Arthritis, for those of you who are not familiar with either the condition or the term, refers to inflammation of the joints. It is a term used for no fewer than two hundred diseases and conditions that affect the joints as well as the surrounding tissue of the joint and other connective tissues found in body.

Some of the more common conditions include:

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It is a joint disease caused by the inflammation of healthy cartilage. In OA, cartilage breaks down and wears away. As a result, the bones rub together causing pain, swelling and stiffness.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an auto immune disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thin membrane that lines the joints. It causes chronic inflammation that leads to pain, swelling and stiffness.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterised by pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. While little is known as to its causes, there is evidence that people with the condition may be more sensitive to pain as there seems to be something wrong with the body’s usual pain perception processes.

Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when there is a buildup of too much uric acid in the body. This acid causes crystals to form in the joints, which results in the joints becoming inflamed and painful.

Osteoarthritis is by far the most common form of arthritis. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Joint pain, which is often deep, aching pain that worsens with movements and improves when rested.
  • Stiffness in the morning or after sitting or lying down for more than 15 minutes.
  • Joint swelling.
  • Joints are warm to the touch.
  • Limited range of movement.
  • Growth of bony knobs near the joints.

What are the main causes of Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is associated with aging, metabolic conditions, genetics, chemicals and mechanical factors in the body. It has a number of risk factors that should be taken into account:

  • Being older than 54
  • If Osteoarthritis runs in the family
  • Being overweight
  • If you have suffered an injury to a joint
  • History of inflammatory joint disease
  • Repetitive stress joint use
  • The deposits of uric acid crystals in the joints
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Lyme disease – a bacteria carried by certain ticks.

Some individuals are naturally more prone to arthritis as a direct result of their genetic makeup. If this is the case they will be more vulnerable when faced with other external factors including injury, infection, smoking as well as physically demanding occupations or sport. Diet may also play a part in arthritis as some foods have inflammatory effects which may intensify the condition. However, diet alone is very unlikely to be the cause of arthritis.

Treatments used for Osteoarthritis:

While researchers are working on ways to re-grow cartilage, the current goal of healthcare professionals is to treat Osteoarthritis by relieving symptoms and improving mobility and flexibility of the joint, maintaining a healthy weight and getting adequate exercise. It has been found that a combination of conventional treatments, complementary alternative medicines and lifestyle changes are the most affective.

  • Pain, Anti-inflammatory and Cortisone medications. These are used to relieve pain symptoms.
  • Complementary, Alternative Supplements & Herbs.
  • Glucosamine/Chondroitin is used to reduce pain and inflammation, improves joint function and slows the progression of Osteoarthritis (OA).
  • Omega – 3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation in the joints. Please note that high doses of Omega-3 increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you are taking blood thinners.
  • SAM-e-acts as an analgesic (pain reliever) and has anti-inflammatory properties. It may stimulate cartilage growth and also affects neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which reduce pain perception. Two studies have shown that it relieves OA symptoms as effectively as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with fewer side effects and a prolonged benefit.
  • Devil’s Claw is used to relieve pain and inflammation and may help lower uric acid levels in people with gout. It has been known to affect blood pressure and heart rate, so people with heart conditions should seek advice from their medical practitioner.
  • Curcumin can be used for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation in the body.

As with all medications and supplements, you should consult your medical practitioner, pharmacist or nutritionist to establish what may be best suited for your condition.

Lifestyle changes may also improve the symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

Maintaining a healthy weight will make a difference as carrying extra kilos impact negatively on joints, especially the knee and hip joints. Losing weight is the most positive thing that patients can do to reduce arthritic pain. As the kilos fall off, patients will automatically have far less stress on the joints and this will lower the general workload on the joints.

Another change is stepping up your fibre intake on a daily basis. Add fresh fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains to your diet, reduce the intake of carbs and incorrect fats and you will soon see a positive change.

Start exercising. Although it may be hard to exercise when you are in pain, regular exercise helps improve the symptoms of Osteoarthritis. The reason for this is that it allows for the strengthening of muscles which in turn allow for better support of your joints. Stretching also assists in overall movement. Regular low impact and supervised exercise is a necessary part of your arthritis management.

Other treatments like acupuncture, chiropractic and physiotherapy have all been shown to help in the pain management of Osteoarthritis.