According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 27 million Americans, approximately one third of adults over age 65, may suffer from osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a degenerative joint condition marked by inflammation, pain, swelling, loss of motion, and frequent morning joint stiffness. OA occurs largely in the knees, hips, spine, and the small joints of the fingers. This common form of arthritis is often referred to as “wear and tear” or degenerative arthritis, as the cartilage that cushions the joint erodes, often resulting in painful bone-on-bone friction. While OA can develop as a direct result of an earlier, traumatic joint injury, as well as age-related gradual wear and tear, investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine concluded that osteoarthritis may also be driven by low-grade inflammatory processes.
When OA develops in the hand, a gradual thinning of the cartilage, which normally cushions the finger joints, occurs and eventually leads to bone on bone contact and bone loss. All joint tissues become highly active, as the body attempts to repair any damage. The body reacts to this bone loss, by forming firm, knobby, often times painful bone spurs on the finger joints. Known as Heberden’s nodes when they form on the sides of the joints closest to the fingertips, or Bouchard’s nodes when they form on mid-finger joints, these spurs are a common clinical sign of OA. The loss of cartilage and the erosion of bone, as well as the growth of bony spurs, can force bones out of position, and many times results in deformity and limited range of motion. However, once nodes are fully formed, pain and tenderness often improves.
Factors that increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis include:
- Age – OA is more common in older adults, often appearing in both males and females once they reach their late 40’s.
- Gender – When adults reach their mid-fifties, OA tends to be more common and more severe in women. Joints that are particularly affected include the knees and hands.
- Obesity – Carrying too much weight increases the chances of developing OA in the knee joints, which tends to worsen over time.
- Joint injury – A major joint injury, joint surgery and long term repetitive or physically demanding stress on a joint can increase the risk of developing OA later in life.
- Genetics – OA tends to run in families with genetic joint abnormalities who tend to have an earlier onset and more severe symptoms. Studies suggest that women whose mothers developed Heberden’s nodes are genetically predisposed to developing nodes themselves when they have a family history of hand osteoarthritis.
As a chronic illness, there is currently no cure or treatment that can stop the progression of OA, but symptoms can be managed. Physical activity is most beneficial in reducing pain and helping to maintain a healthy weight. Strengthening activities can help improve muscle strength around OA-affected joints, which helps to ease pain. Range of motion exercises can help to relieve stiffness and improve flexibility. Physical and occupational therapy or gentle stretching may also help with flexibility and pain management. Over the counter or prescription pain medications can help to relieve inflammation and ease pain. Dietary changes can help to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with OA. Avoid refined cooking oils, processed white foods and added sugars that increase inflammation. Strive for a well-rounded healthy diet that includes anti-inflammatory omega-3 rich foods and spices, as well as antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, which may help to reduce inflammation-related tissue damage. Be sure to hydrate sufficiently to keep joints lubricated and support overall bodily functions.
Well-designed clinical trials have shown science backed supplements to be effective in the management of OA:
Hyaluronic Acid – Hyaluronic acid is present in all connective tissues and is especially concentrated in moving joints. As a major component of cartilage and synovial fluid that surround joints, hyaluronic acid is responsible for retaining moisture that lubricates and protects the cartilage. As we age hyaluronic acid levels fall. In addition to supporting healthy skin, one of the most well-researched benefits of hyaluronic acid is an ability to relieve aching joints.
Spices – Turmeric and ginger contain natural anti-inflammatory and pain relieving compounds. Applied topically, capsaicin provides pain relief and helps to temporarily reduce bodily chemicals that contribute to inflammation.
MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) – This organic sulfur compound, found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and grains, is an important building block for healthy bones and joints. Evidence shows that MSM may have a moderate effect in improving joint pain and swelling and may improve general functional wellbeing in those with OA.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – EPA and DHA essential fatty acids found in cold water fish block powerful inflammatory cytokines and provide anti-inflammatory compounds that protect against inflammatory conditions, including arthritis, heart disease and high blood pressure. According to the Arthritis Foundation, extensively studied omega-3’s significantly decrease joint tenderness and stiffness.
SAM-e – A naturally occurring compound found in most bodily tissues and fluids, SAM-e provides support for multiple processes. Studies suggest that SAM-e acts as an analgesic and contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help to relieve the pain associated with OA.
Professional Supplement Center carries these and other high quality products to help relieve inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis:
Hyaluronic Acid by Pure Encapsulations – One capsule provides 70 mg of hyaluronic acid in support of healthy lubrication, shock absorption and overall joint function. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO formulation.
Advanced Bio-Curcumin® with Ginger & Turmerones by Life Extension – 15% Off This advanced formula contains highly absorbable curcumin extract along with compounds that complement curcumin health benefits.
MSM Sulfur™ by Jarrow Formulas® – Found in high concentrations in connective tissues, the product supplies 1000 mg of MSM per capsule in support of strengthening joint and skin structure. Gluten, soy and dairy free formulation.
SAMe 200 mg by Source Naturals – 40% Off This stable, bioavailable form of SAM-e is formulated to support joint comfort, function and mobility. Gluten, soy and dairy free, vegetarian formulation.
Eskimo® PurEFA 1000 mg by Integrative Therapeutics – This product supplies EPA and DHA omega-3 essential fatty acids in support of healthy heart, brain, joint and skin health. Gluten and dairy free formulation.
Osteoarthritis results from inflammatory process, not just wear and tear, study suggests. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2011/11/osteoarthritis-results-from-inflammatory-process-not-just-wear-and-tear-study-suggests.html
What is osteoarthritis? http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/osteoarthritis/what-is-osteoarthritis.aspx
What is osteoarthritis? http://arthritis.com/osteoarthritis_symptoms
What Are Heberden’s Nodes? Symptoms and Significance. https://www.verywell.com/what-are-heberdens-nodes-2552023
9 Supplements for Arthritis. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/supplements-herbs/9-supplements-arthritis.php
Fish Oil. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/supplements-herbs/guide/fish-oil.php
Osteoarthritis & Joint Pain Relief. http://www.msmguide.com/jointpain/osteoarthritis-treatment/