What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is an inflammatory joint disorder characterised by the deterioration of both the cartilage and the bone in the joint. Continued breakdown within the joint can lead to abrasion of the articular cartilage, resulting in the functional deterioration of the joint. Eventually, this deformity will lead to pain, stiffness and joint swelling.
OA is the most common form of Arthritis and frequently affects the hips, knees, hands and the spine. As many as 90% of Australians over the age of 40 will show signs of slight deterioration when x-rayed. However, not all of us will display symptoms until much later in life. Most commonly, OA can be localised to one or two joints or generalised to three or more.
Osteoarthritis Signs and Symptoms
- Localised joint pain often described as a deep ache.
- A deep ache that improves with rest and worsens with movement.
- Joint stiffness: usually after a period of rest or first thing in the morning.
- Swelling of the soft tissue around the joint in question.
- The affected joint can feel warm or hot to touch.
- Bony crepitus may occur where the joint can be easily ‘cracked’.
- A limited range of motion may be experienced.
- Bone deformities may occur caused by bony hypertrophy.
- Synovial fluid may begin to build up around the joint causing ‘puffiness’.
Risk Factors for Osteoarthritis
As is with most health conditions, risk factors can be a combination of both genetics and lifestyle. Sometimes cleaning up your diet and your lifestyle can prevent certain genetic factors from activating. If you fall into any of the categories below, just know that you are at higher risk of developing Osteoarthritis. So now is a good time to look at supporting your health and wellbeing in a more holistic way to prevent Osteoarthritis from occurring.
When it comes to Osteoarthritis Prevention is always better than cure.
- A poor diet high in inflammatory foods such as sugar, trans fats and refined carbohydrates.
- A sedentary lifestyle. It’s important to keep your joints moving.
- Obesity can be a huge risk factor. Remember that weight loss can alleviate so much pressure from the joints.
- Bowel toxicity, which relates to having a healthy diet and in turn a healthy gut.
- Thyroid disease or imbalance. Hypothyroidism can cause inflammation in the body.
- Insulin resistance, which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes or Metabolic Syndrome.
- Genetic predisposition.
- Increased age. (Refer to our Ageing Well article).
- A history of inflammatory disease. Managing inflammation is vital.
- Trauma to or near the joint. This can be either acute or chronic.
- Repetitive stressful joint use caused by work or sport.
- Congenital bone and joint disorders.
- Crystalline deposition in joints.
Pharmaceutical and Natural Osteoarthritis Treatments
Osteoarthritis Treatments (Pharmaceutical):
See your friendly Chemist Outlet Pharmacist for advice on the following:
- NSAIDs and Salicylates: are often prescribed for their analgesic effect. They do not provide long-lasting pain relief, though they may transiently reduce pain. Examples may include aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Please note: approximately 30% of peptic ulcer disease cases in the elderly (>65) can be attributed to NSAID use. Although still controversial, there is some evidence that NSAIDs may accelerate the progression of OA because they appear to inhibit cartilage repair.
- Mild Narcotic Analgesics: such as dextropropoxyphene or codeine in combination with paracetamol may also be administered for pain relief.
- Corticosteroids: may be prescribed to control the inflammatory response, via intra-articular injection.
- Hyaluronic Acid: a component of synovial fluid, may restore lubrication to the joints. Intra-articular injections administered once per week effects may last up to 1 year.
Osteoarthritis Treatments (Natural):
Book a consultation with a Naturopath to explore a more natural approach to treatment:
- Vitamins and Minerals: choose chelating vitamins and minerals to maximise absorption and cellular uptake. Choose either tailored formulas for men or women or specific antioxidant protection for those over the age of 40.
- Probiotics: Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG (LGG) is one of the most extensively studied probiotics with proven efficacy. It has been found to be highly effective in suppressing IgE production and stimulating Th1 responses.
- Resveratrol: A powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant formula is designed to protect DNA and mitochondria.
- Fish Oils: are consistently being shown to be of benefit to many chronic illnesses as they reduce inflammation. They specifically support bone health, cardiovascular and neurological health, all associated with the degenerative changes of ageing. Make sure to seek advice when it comes to selecting an appropriate fish oil. Ethically sourced fish oil should be free from all toxic metals. Practitioner grade fish oil is preferable.
- Vitamin K2: is helpful in supporting bone and cardiovascular health. The skeleton undergoes a constant process of remodelling. Vitamin K2 plays an essential role in bone development and maintenance via functioning as a cofactor in calcium metabolism.
- Calcium and Vitamin D: these guys are best buddies. They work together to strengthen and protect your bones. Calcium helps to build and maintain bones, while vitamin D helps your body effectively absorb the calcium needed. See your GP for a Bone Density Scan to assess whether or not you may need these supplements.
Reduce the Risk Factors of Osteoarthritis
The body thrives on movement. The best advice I can give you - is to keep your joints moving. Just like a car needs to be driven, your body constantly needs to move. If your car sits in a shed under a tarp and remains undriven - over time the brakes will cease, the battery will go flat, the oil will solidify, the petrol will turn rancid and as a result - the engine won’t start.
Cars need to be driven to keep everything well-lubricated. Well … so do our bodies. Momentum breathes life into kinetic energy. So, movement is key!
Here are some suggestions to keep your joints purring like a well-oiled machine.
- Exercise: non-traumatic range-of-motion exercises are essential for management of OA. Some examples include yoga, pilates or aqua-aerobics.
- Acupuncture: this is a terrific way to assist with the management of symptoms of OA.
- Adjunctive Soft Tissue Therapy: such as massage, physiotherapy, cranio-sacral therapy and/or Bowen therapy can be very useful.
- Eliminate Inflammatory Foods: such as sugar, saturated fats, refined foods, caffeine and alcohol. Eat whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains,, cold-water fish, nuts, seeds and lean protein.
- Eliminate Food Allergens: See your Naturopath if you feel that you might be allergic to something in your immediate environment. They will recommend the appropriate diet suggestions and may even recommend that some diagnostic testing be carried out.
Osteoarthritis symptoms can be uncomfortable, to say the least! However, with proper diagnosis, care and prevention, you can reduce the number of osteoarthritis treatments you may need.