Osteoarthritis, or OA, can best be described as pain and stiffness in the body’s joints as a result of wear and tear. Our joints are protected by cartilage which acts as a buffer, or cushion, to the friction that everyday movement causes. A healthy joint will continue to be protected by this cartilage but with osteoarthritis the cartilage wears thin. This results in bone rubbing against bone which can be very painful. Other characteristics of OA include inflammation of the soft tissue around the body’s joints and, due to the wearing away of cartilage, bony growths developing around the affected joints.
Five causes of osteoarthritis
There are many different causes and risk factors that can facilitate the onset of osteoarthritis, but some are more prevalent than others:
- Genetics can play a part as degeneration of cartilage has been linked to genes.
- Chances of developing OA in the knees and hips are also higher in overweight people.
- Previous injuries to joints can also result in the onset of osteoarthritis later in life which is why OA is common among those who participate in sport.
- A simple lack of activity can be a problem as joints become weak which can lead to flexibility being lost.
- