Osteoarthritis is a degenerative arthritic condition which is caused by the breakdown or wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions the joints.
While the medical community is not 100% sure as to the causes of osteoarthritis, they do know factors that are likely to increase the probability of being diagnosed with the condition. Factors such as being overweight, aging, injury, genetic defect, joint stress, wear and tear all contribute to the occurrence of osteoarthritis.
Unfortunately, it is a degenerative disease that, as of this writing (December 2011), is not curable and is treated symptomatically. The ultimate ‘cure’ is replacement of the affected joint, such as hip or knee replacement surgery.
Take Control of the Diagnosis
Individuals diagnosed with osteoarthritis need not throw their hands up in despair. Although the diagnosis is serious, it doesn’t mean that folks with osteoarthritis should give up and give in to the condition. There are things one can do to reduce the pain and improve one’s quality of life. In addition to following the regimen prescribed by a qualified rheumatologist (specialist in osteoarthritis), affected individuals should be proactive in treating their osteoarthritis pain and slowing down the degeneration process.
Weight and Osteoarthritis
One quick and inexpensive way to help reduce the pain and slow down the degenerative process is to improve one’s diet and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight not only increases the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis, but the extra weight adds unnecessary pressure on the already stressed joint.
According to The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center website every additional pound of weight gain adds 3 to 6 pounds of pressure to the knees. Therefore, a weight loss of only 10 pounds translates to alleviating 30 to 60 pounds of pressure. The hips will similarly benefit from weight loss.
Regular Chiropractic Care
If the abnormal wear and tear is caused by an improperly aligned spine (which translates to an abnormal range of joint motion), a chiropractor can correct the offending subluxation. A properly aligned spine can help to improve mobility and slow down additional joint wear and tear.
Alleviating Osteoarthritis Pain
Over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are popular for stopping the associated osteoarthritic pain. However, there is a risk of unpleasant side effects to the gastrointestinal system such as stomach upset, bleeding and ulcers. Additionally, as the osteoarthritic condition progresses and the pain increases, so will the NSAID dosage increase to keep up with the level of pain.
For a more natural solution, studies have shown that the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin help to alleviate moderate to severe pain associated with osteoarthritis. It is less effective for mild osteoarthritic pain. One caveat, however, is that glucosamine is manufactured from an ingredient found in the shells of crustaceans such as shrimp, crab and lobster and therefore is not recommended for individuals with seafood allergies. Individuals with seafood allergies should look for the synthetic form of glucosamine.
Another less commonly used remedy for pain is vitamin C. Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties and can help alleviate swelling and associated pain. Additionally, vitamin C is an integral ingredient in the formation of collagen. Collagen is an essential building block for healthy cartilage and tendons. Unhealthy collagen often leads to conditions such as slipped discs and (you guessed it), osteoarthritis.
Exercising with Osteoarthritis
Exercise helps to improve mobility and strengthen muscles surrounding the affected areas. Walking, swimming and biking in addition to strength training accompanied by proper stretching help to improve flexibility and range of motion in the joints. It is wise, however, seek medical advice before engaging in an exercise routine.