Bone, joint & muscle disorders
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What is osteoarthritis?
Rheumatism is a general term indicating pain and stiffness affecting the muscular system, skeletal system, or both.
- Arthritis is a term covering a number of conditions, which are characterized by damage to the articular cartilage of the joints.
- The specific cause may vary; arthritis may result from viral or bacterial infection, injury to the joint by severe physical stress, metabolic problems, or autoimmune disorders.
- This not only includes osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but also related conditions like polymyalgia rheumatica, reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatic fever, rheumatism, septic arthritis, ankilosis spondilitis, and gout.
The most common form of arthritis is OA.
- Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease in which the articular cartilage lining the bony surfaces inside a joint becomes progressively thinner until the bone beneath the cartilage on both sides of the joint ultimately becomes exposed.
- In the advanced stages of OA, the exposed bones rub against one another, causing pain and severely limited joint movement.
The disease is three times more prevalent in older women than older men, although younger aged males are affected more often than younger females.
How is osteoarthritis treated?
OA is a nonfatal condition, but it is incurable, and there seems to be few effective treatments.
- The common occurrence and clinical effects of OA make it a significant health problem, particularly among older individuals, and warrant methods to prevent or retard the disease.
Although there is no cure for OA, symptoms can generally be well controlled. Treatment of OA focuses on decreasing joint pain and stiffness, increasing the range of motion and functional independency, and decreasing disability.
- Once it has started to develop, OA can usually be kept under control for many years by using anti-inflammatories and analgesics - toxicity causing GI bleeding and ulcers is however a common concern when taking NSAIDs.
- Corticosteroids, which relieve pain and inflammation, may also be injected directly into the affected joints in severe cases.
2. Thermal modalities
- Thermotherapy involves heating of tissue by heat packs, infrared lamps, diathermy, ultrasound, and water bottles.
- Moist heat application (viz hydrotherapy) can reduce joint pain, increase blood flow, and may be useful before exercise.
- Cryotherapy involves applying a cold massage to the injured joint for a period of time by means of an ice pack.
3. Joint protection and footwear
- Strategies may involve using braces, crutches, and splints.
- These increase functional capacity, maintain joint alignment, and decrease the stress placed on the joints.
- Joint protection strategies also involve recommendations for safe and appropriate exercise practices.
The role that physical inactivity can play in the development of OA is well defined. However, rest is important, particularly during the acute stages of the condition. The proper blends of correct exercise and rest for the specific patient are of utmost importance and could be facilitated by a biokineticist.
Correct footwear is also important, and may involve wedged insoles or orthotics, or specially designed shoes. The purpose here is to correct any biomechanical deviations, improve mobility, reduce pain, or compensate for any foot deformity.
4. Surgical procedures
- Surgery can realign or redesign the affected joint - in extreme cases, an artificial one may even replace the defective joint.
- This is mainly in cases involving the hip, knee, elbow, or shoulder joints.
5. Patient education
- Patients need to be educated regarding their condition as well as the different treatment options.
- Coping skills and social support are also important in determining the individual’s perception of disability from the condition.
6. Nutritional therapy
- Anti-inflammatory herbs and foods, as well as collagen building supplements are available for the treatment of OA.
- Research seems to suggest that natural supplements may be beneficial in this regard. These include glucosamine sulphate, essential fatty acids, chondroitin sulphate, MSM, silicon, l-proline, dl-phenylalanine and vitamin E and C, amongst others.
- Calcium and magnesium – needed to prevent bone loss
- Copper – a cofactor for lysyl oxidase, which strengthens connective tissue
- Zinc – needed for bone growth, often deficient in OA patients
- Boron – required for healthy bones
- Silica – supplies silicon, important for rebuilding of the connective tissues and formation of bones
- Manganese – needed for normal bone growth
- Amino acids – to supply protein needed for tissue repair
- Proteolytic enzymes - to protect the joints from free radical damage
- Selenium – powerful antioxidant
- Germanium – antioxidant that also relieves pain
Silicon is essential for the formation of collagen for bones and connective tissue and for calcium absorption in the early stages of bone formation. Calcium, boron, manganese, magnesium, and potassium aid in the efficient utilization of silicon – all made available in a sublingual form for better bio-availability and assimilation.
In summary: regular exercise, physical therapy, nutritional supplements and drugs that reduce inflammation, can slow the progress of the disease, and thus make life more bearable for the OA sufferer.