March 27, 2019

What is Osteoarthritis 

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of disability in adults. It is characterized by the progressive degenerative changes in the cartilage of one or more joints such as of the knees, hands and hips. It is accompanied by the thickening of the adjacent bone with symptoms like stiffness, pain, swelling, malformation of joints and the reduction of the range of motion.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is also called the "wear and tear" arthritis since it occurs when the cartilage between joints breaks down that will lead to joint pain and stiffness. As the condition worsens over time, bones may break down and the cartilage wears away causing the bone to rub against the other bone that will lead to more damage and pain.

In Australia, studies show that more than half of 1.8 million Australians with osteoarthritis were between 265 and 64 years old. Today, osteoarthritis is prevalent due to population ageing and other factors such as obesity among people.

According to the United Nations, by the year 2050, people aged over 60 years old will be more than 20% of the world's population and 15% of them will have symptomatic osteoarthritis and one-third will be severely disabled. It is estimated that it will impact at least 130 million individuals.

 

History and Facts 

The evidence of inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis has been discovered in fossil records of dinosaurs, while the first traces of human arthritis dates back since ancient times. The fossils of Iguanodon from around 90 million years ago that was unearthed in Brussels, Belgium has exhibited osteoarthritis in the ankle. 

Ancient Greek physician and the father of Western medicine, Hippocrates has described arthritis in general in 400 BC. However, he did not specifically describe the various types of arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, one in two adults will develop symptoms of knee osteoarthritis during their lives. While one in four adults will experience symptoms of hip osteoarthritis by the age of 85. 

 

Causes and Symptoms

You should know the different causes and symptoms of osteoarthritis, to better understand the condition. It would be beneficial to be knowledgeable about the different things that can contribute to developing the disease, as well as the things that will occur when you have the condition. 

Causes of Osteoarthritis

The main factors that cause osteoarthritis include the genes, increasing age, obesity, joint injury and overuse of joints that may contribute to the wearing down of the cartilage. Here are the following causes that may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis:

  • Genes. Genes can make you prone to having osteoarthritis even at an early age. People who are deficient in collagen which is an essential protein that makes up the cartilage can possibly develop osteoarthritis as early as the age of 20.
  • Increasing Age. Chances of developing osteoarthritis increases as you age. Most people who are over 60 years of age have osteoarthritis to some extent but the severity differs. Older age is actually the greatest risk factor for having arthritis as people lose muscle mass over time. 
  • Overweight and Obesity. Being overweight or obese can put you at risk on developing hip and knee arthritis since there is an additional pressure put on your knees and hips. Studies also prove that excess fat tissue can produce inflammatory chemicals.
  • Injury. Overuse of joints or repetitive joint stress can lead to injuries such as fracture and ligament tears can speed up the cartilage breakdown that's why athletes that undergo intense training and certain careers that require heavy lifting can acquire osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The symptoms of osteoarthritis vary depending on the severity of the condition and what area is affected. Symptoms of osteoarthritis build over time rather than showing up suddenly which makes arthritis sufferers experience difficulty when doing ordinary tasks at home or at work. Some of the early symptoms of osteoarthritis are the following:

  • swelling and tenderness of joints
  • stiffness and loss of range of motion
  • joint pain and discomfort
  • cracking sound when a joint bends

 

Diagnosis

  • Physical Examination is conducted to determine if a person is suffering from any joint or bone disease like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and others. During the exam, the doctor will test your range of motion and will look out for tender and swollen areas which is a sign of joint damage. 
  • X-rays can reveal if a person is suffering from osteoarthritis since cartilage loss can be seen from the x-ray film. X-rays also show the narrowing of the space between the bones in your joints. However, it cannot detect early defects on the cartilage but it can show mild abnormalities on your cartilage. 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is using radio waves and magnetic field to produce the detailed images of your bones and soft tissues which include your cartilage. It is usually used for complex cases of arthritis, in order to provide a complete analysis of the disease.
  • Joint Fluid Analysis or also called synovial fluid analysis is conducted to diagnose the cause of joint pain and inflammatory conditions such as degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. It can also help diagnose infections and bleeding conditions. 
  • Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a recently developed high-resolution imaging technology that uses infrared light that can identify early osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and guide tendon repair. It can identify the changes prior to the thinning of cartilage. 

 

Foods To Eat and Avoid 

When you have osteoarthritis, there are foods that you need to eat and there are also which can increase the pain you are experiencing from arthritis pain, so you should avoid these foods. Here are the list of foods that you need to eat and also foods that you should avoid from consuming:

Foods to Eat

  • Oily Fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna and sardines are great sources of Omega-3 essential fatty acids which contains anti-inflammatory properties to reduce swelling on your joints and relieve arthritis pain. 
  • Dairy Products like yoghurt and milk are rich sources of vitamin D and calcium which can help in increasing your bone strength. These products also contain proteins that can help in building muscles. 
  • Leafy Greens that include spinach, chard, kale, collard and broccoli are rich in vitamin D and antioxidant levels which are needed for calcium absorption and it also boosts immunity that helps fight infections and diseases. 
  • Green Tea is rich in antioxidant properties and trace minerals that can help prevent your cartilage from breaking as well as cell damage. It can also normalize your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 
  • Garlic may protect against osteoarthritis since it contains diallyl disulfide, a compound that can be derived from Allium plants like garlic that has anti-inflammatory effects that limit the effect of pro-inflammatory cytokines. 
  • Nuts like walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, macadamia nuts and others are very rich in essential trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc as well as protein and fibre. It is beneficial not only for your joints but also for your brain and heart. 

