Osteoarthritis is the most common type of joint disease affecting over 20 million individuals in the US alone. This type of arthritis most commonly affects weight bearing joints, including the knees, hips, cervical and lumbosacral spine and feet, but can also effect the small joints of the hand
Why do I feel pain?
Repetetative stress on the joint results in progressive changes in the cartilage that normally sits between the joints. As the cartilage wears away, the space between the bone narrows, until he underlying bone is exposed. Pain eventually results from several related mechanisms:
· The wear on the bones
· Increased stress, fatigue and spasm of muscles which support the joint
What are the risk factors for osteoarthritis?
- Age: wear and tear accumulates over time as well as decreased cartilage vascularization and perfusion which reduce the quality of cartilage over time.
- Obesity: increased weight puts strain on joints.
- Repetitive use (jobs that require heavy labor and bending)
- Crystal deposition—gout and pseudogout
What can I do for pain?
The main stay of treatment is NSAIDS or Acetaminophen for pain control. These are anti-inflammatories like aspirin or Ibuprofen. Some patients benefit from intra-articular steroid injections. However, non-pharmacologic interventions are the cornerstones of osteoarthritis therapy. These therapies include weight loss, physical and occupation therapy as well as ice/heat therapy.
Is there a way to prevent osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, so the key is to protect your joints as much as you can. Below are some things you can do to support joint health and reduce the effects of this debilitating disorder.
1. Increase the anti-inflammatory effects of your diet: Ginger and turmeric are powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients while being very safe ingredients. Capsaicin which is found in very hot peppers is often used in topical ointments or creams for pain relief. Similarly cutting back on sugar can reduce inflammation.
2. Exercise: although arthritis can make movement painful, research actually supports staying active. Exercise like yoga which incorporates physical stretching with deep breathing helps focus on the tendons and ligaments which are key to preserving joint health. However it is important to listen to your body don’t do anything that is truly painful. Building muscle can cause discomfort but it should be a distinct feeling from joint strain
3. Acupuncture: An effective for pain relief, endorsed by the American college of rheumatology. Sixteenth century Chinese doctors believed that illness was due to an imbalance of energy in the body. Many acu-points are near nerves. When stimulated these nerves cause a dull ache or feeling of fullness in the muscle. Just remember, acupuncture takes time to work. Most need 5-10 treatments before experiencing the benefits.