(osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis,
degenerative joint disease), is a condition in which low-grade inflammation
results in pain in the joints, caused by abnormal wearing of the cartilage that
covers and acts as a cushion inside joints and destruction or decrease of
synovial fluid that lubricates those joints. As the bone surfaces become less
well protected by cartilage, pain is experienced upon weight bearing,
including walking and standing. Due to decreased movement because of the pain,
regional muscles may atrophy, and ligaments may become more lax. Arthritis
is considered an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks itself
Osteoarthritis is the world's most common form of
arthritis. In America alone, OA accounts for 7 million doctor's visits
annually. More than 20 million Americans
suffer from osteoarthritis, with half a million Americans having a total joint
replacement each year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that OA causes more physical limitations than lung disease, heart disease and diabetes mellitus. In
fact, if you are over the age of 65 one in two people are inflicted
with arthritis, with the knee being one of the most common joints
involved. With so many people suffering from this
condition worldwide there has been an extreme amount of interest in
discovering ways to address the painful symptoms of this sometimes
In 2002 research conducted by the Arthritis Foundation
surveyed over five thousand people discovering a whopping fifty-two
percent of those people were unaware they were at risk for arthritis.
Sixty-seven percent were reported as already at risk for the disease,
and worse, fifty-three percent, more than half the total number of
people surveyed, were already found to be exhibiting common symptoms of
The same press release issued by the
Arthritis Foundation stated arthritis is the nations leading cause of
disability, and one out of every six Americans has some form of
arthritis. They also predict that by the year 2020, the odds become one
in five; roughly, 60 million people in the United States will suffer
from arthritis in the future.
Mosby's Medical Encyclopedia lists one of
the principal symptoms in Osteoarthritis as being a deep, painful aching in the
joint, which may be exacerbated by exercise, activity, or
weight-bearing movements. Additionally, a "grating" of the joint may
occur. This may occur during ambulation or other movement, along with
joint stiffness, especially in the morning.The main symptom is chronic pain,
causing loss of mobility and often stiffness. "Pain" is generally
described as a sharp ache, or a burning sensation in the associated muscles and
Osteoarthritis can also cause a crackling
noise (called "crepitus") when the affected joint is moved or
touched, and patients may experience muscle spasm and contractions in the
tendons. Occasionally, the joints may also be filled with fluid.
Joints that ache in cold or humid weather, gait changes, and range-of-motion limitations may also be some
other symptoms. Emotional or occupational stress, poor posture, and obesity can all aggravate the symptoms. Osteoarthritis is also the most common
cause of water on the knee, an accumulation of excess fluid in or around
the knee joint.
Osteoarthritis may eventually lead to impaired functioning of the joint itself, especially weight-bearing joints, like the hips or knees.
Arthritis is one of the most common
chronic diseases in the world. Despite lot of research and effort, generally
speaking, the process of osteoarthritis is irreversible, and typical treatment
consists of medication or other interventions that can reduce the pain of osteoarthritis
and thereby improve the function of the joint. Natural treatment options may
- Weight control. Excess weight puts extra stress on the joints and will increase pain and cause damage.
- Appropriate rest. Most experts agree that rest is most prudent
when a person is having a flare-up.
- Acupuncture. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of
acupuncture for knee osteoarthritis concluded "clinically relevant
benefits, some of which may be due to placebo or expectation
is a technique of inserting and manipulating fine filiform needles into
specific points on the body with the aim of relieving pain and for
Heat can ease inflammation and swelling, and may improve circulation,
which has a healing effect on the local area. Types of heat treatment may include: moist heat, paraffin dips for hands, etc.
- Cryotheraphy. Cryotheraphy (or cryotherapy) is simply the therapeautic use of cold or freezing, used to treat a variety of minor conditions. Cryotherapy involves putting ice on
the area for 5 minutes at a time. This will help reduce the pain. Do
not continue to apply ice if a burning sensation is felt.
- Regular exercise. Exercise needs to be part of the client's daily routine,
just like good nutrition and proper usage of medication. Proper exercise brings nutrients to the joint; helps
protect the joint by improving the stability through increased strength of the
muscles (this ultimately reduces the load on the joint; improves
range of motion, improve bone density, retard bone loss, and will
assist with burning calories that may lead to weight loss that will
decrease the load on the joint. Activities
that place a heavy load on a joint are ill advised. Jogging on hard
surfaces, full squats, overhead presses with heavy weights, biking with
heavy resistance and even walking or water exercise without proper
shoes can increase pain. Exercise should be in the form of walking or swimming, is encouraged.
- Massage therapy. While massage is contraindicated during the
severe phases of osteoarthritis, many studies have found massage therapy beneficial when symptoms allow,
such as when there is no inflammation, or acute pain.Massage offers osteoarthritis sufferers numerous
benefits, including a reduction in muscle tension and increase in blood
flow to the treated areas. Massage can also assist in alleviating pain
associated with OA, by eliciting the parasympathetic response (the
relaxation response) in the body.The American Massage Therapy Association reports that 74% of medical
practitioners feel massage is usually or always effective as a
- Bone Friendly Diet.
