Osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative condition where the cartilage that protects the end of our bones starts to wear out i.e it is the “wear and tear” of our joints and is most common in adults aged 60 and above and women are 1.8 times more likely to suffer this ailment than men.
However, there is an increasing trend whereby it also affects adults as early as in their 40s. There can be a few explanations as to why someone can have osteoarthritis earlier such as being overweight or obese , or it could be due to hereditary factor – studies have found genetic factors that can affect the body’s production of collagen, which is the protein that makes up cartilage..
Population studies have confirmed that being overweight and obese can increase risk of ‘knee’ osteoarthritis by 2.6 times, coupled with cases of previous knee trauma and old age.
Most studies have commented that there is no cure for osteoarthritis, as it is an age-related disease. However, emerging evidence now challenge against that statement and found that symptoms of early stage osteoarthritis can be well managed, or possibly even reversed, with intensive combination of physical therapy, nutritional intervention and medications.
Usually the aim of treatment is to manage symptoms such as pain, stiffness, swelling and joint immobility and involve:
The first step towards change is awareness, the second step is acceptance. One must understand that osteoarthritis treatments are aimed at trying to manage changes outside and within the joints, and this does not happen instantly and may take some time. Therefore, it is crucial that the person is compliant to treatment plans prescribed by health professionals.
Massage, physical therapy and rehabilitation are common non-drug methods to manage this condition.
Repair of cartilage requires nutrients from surrounding tissues. Chondroprotective nutrients such as chondroitin and glucosamine may help strengthen cartilage and improve joint health. Control inflammation with medications and another group of nutrients that contain anti-inflammatory properties. These nutrients are antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Evidence has not found any food that can directly aggravate osteoarthritis though food high in sugar and fat can lead to unintended weight gain, and this can speed up the progression of osteoarthritis. Research shows that a high fibre diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains can halve the risk of osteoarthritis. Additionally, another study found that people with osteoarthritis who eat dietary fibre as high as 30 grams each day experience 30% less pain.
Aerobic, flexibility and strengthening exercises are found to be one of the most effective non-drug methods to reduce pain and improve movement for people with osteoarthritis. Speak to your doctor or a physiotherapist for exercise regimens tailored to your individual needs.
Osteoarthritis should not be viewed as an impending disability. Good nutritional practices and regular exercises can lower risk of osteoarthritis. This would be the best time to be proactive and seek for help from health professionals such as doctors, pharmacists, dietitians, physiotherapists and chiropractors.