Learn more about joint health on world arthritis day

Odds are we seldom think about our joints. Most of us are likely to be more concerned about our risk of heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Many of us don’t think about arthritis until we start to feel those first aches and pains.

World Arthritis day falls on October 12, 2015, and this year’s theme is “It’s in your hands. Take action today!” But in order to really take charge of our joint health, we first need to know what arthritis is.

First observed in 1996, World Arthritis Day serves as a focus for organisations and individuals to work toward increasing awareness of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions worldwide.

Thousands of arthritis sufferers around the world are able to live life to the fullest because of the positive actions they have taken.

In December 2012, a study on the global burden of disease and the worldwide impact of all diseases and risk factors found musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and back pain affect more than 1.7 billion people worldwide.

That’s how common arthritis is! Read on to know more about arthritis and what we can do to help our joints cope with this potentially debilitating condition.

Arthritis defined

Arthritis literally means inflammation within the joint, but inflammation may also affect the tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint. Arthritis is very common, but is not well understood.

Arthritis-related problems include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joint cartilage (the tissue that covers the ends of bones, enabling them to move against each another) and surrounding structures.

This can result in joint weakness, instability and deformities that can interfere with the most basic daily tasks such as walking, driving a car and preparing food.

Actually, “arthritis” is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions.

Common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, ankylosing spondylitis and juvenile arthritis.

The most common is osteoarthritis. Hence, this article will focus specifically on osteoarthritis.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) can be caused by ageing joints, injury and obesity. It is a condition that affects your joints. The surfaces within your joints become damaged so the joint doesn’t move as smoothly as it should.

This condition is sometimes called arthrosis or osteoarthrosis. The older term used is degenerative joint disease, or wear and tear. OA symptoms include joint pain and stiffness.

When a joint develops osteoarthritis, some of the cartilage covering the ends of the bones gradually roughen and thin, and the bone underneath thickens. All the tissues within the joint become more active than normal – as if your body is trying to repair the damage.

The synovium (the inner layer of the joint capsule which produces synovial fluid) may thicken and make extra fluid. This causes the joint to swell.

The capsule and ligaments (tough bands that hold the joint together) slowly thicken and contract.

The bone at the edge of the joint grows outwards, forming bony spurs called osteophytes.

Sometimes, the body’s attempts at repair are quite good, and the changes inside the joint won’t cause pain or problems. But in severe osteoarthritis, the cartilage can become so thin that it doesn’t cover the ends of the bones.

The bones then rub against each other and start to wear away. The loss of cartilage, the wearing of bone and the bony spurs can change the shape of the joint, forcing the bones out of their normal position.

Pain, pain go away

Cartilage is the part of the joint that cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement of joints.

The cartilage in the joint plays an important role because it helps avoid joint friction, allowing the joints to move smoothly.

Conventionally, painkillers are prescribed to dull the pain associated with osteoarthritis. This is only a temporary relief and in the long run, it is far more vital to deliver ongoing essential nutritional support to the body to help rebuild the worn-out cartilage.

Some good supporting joint health supplements include glucosamine, chondroitin and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).

Glucosamine and chondroitin

Glucosamine exists naturally in cartilage, and functions to repair and stimulate new cartilage regrowth by stimulating the production of collagen and glycoaminoglycans (GAGs), the building blocks of cartilage.

However, the amount of glucosamine produced in the body diminishes with age.

Chondroitin is a natural compound that is found in the joint cartilage. It provides shock absorption and promotes cartilage elasticity. This GAG, found in abundance in the articular cartilage, lubricates the joint by acting like a water magnet to attract fluid into the connective tissues.

MSM – an excellent companion

MSM is a natural form of sulphur found in living tissues. It delivers sulphur to the body in a useable way to help strengthen join connective tissues.

MSM reduces discomfort and pain arising from osteoarthritis.

Many developed nations across the globe, such as the US, UK, Europe and Australia, regularly observe very positive results in the treatment of osteoarthritis when oral MSM supplement is added to glucosamine and chondroitin nutritional therapy.

Supplemental MSM helps to support healthy joints and connective tissues such as tendons, cartilage, ligaments and muscle. Studies have also found that MSM helps to reduce stiffness and swelling, thus reducing pain and improving flexibility.

So, if you are currently taking only glucosamine and chondroitin, you may be missing out on the synergistic benefits of MSM.

The Arthritis Foundation of America recommends starting with a low dosage of 500mg twice a day, and increasing gradually to 1,000mg twice a day. After starting MSM, allow a reasonable amount of time to notice any benefits.

There are a sea of joint supplements out there in the market, so how does one choose a glucosamine plus chondroitin supplement for your aching joints?

There was a recent consumer satisfaction survey conducted with 200 over Malaysians who were taking a clinically-tested glucosamine plus chondroitin where 98.2% of the users agreed that the supplement relieved their joint pains effectively; and also improved their flexibility and mobility.

The users did not take any painkillers or drugs for treatment when they were taking this supplement, yet they felt the improvement of their joint health. These results are exciting because they could feel the benefits from taking the supplement in as early as four months.