By Dr. Michelle Lim, D.C.
Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the United States, affecting 27 million U.S. adults. According to the CDC, 1 in 2 Americans will develop some form of osteoarthritis during their lifetime and that 1 in 2 people will develop symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.
Common Risk Factors:
previous joint injury
overuse of the joint
Typically, osteoarthritis is a condition associated with “wear and tear” on your joints. This occurs when the material that cushions joints (the cartilage) breaks down, causing the bones to rub against each other, creating stiffness, pain and loss of joint motion.
Common symptoms include:
sore or stiff joints-especially the hips, knees, and lower back- after inactivity or overuse
stiffness after resting that goes away after movement
pain that is worse after activity of toward the end of the day
Osteoarthritis may also affect the neck, small finger joints, the base of the thumb, ankle, and big toe. The pain may be moderate and come and go, without affecting the ability to perform daily tasks. Some cases of osteoarthritis will never progress past this early stage. Others will have their osteoarthritis get worse. The pain and stiffness of more severe osteoarthritis may make it difficult to walk, climb stairs, sleep, or perform other daily tasks.
Since the pain can become severe and interfere with one’s ability to work and perform normal daily activities, many people with osteoarthritis depend on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to help manage the pain. But, long term use of these pills is associated with serious side effects including:
PREVENTION & MANAGEMENT
Osteoarthritis is not an inevitable part of the aging process, so don’t play a passive role and let it interfere with your life. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent and/or manage this disease:
1. Maintaining a healthy weight.
One of the most important things you can do to avoid osteoarthritis is to keep your weight at a healthy level. Carrying around extra weight creates unnecessary stress on your joints that can speed up deterioration.
Even light exercise has been shown to help prevent the onset of osteoarthritis. It’s important to increase muscle tone of your non-weight bearing joints as muscle atrophy, weakness and immobility may result in joint contractures and loss of range of motion. Use it or lose it.
3. Vitamin D.
Since Vitamin D deficiency is associated with inflammation, you want to make sure you maintain healthy levels by getting proper sun exposure or taking a high quality Vitamin D supplement. Low Vitamin D levels have also been directly linked to Osteoarthritis.
Omega-3 fats are essential since omega-3s help reduce inflammation. That’s why they’re called “Essential fatty acids”. You need it.
5. Glucosamine in addition to Omega-3s.
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage within your joint is progressively being damaged, and the synovial fluid that keeps joints lubricated and cushioned is typically reduced as well. The pain is a result of bones rubbing against each other (bone on bone).
Our bodies are fully capable of rebuilding cartilage and synovial fluid. In order to effectively do so, it needs the proper building blocks. Glucosamine is needed to rebuild both cartilage and synovial fluid, so correcting this deficiency with a high-quality supplement may be helpful.
In one study, participants with moderate-to-severe hip or knee osteoarthritis who received 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate along with 200 mg of omega-3 had greater pain reduction and fewer symptoms (morning stiffness, pain in hips and knees) than those who took glucosamine by itself.
Tumeric (Curcumin) has anti-inflammatory properties, therefore it’s a safer alternative to over the counter NSAIDs. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that taking turmeric extracts each day for six weeks was just as effective as ibuprofen for relieving knee osteoathritic pain.
In a separate study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility, whereas the control group, which received no curcumin, had no significant improvements. A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids (plant-based nutrients that contain powerful antioxidant properties) blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the launch of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.