What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. (x) (x) But what’s the difference between osteoarthritis and arthritis? Arthritis refers to your joint inflammation, whereas osteoarthritis refers to the breakdown of your cartilage throughout the body.
Osteoarthritis primarily affects your body’s weight-bearing joints — the spine, knees and hips. Though the condition can affect all joints, it usually won’t affect the toes, fingers and neck unless these parts of your body have sustained an injury or been under excessive stress.
This disease affects over 27 million Americans and many more around the world. As your get older, your chances of developing degenerative joint disease increase. Most people over 60 have minor osteoarthritis or other joint diseases. And though rare, it can also affect people in their mid-20s to early 30s.
There are many forms of osteoarthritis. Generalized osteoarthritis describes the condition if it affects three or more joints. However, primarily generalized osteoarthritis describes the occurrence of stuffiness, pain, and weakness in any joint of your body. And secondary osteoarthritis occurs because of injury rather than age or genetics.
Most chronic degenerative diseases affect your bone or cartilage, of which there are a few main types in the body; the most common is hyaline. Hyaline helps you move, bend and stretch.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
- Tenderness in joints or surrounding areas under applied pressure
- Joint pain during or after regular motions
- Bone spurs (extra bone growths) on or around joints
- Reduction in joint flexibility
- Stiffness in joints after periods of inactivity, such as waking up in the morning
- Feelings or sounds of grating when joints move
Chronic degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis can make regular daily activities increasingly difficult to perform. Persistent bone-on-hip pain, bone-on-bone pain and burning joint pain are all signs of osteoarthritis. Cartilage loss between joints from degenerative joint disease is irreversible, but symptoms are treatable.
Symptoms of Spinal Arthritis
Back pain is typical in most adults, but not all back pain comes from lumbar osteoarthritis. (x) (x) Individuals with spinal arthritis experience the same symptoms individuals with osteoarthritis experience, and the following:
- Stiffness in the neck and back that last for 30 minutes after waking
- Pain in the back or neck that remains a dull throb all-day
- Extreme back pain that disrupts sleep
- Neck and back pain that worsens in the evening
- Swelling in the spinal joints during weather changes
- Tenderness when spinal joints have pressured
- Difficulty bending
- Crepitus of the back or neck
- Symptoms of Floating Cartilage in the Knee
Sometimes cartilage can break away from your knees and float. (x) Called osteochondritis dissecans, the condition usually occurs after injury to the knee. Floating cartilage or bone in the knee can cause extreme pain. Symptoms include the following:
- Knots or bumps on the knee surface
- Inability to straighten or bend the knee
- Periodic locking of the knee
- Swelling in the knee
- Piercing pain in the knee
Other Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Studies have shown that chronic fatigue affects many people who suffer from osteoarthritis. While it may not directly result from the disease, chronic fatigue may result from low quality of life, constant pain or even specific osteoarthritis treatments. (x)
Osteoarthritis flare-ups are also common if you have previously managed the condition. (x) Sudden flare-ups can result from dietary changes, other lifestyle changes or medication. Flare-ups are usually temporary, and the health concern usually normalizes once triggers go away.
Many factors contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis. Obesity, injury, age, heredity and congenital disabilities — birth defects — can cause it. (x) Individuals with rare genetic conditions such as osteogenesis imperfecta have a higher risk of developing degenerative joint disease. (x)
These inherited diseases cause joint cartilage to break down much more quickly than in those without these diseases. For example, if you suffer from scoliosis, you are prone to developing osteoarthritis in the spinal column as the condition progresses. (x)
Obesity harms many aspects of health. It can put extra pressure on the heart, increase blood pressure and increase the risk of diabetes. Besides, extra weight causes joints to wear down much faster than expected. (x) Losing excess weight can prevent degenerative bone disease or slow down its progression.
Osteoarthritis can also develop from repetitive behaviors or injury. Athletes, for example, are more prone to developing the disease in their lower joints, while people who work in manual labor are more prone to developing it in their upper joints. (x) Injuries to certain parts of the body, such as the spine or a broken bone connected to a joint, can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis later down the line.
Is Osteoarthritis Hereditary?
Heredity can play a part in the development of degenerative bone disease. People born with specific ailments such as dysplasia or Paget’s disease may be more prone to developing it. Most people who suffer from this health concern also have older family members with it. (x)
Living with Osteoarthritis
Living with degenerative joint disease isn’t easy for you or anyone. Managing the disease will require lifestyle changes (such as regular physical activity), workload changes and dietary changes; these changes can also slow its progression. (x) There are four main stages of osteoarthritis. The last stage has severe effects on your quality of life. Advanced osteoarthritis may require more aggressive treatment and pain management than the disease’s earlier stages.
Some severe complications that can arise from improperly managing the disease include chondrolysis, osteonecrosis and internal bleeding in the joints. These complications require surgery or other aggressive therapies to manage the discomfort.
