What Is Arthritis?

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on May 9th, 2013)

Arthritis is an extremely common condition. It affects people young and old everywhere across the world but did you know that there are different kinds of arthritis?

In general, arthritis is a degeneration of the joints in the body for any reason. First, this leads to painful movement and use of the joints. Then it progresses to instability of the joints involved, which causes the body to try to lock down that joint to avoid injury. This last part involves the over growth of bone to fuse the joint.

The most common form of arthritis is called, “Osteoarthritis” and it is the breakdown of cartilage within the joints through various reasons. There are several others which all involve varying degrees of autoimmune disease progression which we will not explore in depth today. These conditions include “Rheumatoid Arthritis” and “Psoriatic Arthritis” among others which are fairly uncommon.

Last week we touched on the idea of nutritional deficiencies leading to arthritis, specifically Vitamin C. Not many other deficiencies will lead to collagen breakdown as protein is the main component of collagen and we would notice that deficiency long before the development of arthritis.

There are many other causes of arthritis such as improper wear and tear of the cartilage through misalignment of the joints, which causes pressures to be applied to the cartilage unevenly. Our posture plays a huge role in this. Cartilage gets its nutrition like a sponge. You need to wring it out to remove the old water (waste products of cartilage cell metabolism) and let it expand again to bring in new water (the nutrients carried from our blood). Movement is how we squeeze and refresh our cartilage, so our sedentary lifestyles in North America actually lead to higher risk of arthritis even though our cartilage is being “used” less. Also, even if we are marathon runners, our joints can sometimes become “stuck” and not move properly. This can be the misalignment of joints we touched on earlier or from muscular spasms that do not allow movement. Whatever the reason, this immobility of the joint decreases our ability to bring nutrients to the cartilage of that joint and increases our risk of degeneration.

There are other things in life that increase the risk of degeneration of a joint such as previous dislocations, direct injury to the joint, or a broken bone that is close to or specifically involves the joint. Our bodies can even attack the cartilage in what is called an “Autoimmune” disease which is the case with Rheumatoid and Psoriatic Arthritis but that’s a story for another time.

In the case of an autoimmune disease medication and supervision by an MD is required but for other forms of arthritis a conservative approach may be tried. Most people with arthritis protect the painful joint but this the absolute opposite of what you want. Movement will help to beat the pain of arthritis as well as bring the nutrients to the remaining cartilage to help keep it healthy and strong. Chiropractic adjustments will help to get those immobile joint moving again and manage the pain of arthritic joints. Hydration is key to maintain lubricated joints and healthy cartilage. All three of these treatments also do wonders for preventing degeneration of the joints in the first place as can improved posture. Acupuncture also is an excellent way to manage the pain of arthritis and in trying to prevent further degeneration.

There is a supplement called Glucosamine which is a natural substance that our bodies are able to make on their own which is the form of glucose (sugar) which the cartilage can use. As a supplement it is delivered to the body in the cartilage friendly form already and so goes directly there but it can still trigger an insulin spike so diabetics should consult their doctor before starting to take glucosamine. The research on glucosamine has had mixed results but the balance is tipping towards the benefit of the supplement and its potential to protect and possibly stimulate the cartilage to grow.

So as you may be able to tell, there is a lot that we can do to help prevent the degeneration of our joints. Arthritis does not need to be as prevalent or as devastating as it currently is in our society. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

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