Arthritis: More than pain in the joints

Arthritis, a bone disorder, is more than what meets pain in your joints

Elderly man walking with a stickA joint is a place where two different bones converge. A joint's basic function is to move our body parts - which are connected by bones.

In simple terms, arthritis relates to inflammation - a fundamental pathological process in response to injury and/or biological stimuli - of one or more joints. Inflammation may also be defined as protective tissue response to injury, or destruction of body cells.

Arthritis is, of course, frequently accompanied by joint pain. There are hundreds of forms of arthritis, though - and, their number is only growing.

The forms range from those related to the oft-used, or misused expression, "wear and tear" of cartilage [for example, osteoarthritis, or OA] to those associated with inflammation due to an overactive immune system [for example, rheumatoid arthritis, or RA]. The many forms of arthritis make up for what is collectively referred to as the most common range of chronic illnesses worldwide.

Needless to say, the many causes for arthritis depend essentially on the form of the disorder. They include injury, which often leads to osteoarthritis; or, abnormal metabolism, which may trigger gout, a metabolic disorder. Other causes may include a genetic predisposition or inheritance, infection, and also unknown factors - example, systemic lupus erythematosus [SLE], an inflammatory connective tissue disease.

Arthritis can not only affect the joints - such as your knees - it can also attack the muscles. Symptoms of the disorder include joint pain and limited movement of the joints. Also, the affected joint, in arthritis, may be inflamed [due to inflammation], swollen, tender and warm to touch. It may also appear crimson in colour.

Beyond pills

There is no medicine that can cure osteoarthritis in toto. What needs to be aimed at is real-time pain relief, and a possible return to activity in the best manner possible.

  • Mild to moderate arthritis pain can often be managed with over-the-counter [OTC] pain relievers and other medications, which are not bereft of serious side-effects
  • Moderate to severe pain may, of course, require stronger medications, which are only available on a doctor's prescription; or, surgery

Rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, is often treated with medication, exercise, and lifestyle changes. There is no curative conventional medication for RA. The objective of treatment is focused to help relieve symptoms and control the disease - in order to help you maintain your lifestyle, reduce joint pain, slow down joint damage, and prevent permanent disability. Many clinicians recommend the use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, because they are said to actually slow or prevent joint destruction. They are best used early in the course of the disease; they are, of course, not without side-effects.

This leads to the big question - if existing drugs and medical procedures don't work, or lead to serious side-effects, is there anything else, which is useful and free of bad effects, the osteoarthritis victim can resort to, for relief?

Nature supplants

Yes, there is! Thank nature for big mercies! This is not all. New research is throwing fresh light on natural remedies and opening up new treatment avenues for relief from arthritic agony. Two of the most prominent, natural arthritis remedies, or supplements, also called nutraceuticals, that natural physicians/therapists recommend the most, have been found to be both useful and safe for osteoarthritis treatment. The remedies are well-researched and have proven very effective in the treatment of OA.

The two are: glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin.

Amino power

Nature has endowed our body to manufacture its own glucosamine, an amino acid - however, in osteoarthritis, our glucosamine supply tends to get depleted, or skewed.

You guessed it right: an extra amount of glucosamine supply would make a world of difference to joint health. The reason is simple. Glucosamine helps make cartilage in joints; it is also needed for the formation of blood vessels, bone, ligaments, nails, skin, synovial fluid, and tendons, aside from mucous secretions of our digestive tract.

Most importantly, glucosamine is fundamentally needed by our body to make chondroitin. Chondroitin, or chondroitin sulphate, to use its technical name, is quite like glucosamine - it is made within the body, and is also an essential component of cartilage and other connective tissues. It belongs to a group of compounds called glycosaminoglycans.

Results of trials and research data on human patients have been consistent - that glucosamine and chondroitin relieve joint pain, improve mobility, reduce swelling in the affected part, and also our dependence on anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs], such as aspirin, which have very unpleasant and dangerous side-effects.

What's more, clinical and patient studies have also shown that glucosamine and chondroitin significantly reduce joint pain and stiffness. This relief, experts suggest, is better than or equal to many conventional drugs that are now in use, and without their dangerous side-effects. There is also evidence that glucosamine maintains the individual's joint space while increasing its function and flexibility.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are both components of normal cartilage; they are available in pharmacies and health food stores, as nutritional, or nutraceutical, supplements, without a prescription. The supplements are well tolerated and safe. And, because the duo stimulates the production of new cartilage components, experts suggest that the two supplements are also capable of helping the body repair damaged cartilage, and provide long-lasting comfort from joint pain.

Speak to your therapist, and find out how the duo can help you beat your arthritic agony. Naturally!

What the Signs Tell

The signs and symptoms of arthritis are numerous. Hence, it is always advisable for one to visit the family doctor - more so, if you have experienced pain, stiffness, or swelling around a joint for more than two or three weeks. Your doctor will review your medical history, elicit symptoms, examine the joints for inflammation and deformity, as well as ask questions and also examine other parts of the body for inflammation, or signs of the disorder.

Your doctor may also order certain blood, urine, joint fluid and/or X-ray tests. A diagnosis is often arrived at based on the pattern of symptoms, the distribution of the inflamed joints, and on the overall pattern of blood and X-ray results. It must, however, be emphasised that you may have to visit your doctor a few times before a complete diagnosis of the illness is made. It may also be said that your doctor may, if required, refer you to a rheumatologist - a doctor with special training in arthritis and related diseases.

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Rajgopal Nidamboor
Rajgopal Nidamboor, a trained physician, is a writer, commentator, and author. In a career spanning 25 years, Nidamboor has published over 2,000 articles, on a variety of subjects, two coffee table books, an E-book, and a primer on therapeutics, aside from an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy.

2 COMMENTS

  1. There is a synergy between glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin, and Omega 3 fatty acids. Take at least 4 Omega 3 fish oil supplements, daily: (certified free of mercury) it is best if consumed with an antioxidant, such as an orange, or its FRESHLY SQUEEZED juice. If vitamin E is added, it should be certified as being 100% from natural sources, or it may be synthetic: avoid it!
    Females may benefit by balancing the DHA, & EPA versions of Omega 3 in fish, or krill oil with ALA flaxseed oil Omega 3, or at least one heaped tablespoonful of ground flaxseed, daily. Vegetarians: Google: “Omega 3; algae; supplies”

    Check out the extract of New Zealand green lipped mussels, at http://healthpost.co.nz I am able to personally recommend them.

    Other things which may help are ginger, and boron.

    Traditional herbal remedies include rosehip, and devil’s claw.

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