Alongside lifestyle changes, reliable support systems are vital to individuals living with the disease’s many frustrating complications. Osteoarthritis and stress aren’t a good mix, and extra stress can cause painful, debilitating flare-ups. Many assistive devices that can help take pressure off affected joints, such as knee braces and walkers are available. These devices will help you manage pain, reduce stress and prevent painful flare-ups.
Remedies and Supplements for Osteoarthritis
Understanding the treatments available for degenerative joint disease will help you choose the best treatment options. Unless your doctor has prescribed it to you, before taking a supplement to treat degenerative joint disease, ask them whether that supplement is right for you. They may also have their dose guideline for you to follow. Some supplements to consider:
- Pure Boswellia Serrata Extract Powder
Boswellia serrata has many health benefits and few side effects. (x) Boswellia serrata extract powder can help treat osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis by alleviating inflammation. It’s also a natural pain reducer and can prevent further cartilage loss. Take only 450 milligrams up to twice daily.
- Pure White Willow Bark Extract Capsules
Studies have shown that methylsulfonylmethane has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. A study proved it reduced pain and physical function impairment. (x) Its sulfur component can help the body produce glucosamine and collagen. For bone health, both are essential, making it an effective treatment for those suffering from osteoarthritis. Take two methylsulfonylmethane capsules up to three times daily.
- Pure D-Glucosamine HCL Powder
Pure D-glucosamine HCL powder shows in clinical research to ease mild joint pain from osteoarthritis. (x) It’s an anti-inflammatory that can also support cartilage health. Take only 1,000 milligrams up to three times daily. Those allergic to shellfish should avoid taking this supplement.
- Cat’s Claw Extract Powder
Recent studies have shown that cat’s claw extract powder is an effective natural alleviant for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis symptoms. (x) The supplement helps boost the immune system while inhibiting inflammatory activity in the body. Take 500 milligrams twice daily.
Before taking supplements to treat degenerative joint disease, be sure to talk to your doctor to determine which supplements are right for you. Follow their dose guidelines. If you’re unable to speak to a doctor about the correct dosage for a particular supplement, follow dose guidelines on the supplement packaging.
- Topical Arnica
Choosing topical arnica gel or ibuprofen may prove fruitful as studies show arnica’s effectiveness on the hands’ joints with osteoarthritis. The application of arnica is not inferior to ibuprofen based on a study of two groups with hand pain. A total of 204 patients, one group, applied arnica on the hands. The other group took ibuprofen. (x)
Arnica Montana is a homeopathic process that treats pain. Arnica taken orally and topically is an effective measure gleaned from several studies. A study using a gel applied twice daily to the knees had a success rate of 76%, and the participants will apply again as needed. (x)
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Other Treatments for Osteoarthritis
Conventional medical treatments include pain relievers such as acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen. Duloxetine also treats chronic pain from osteoarthritis. Doctors sometimes prescribe topical adjuvant therapies to relieve pain and swelling in joint areas. Although these medications can help manage pain, they won’t slow the disease’s progression.
Aside from prescription medications or supplements, other treatments are available to help you manage osteoarthritis. Some treatments include:
- Hot and Cold Compresses
Heating pads and cold compresses are a great way to ease joint swelling and pain.
- Physical Activity or Light Exercise
Physical activity can help combat the progression of osteoarthritis. To add, weekly sessions with a physical or occupational therapist can help you increase your range of motion and learn alternative ways to take the stress off your joints.
- Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation shows it can help reduce pain from osteoarthritis by numbing the nerves in the spinal cord. Physiotherapists perform this therapy, and its effects are temporary. The concept is two-fold. The electricity muddles the standard pain signals, so they can’t register pain in the brain. The second is the electrical stimulation produces organic painkillers identified as endorphins. (x)
- Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic manipulation of your spine may provide relief of pain caused by osteoarthritis so that you can forgo drugs or surgery. A study performed on a 70-year-old woman with osteoarthritis of the hip shows the promise of chiropractic treatment, creating positive results on her body. (x) Another study of a 54-year-old female with osteoarthritis of the knee received chiropractic treatment and nutritional therapy. The results were positive. (x)
- Egoscue Method
Corrective exercises that correct your postural alignment called the Egoscue Method. It’s similar to chiropractic care and physical therapy. Developed and refined in the 1970s, the potential benefits of aligning your body, so it reduces widespread musculoskeletal pain. These exercises target the neuromuscular system to balance and improve your body’s functional movement. Those who practice the exercises feel pain relief and live an active life with no pain. (x)
The Bottom Line
With a sound support system in place and an effective treatment plan, living a healthy, happy life with osteoarthritis is possible — the health concern doesn’t have to cause disability.
Physical exercise and healthy dieting will help you manage the disease much more effectively. Take care to be gentle to your joints since joint injury is much easier with osteoarthritis. Taking supplements such as cat’s claw extract powder can help slow the disease’s progression and ease the pain it causes.
Always remember that osteoarthritis won’t go away; you can only slow its progression and manage symptoms. Taking supplements as directed can help you maintain a healthy, active and relatively painless lifestyle.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.