Nutritional changes shown to aid in the treatment of osteoarthritis
include decreasing saturated fat and using a low energy diet to decrease
body fat. A low fat vegetarian diet can reduce arthritis symptoms. A macrobiotic
diet has been known to reduce symptoms as well.
have been several studies showing potential benefits of dietary supplements for treating osteoarthritis . Potential treatment
options may include:
Supplemental glucosamine may improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and
delay its progression. The jury is still out as there are studies that
show the benefit, while other studies conclude that glucosamine
hydrochloride is not effective and that the effect of glucosamine
sulfate is uncertain.
- Chondroitin sulfate . Along with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate has
become a widely used dietary supplement for treatment of osteoarthritis.
The Osteoarthritis Research Society International is in support of the
use of chondroitin sulfate for osteoarthritis, however there have been
studies which have found no benefit from chondroitin.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been reported in patients with osteoarthritis,
and supplementation with Vitamin D3 is recommended for pain relief.
- Hydrolyzed collagen (hydrolysate). Hydrolized collage (a gelatin product) may also
prove beneficial in the relief of osteoarthritis symptoms, as
substantiated in a German study by Beuker F. et al. and Seeligmuller et
al. In their 6-month placebo-controlled study of 100 elderly patients,
the verum group showed significant improvement in joint mobility.
- Omega-3 fatty acid,
a vitamin supplement comprised of important oils derived from fish has
shown to benefit bone health. In fact, recent studies have shown that plant-based
omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) contained in such foods as
flaxseed and walnuts may have a protective effect on bone health,
according to a team of Penn State researchers who carried out the first
controlled diet study of these fatty acids.
including Vitamins C and E in both foods and supplements, has shown in
studies to provide pain relief from osteoarthritis.
- Pycnogenol. A new study
to be published in the April 2008 edition (Volume 22, issue No 4) of
the journal of Phytotherapy Research shows Pycnogenol (pic-noj-en-all),
an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine
tree, was shown to reduce all osteoarthritis symptoms by 56 percent.
The study revealed a particularly high efficacy of Pycnogenol for
lowering joint pain by 55 percent. Moreover, patients required
dramatically less standard pain medication (-58 percent), which greatly
improved the gastrointestinal complications resulting from the pain
medication by 63 percent. In
addition to the osteoarthritis results, 76 percent of the patients in
the Pycnogenol group and 79 percent in the placebo group showed visible
ankle and foot edema at inclusion of the study. After the three months, edema
decreased in 79 percent of the Pycnogenol patients and only one percent
in placebo-treated patients. A even larger more detailed study on
osteoarthritis carried out at
the University of Arizona Tucson (published in Nutrition Research) prior
to this study had discovered that Pycnogenol was effective for
improving pain and joint function. After three months in the Pycnogenol
group, there was a reduction of 43 percent in pain, 35 percent in
stiffness, 52 percent in physical function subscales, respectively. The
placebo group showed no significant scores throughout the entire study.
Based on the studies the benefits of Pycnogenol for arthritic joints
are suggested to result predominantly from the anti-inflammatory
potency of Pycnogenol. There are more breakthrough studies on
Pycnogenol and osteoarthritis expected to be published next year
allowing for development of innovative, natural formulas for joint
Boswellia is an herbal
supplement in Ayurvedic medicine also know as Indian frankincense, salai
guggal, and boswellin. The proper botanic label for boswellia is
Boswellia serrata. It is derived from the resin of the bark of the
Boswellia tree. While it grows in other parts of Southeast Asia, it is
found abundantly found in the Indian subcontinent. The condition for
which boaswellia has had the most supporting evidence for a beneficial
effect is arthritis. The most convincing study was published in 2003
(Phytomedicine. 2003 Jan;10(1):3-7) when a research study examined patients with osteoarthritis of the
knee. Half of the patients received daily supplementation with 333 mgs
of Boswellia. The other half received placebo. After the first
intervention, washout was given and then the groups were crossed over
to receive the opposite intervention for eight weeks. All patients
receiving boswellia reported decrease in knee pain, increased knee
flexion and increased walking distance. The frequency of swelling in
the knee joint was decreased. Radiologically there was no change. The
observed differences between drug treated and placebo being
statistically significant, are clinically relevant. The conclusions of
the study were: “Boswellia
serrata extract is recommended in the patients of osteoarthritis of the
knee with possible therapeutic use in other arthritis.” Other studies
have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Diseases
that have been studied where good results have been reported include
rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and
- Ginger (rhizome) extract. Ginger has shown in some studies to improve knee osteoarthritis
- Selenium. Selenium deficiency has been correlated with a
higher risk and severity of osteoarthritis.
- Vitamins B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin).
Both taken in large doses significantly reduced osteoarthritis hand
pain, presumably by reducing systemic inflammation.