgrowths (osteophytes) which create a physical deformity. The capsule around the joint also thickens and becomes inflamed.
- over 40
- overweight or obese
- familial incidence
- competitive, high-level sport or joint injury
- joint surgery
- rheumatoid arthritis often leads to secondary osteoarthritis
- joint pain that is worse with movement and better with rest
- stiffness in the morning or after a period of inactivity
- swelling of the joints
- joints that are warm to the touch
- a crunching or crackling noise when the joint moves
- limited range of motion
- muscle weakness
In the hand: the base of the thumb and the joints at the end of the fingers are affected, resulting in firm, knobbly swellings known as Heberden’s nodes.
In the neck and back (spondylosis): the discs between the vertebrae become thinner, causing the spaces to narrow. The vertebrae deform, causing nerve root irritation and pain / tingling / numbness.
In the feet: osteoarthritis generally affects the joint at the base of the big toe leading to difficulty walking.
In the knee: pain tends to focus at the front and sides of the knee. Eventually the knee becomes bent and bowed.
Regular exercise combined with a healthy, balanced diet is advisable, which will also help with the reduction of any excess weight. General exercise recommendation is moderate intensity on a frequent basis (at least four times weekly). Specific exercises for the affected joint(s) can also be sought from a qualified practitioner.
There are a number of therapies that have been documented to help with the pain and disability of osteoarthritis, including:
- Osteopathy and Chiropractic
- Magnet Therapy
- Balneotherapy (bathing in thermal or mineral waters)
- Elimination of deadly nightshade group: tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines, peppers and tobacco
- Elimination of substances high in tannin: red wine, black tea, chocolate
- Consider histamine excess and eliminate high histamine-containing foods
Nutritional supplement treatment options
Chondroitin Sulphate (CS) is a major component of the lining of joints, often found to be reduced in joint cartilage affected by OA. CS supplementation can reduce pain, increase joint mobility, and facilitate repair within joints affected by OA.
Glucosamine sulphate(GS), a nutrient derived from seashells, is a building block needed for the synthesis and repair of joint cartilage. GS supplementation produces significant reduction of symptoms and halts degenerative changes, confirmed by x-ray. Benefits typically take three to eight weeks to manifest. Long term use of GS is necessary to maintain the benefits.
SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) possesses anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Many double-blind trials have shown that SAMe reduces pain, stiffness, and swelling better than placebo and equal to drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen in people with OA.
Collagen is rich in amino acids that play an important role in the building of joint cartilage and it is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Digestive Enzymes – repeated studies have found that the proteolytic enzyme bromelain is effective in reducing symptoms of pain, swelling and joint stiffness in people with osteoarthritis.
Krill Oil can help to ease arthralgia, stiffness, and loss of function due to OA.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) can often reduce OA pain (mostly about six weeks after starting therapy).
Pycnogenol has been shown to reduce pain and other osteoarthritis symptoms, improve walking performance, and reduce the use of pain-relieving medication.
Fish Oil -The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, have anti-inflammatory effects.
Phenylalanine can reduce chronic pain caused by OA, by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down some of the body’s natural painkillers.
Botanical treatment options
- Cat’s Claw
- Cayenne (topical use in ointment form)
- Devil’s Claw
- White Willow
Article contributed by Dr Tracy S Gates, DO, DIBAK, L.C.P.H., Consultant, Pure Bio Ltd.
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