Foods to Avoid 

  • Sugar-rich foods and drinks like candies, chocolates, cakes, soda, juice and other foods and drinks that are high in sugar content should be avoided for it may increase the inflammation, swelling and pain. You can go for natural sweeteners or substitutes such as honey and maple syrup. 
  • Saturated Fat should be avoided for it can increase inflammation. Foods that are fried and high in saturated fat which include red meat, pizza, fries, butter and others. Aside from making your arthritis inflammation worse, it can also increase your risk of developing heart disease and being obese. 
  • Omega-6 fatty acids are healthy in small doses, however, if you consume excessive omega-6, it can trigger inflammatory chemicals in your body. Some oils that are high in omega-6 include corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oils and others.
  • Refined Carbohydrates which include white flour, white bread, white rice and potato chips can also stimulate inflammation in your body, so you should avoid eating foods that contain refined carbohydrates. 
  • Salt intake should be balanced because eating too much food that is high in sodium can also lead to inflammatory reactions. Avoid eating processed and prepackaged foods since they contain high levels of salt. 

 

Dietary Supplements

Always remember that supplements are not always safe and require proper usage, that's why it is very important to always read the label and follow directions of any kinds of products. Also, before taking any types of medicine, consult your healthcare provider and seek medical advice to avoid overdose and adverse side effects. 

1. Glucosamine and Chondroitin 

Glucosamine and chondroitin are two of the most well-known arthritis supplements. Studies suggest that glucosamine and chondroitin are effective in reducing the pain caused by different kinds of arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases. 

READ MORE: Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Effective Partners for Soothing Osteoarthritis

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 2. Fish Oils 

We all know that fish oil is one of the most consumed dietary supplements because of its amazing health benefits. It can help strengthen your joints and bones, as well as prevent the early signs of age-related bone and joint diseases. 

READ MORE:  10 Therapeutic Properties of Fish Oil

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 3. Turmeric 

Contains powerful polyphenols or micronutrients called curcuminoids that have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Taking turmeric supplements can be a natural way to treat arthritis since it contains strong anti-inflammatory properties.

READ MORE:  Pick Turmeric for Osteoarthritis Relief, Liver Regeneration and Healthy Heart

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4. New Zealand Green-lipped Mussel 

One of the most well-known joint health supplements across the world as it contains anti-inflammatory effects and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Also called "miracle from the sea" for its therapeutic properties such as treating inflammatory diseases.

READ MORE: New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel for Inflammatory Diseases and Optimal Health

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5. Green Tea

Well-known for its therapeutic properties since it contains high polyphenol levels or micronutrients that protect the body against oxidative stress, cell damage. It also promotes metabolism, brain health, immunity boost and normalizes blood cholesterol. 

READ MORE: Green Tea for Increasing Bone Density, Immunity and Longevity

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6. Capsaicin 

An active chemical that is responsible for giving spiciness to different types of chilli peppers, but it can provide cool health benefits and therapeutic effects for different health concern like reducing arthritis pain.

READ MORE: Capsaicin for Weight Loss, Metabolism Boost and Soothing Pain

 

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7. Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) 

Contains Omega-6 essential fatty acids that are essential for brain development, bone health, metabolism and plays an integral role in growth. Every cell structure in our body depends on fatty acids formed from gamma-linolenic acid. 

READ MORE: Gamma-Linolenic Acid: An Essential Omega-6 Fatty Acid

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 8. Indian Frankincense (Boswellia Serrata)

One of the most ancient oils in the world. It can lower symptoms and give relief if you are experiencing joint pain and muscle ache due to conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Frankincense contains Boswellic acids that have strong analgesic properties and can also prevent cartilage loss. 

READ MORE: Frankincense Essential Oil for Meditation, Regeneration and Menstruation

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9. SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine)

SAMe or S-adenosylmethionine is effective like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which can help in reducing pain if you are suffering from osteoarthritis or any types of musculoskeletal disease. It can also help in uplifting your mood and reducing anxiety levels. 

READ MORE: SAMe for Depression, Osteoarthritis and Liver Health

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10. Ginger 

Ginger is a spice that is very famous when it comes to the world of culinary, but it is also a prized herbal medicine for its many therapeutic properties where it can treat different ailments such as nausea, motion sickness and digestive problems. 

READ MORE: The Power of Ginger: Relieves Nausea, Indigestion and Arthritis Pain

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Osteoarthritis Treatment 

  • Exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce arthritis pain and manage osteoarthritis. Even though the thought of exercising is hard to think especially if your joints hurt, moving and exercise is essential for the treatment. Also, you can do yoga, tai chi and simple exercises like walking and stretching exercises which can help in building your muscles and improving flexibility. 
  • Weight Management is very important for obese patients who are suffering from osteoarthritis for it can greatly affect in reducing joint pain. Weight loss is the optimal approach when it comes to improving flexibility, increasing the range of motion, reducing arthritis symptoms such as inflammation, swelling and pain. 
  • Physical Therapy is very helpful for treating arthritis as it reduces pain, swelling, stiffness and improves mobility. You can consult a physical therapist that can help treat, restore affected joints and prevent you from conditions that will limit your body's ability to move and function properly such as arthritis. 
  • Surgery is the last resort for osteoarthritis where doctors suggest to conduct surgical procedures to patients who have severe cases of osteoarthritis. The type of surgery also depends on the joints and areas affected. Some of the surgeries that can be done are total joint replacement, arthrodesis, osteotomy, joint fusion and others. 

    References:

    MedicalNewsToday
    Move Forward
    Mayo Clinic
    Medscape
    Healthline
    Dr. Axe

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