Osteoarthritis: Is it a Degenerative Joint Disease?

Author: Simon & Deb   Date Posted:28 December 2017 

 Osteoarthritis: Is it a Degenerative Joint Disease?

What is Osteoarthritis?

Chronic Disease   Joint destruction   Degenerative  Joint Failure   Incurable are all descriptions that I have stumbled across in my readings of Osteoarthritis.  Intense choice of words for what many consider an incurable condition.  But thoughts on Osteoarthritis are changing and according to some lead specialists in the field, many long-held misconceptions about Osteoarthritis can be put to bed.
Osteoarthrits (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a painful condition, sometimes referred to as a disability, that affects 1 in 10 Australians. Osteoarthritis mostly affects the hands, ankle, feet and the weight-bearing joints of the spine, hips and knees. It is typical in people over 50 years of age but can also affect younger people including teenagers.  Women are more affected than men.  

Is Osteoarthritis a Degenerative Joint Disease?

Osteoarthritis is principally described as a degenerative joint disease, with cartilage that cushions the end of bones being worn away by force.  This school of thought is now considered wrong (though tell google that!) with OA not just affecting cartilage but rather the entire joint structure including the synovial membrane, ligaments, bone and muscles. Inflammation is also involved, unlike previously thought, with some evidence expressing it may even be the precursor for the condition.  But we won’t get into too much technicality here!  The main take away message is one of positivity – that, according to David Hunter, Professor of Rheumatology from the University of Sydney, “every joint has the capacity for repair”
Every Joint has the Capacity for Repair
Far from being solely a wear and tear disease, OA is an interaction of a variety of factors and causes that make this condition a very complex and equally personal one.  A treatment plan needs to be individualised based on many personal factors.  There are, however, some recommendations that have the potential to help most people with OA maximise the opportunity to improve joint function.
Treatment for Osteoarthritis
Exercise in both prevention and management. Exercise is good for everyone with OA regardless of age or pain level.  Regular exercise enhances joint mobility and strength. Hobbies, such as gardening (which can be a real workout) is exercise too! 
Recreational running is considered to be helpful for OA and even plays a role in OA prevention but only when a level of fitness is attained to avoid high pressure on joints.  
Helpful strengthening and aerobic exercises:  Cycling, swimming, walking. Tai Chi is good for flexibility and improving range of movement. 
The more active you remain, the better your joints are
Weight loss: Being overweight puts a lot of pressure on weight-bearing joints.  Overweight people have nearly 4x the risk of developing OA compared to normal weight. Just loosing a few kilos can help with OA. 
Most people experience a 50% improvement after losing 5% of their body weight
Easy Natural Pain Relief
Hot and cold packs can help with stiffness and spasms. Cold pack is better if there is inflammation.  
Capsaicin Creams (derived from chilli peppers) If you can, nature’s way is the way to go!  Oral analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications may provide some temporary pain relief but come with potential risks including ulcers in the gut.  Topical creams have been shown to be just as effective without the complications.  Capsaicin derived creams help dull pain signals sent to the brain from inflamed tissue. Capsaicin has been the topic of many research studies with most concluding its positive effects on pain. If interested, check out Percutane, a capsaicin cream combined with the herbal benefits of burdock, aloe vera and arnica.
Diet: There is some evidence that diet or foods have a more positive effect on OA, such as a Mediterranean diet rich in Omega 3’s or selecting individual foods known for their anti-inflammatory properties, such as ginger, broccoli and foods high in vitamin C.
Exercise and weight control are the top priorities to get under control.  David Hunter expresses the view that the more sedentary we are, the greater the risk we have of developing OA.  
I joined my first cycle session class at the gym last night. I was told to hold off for awhile until an ideal level of fitness was attained due to its gruelling nature. It was ridiculously hard and I should have listened.  But what amazed me was the predominant age group, consisting mostly of people over 60.  I had a lady well into her 70’s next to me who while cranking some mountain hills up from her seat, I remained slumped in mine easing off pedal resistance to recover from the last ascent.  It was humbling and inspiring and proof of how resilient joints can be.