The word arthritis means inflammation of the joints, and while there are several kinds of arthritis we will talk about the type of arthritis that happens about 80% of the time. This most common type called ‘osteoarthritis’ strangely enough is misnamed because in osteoarthritis there is no real inflammation of the joint. But, there is ‘degeneration’ of the joint which makes the joint stiff and impairs movement which causes pain without the joint itself actually being inflamed. This article goes over what causes osteoarthritis and some ways to prevent or limit it.
What Causes Arthritis?
If a joint has ever been injured in a car accident, a sports injury, a slip and fall or by simple repetitive over-use, that joint will degenerate unless it gets timely and proper treatment. Most people think aging causes arthritis but it is not the big reason why we get the degeneration/arthritis.
Some of our patients as young as their twenties have suffered arthritis in their spine and some of our much older patients show only minimal signs of the condition. Some people are more likely to develop arthritis if one or both or your parents or grandparents had very knobby finger joints, had a lot of stiffness in their body, and complained of “rheumatism” you may have a higher at risk of osteoarthritis.
But even if you have suffered injuries or if your folks have bad arthritis, there are still some simple measures you can use to keep the old “Mr. Arthur Itis” at bay. Here is what you need to know:
How Do I Know If I Have Osteoarthritis?
The most common symptom? Stiffness, especially stiffness first thing in the morning. If you wake with stiffness somewhere in your body that eases up as you move around – you have early arthritis symptoms.
Symptoms can occur in pretty much any joint. Commonly the stiffness will be somewhere in your spine (neck or low back most frequently). Often the stiffness occurs in knees or feet especially if you stand a lot for work. It can occur in your hands. The joint at the base of the thumb where it hinges with your wrist is usually the first joint in the hand to suffer symptoms.
Painless bony knobs around the knuckles closest to the tips of your fingers or toes, means you have arthritis there, even though it may not hurt yet.
Arthritis may first be found on x-rays taken for a reason other than to look for arthritis. The x-ray view will show a loss of joint space as the first sign. As osteoarthritis progresses, the bones around the joint will get whiter on an x-ray. Sometimes the bones will deform with spurs developing around the end of the bone.
Arthritis hurts when it becomes inflamed. People who need joint replacements are in a lot of pain and can lose the ability to move the arthritic joint at all.
Wet weather, changes in the barometric pressure, and cold dampness can worsen arthritis pains.
How To Avoid Arthritis. What To Do If You Have It.
- Moving your joints keeps them healthy. This is why freeing up stuck joints with Chiropractic care helps prevent arthritis. Research has shown that if you take a perfectly healthy joint, and put a splint on it so it doesn’t move, even for a few days- the joint will become so stiff that return of normal motion can take months.
Consider this- if a joint is stuck for months… it could get arthritis and take a very long time to move normally once proper treatment starts.
Remember, no amount of exercising, twisting, or stretching on your part can unstick a stuck joint. A a chiropractic adjustment frees stuck joints.
So to prevent arthritis, get your spine and all your joints checked regularly. If you can’t do that, be sure to get checked as soon as you note any persistent joint stiffness.
- Exercise: this falls in the keep moving category. Joints that aren’t moved regularly degenerate faster than they otherwise would. So, what is adequate exercise? Walking, moving around your house, any mild to moderate activity will do as far as your joints are concerned. Simply avoid sitting for hours and hours a day in one position. Get up and move around. For people with inflamed joints, swimming can move the joints without the added pressure of weight.
3. What we eat either gives our bodies the nutrients they need to repair daily damage, or it doesn’t.
Foods that are good for joints are ones containing protein (meat, poultry, eggs, fish, beans, milk, cheese). Believe it or not: The old Knox Gelatin still helps some people with joint problems.
However, you need to balance the protein containing foods with vegetables and fruits. Why? Because your body uses nutrients in meats and grains to make pro-inflammatory chemicals. Too many of these, and your arthritis will flare up. Your body uses nutrients in fruits and vegetables to make anti-inflammatory chemicals. Therefore eating a balance of foods with more vegetables and fruits than meats and grains will lessen inflammation in your body.
- There are many supplements that delay or help arthritis. Anybody over 40 has probably seen ads for these supplements. Here are a few of the major ones we use at our office.
Supplements that help arthritis
Well researched, glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate: helps make cartilage. Worn out cartilage equals arthritis. Your body uses this supplement to repair its cartilage. You need 1500 mg per day. The supplement needs to be of a high enough quality that what it says on the label is actually what is in it. Take it for a few months before expecting changes in your symptoms because you are building joints, not stopping a chemical reaction. However, once a joint loses too much cartilage glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate can’t help. Therefore, taking this supplement at the earliest arthritis symptoms is best to keep it at bay.
Niacinamide: this B vitamin is very helpful for painful old joints. However, taking one of the B vitamins by itself, over time will cause imbalances of the other B vitamins. This is why I normally suggest taking a high quality B complex.
MSM: This is an organic sulfur compound found naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, animals and humans that joints like. Connective tissue (cartilage, ligaments, tendons etc) needs sulfur to form. MSM also seems to act as an analgesic by lessening nerve impulses that transmit pain. Many supplements for joints contain MSM.
Anti-inflammation herbs: Boswellia: this herb from India is known to be a good anti-inflammatory. Another anti-inflammation herb is turmeric (the yellow herb in curries). For people with a lot of joint inflammation, we offer an herbal supplement called Kaprex. It works in a different way from the anti-inflammatory Cox 2 inhibitors that have stomach hurting side effects. Kaprex comes from hops and won’t hurt stomachs. Some of our patients have had pretty good relief using this supplement.
So how do you keep arthritis at bay? Move that body, exercise moderately, eat more fruits and vegetables than meats and grains, take supplements that nourish your joints and get regular chiropractic care. You may try different approaches before finding the one that fits your individual needs. But when your efforts pay off, you can enjoy life like you were meant to.