What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting millions of North Americans. It generally affects those over 40 years of age and is often one sided, preferring knees, hips and thumbs.
Over time, the cartilage that normally supports and cushions joint motion begins to wear down. The cartilage itself does not have pain receptors, but boy oh boy, when bone rubs on bone, this can be incredibly uncomfortable. Osteoarthritis is not an acute injury. The chondrocytes, cartilage cells, are very sensitive and are constantly adapting to changes in the mechanical, inflammatory and the metabolic environment of the joint which then triggers alterations to its matrix[i]. Supportive tissues are affected as the shape and structure of the joint changes. As the disease progresses, so does the level of discomfort and people naturally slow down their activity levels. Although it is pain that drives people into my office, it is often their mental state that we end up treating as well. Losing your independence or having to give up a sport or activity you love can play a toll on your mental health and happiness.
Environmental causes of Osteoarthritis are often multi-factoral. The following all have potential to contribute to joint damage:
- occupations that require repeated motions
- physical activity
- strength of the quadriceps muscle(s)
- traumatic injury to the joint
- sex hormones
- bone density
- aging and changes to cellular metabolism alter our internal environment[ii]
What are the symptoms of Osteoarthritis?
- Pain that occurs with activity. As the wear and tear on the joint advances, the pain increases and can also occur with rest.
- The pain is deep and aching with a gradual onset.
- Short-lived stiffness after inactivity.
- Joint instability – buckling or giving way.
- Patients may also complain of reduced function, such as reduced movement, deformity, swelling and crepitus.
- When the pain becomes persistent, pain-related psychological distress begins[iii].
How is Osteoarthritis diagnosed?
Clinical symptoms (listed above) are the leading standard for ruling in Osteoarthritis. X-rays are not a definitive diagnosis but can be used to rule out other joint diseases and can identify the presence of joint deterioration[iv].
YOUR Natural Treatment options for Osteoarthritis
These are just a few elements in nature that can improve your quality of life.
Improve your Collagen Count
Sip on bone broth
Or using this mineral rich food as a base to soups and stews can improve your collagen count. Cartilage is made up of collagen and other substances that make connective tissue both flexible and strong[v]. Collagen supplements are all the rage now for both joint support and anti-aging. Just be aware that collagen depletes you of tryptophan so if you are prone to anxiety and depression this may not be the treatment for you. You can discuss what options are best for YOU with your Naturopathic Doctor.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Reduces the stress on your joints both from a physical mechanics standpoint as well as an internal metabolic state. Increased adipose tissue can influence your hormones and encourage inflammatory states. At the Integrative Health Institute, we offer Bio Impedance Testing to monitor fat mass ratios.
Make the Switch and Choose REAL fat.
Swap high fat junk food for fruit and natural sugars like honey while adding in fat that your body loves – olives, avocados, chia. This will not only help make the shift in body composition but in overall health. Omega 3’s, particularly EPA, may help to stop the destruction of joint structure[vi].
Reduce your joint burden
Switch to an activity that has less impact such as swimming or cycling. Or focus on the opposite end of your body. For example, if it is your knees that hurt, hit the gym with an upper body focused work out instead of legs and squats.
A study conducted by Manyanga et al, found the use of acupuncture to be associated with significant reductions in pain intensity, improvement in functional mobility and quality of life in patients with Osteoarthritis[vii].
Choose supplements that will support your tissue.
Ask your ND if any of the following supplements are appropriate for YOU and YOUR Pain Management Program.
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin. A 2014 study noted improvements in patient reported pain as well as a reduction in acetaminophen consumption after a 16 week trial[viii]. People with shellfish allergies cannot take these supplements.
- Supplementing Ginger has been found to reduce pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip[ix].
- Turmeric is found in many anti-inflammatory and joint complexes. One study showed that this in combination with Boswellia was found to be more successful than celecoxib (a common arthritis medication) in knee osteoarthritis[x].
NSAIDS such as Advil and Naproxen are a common treatment for Osteoarthritis. Stay tuned for next months blog on the use of pain medication such as NSAID’s and YOUR health.
If your joints are aching, see your Naturopathic Doctor for support. Dr. Tanner is accepting new patients Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays at the Integrative Health Institute.
The information provided is for informative purposes and is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
[vi] Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2012 May;32(191):329-34.
[vii] Manyanga T, Froese M, Zarychanski R, Abou-Setta A, Friesen C, Tennenhouse M, Shay B. Pain management with acupuncture in osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
[viii] Shinjo SK, Silva JM, Peron CR, Rocha FA. Combined glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, once or three times daily, provides clinically relevant analgesia in knee osteoarthritis. Clinical Rheumatol. 2015; 34(8): 1455-62.
[ix] J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jun; 18(6):583-8.
[x] Mol Med Rep. 2013 Nov;8(5):1542-8
Dr. Jennifer Tanner, has a broad, evidence based practice with a focus on sports and performance based medicine. Being a marathon runner and having been a competitive equestrian, an active lifestyle is important. Dr. Tanner uses a variety of tools including Acupuncture and Clinical Nutrition, putting an emphasis on “food as medicine” and addressing the root causes of inflammation . In conjunction with the Integrative Health team, Dr. Tanner is thrilled to help people achieve an optimal state of health and pursue their performance based health goals!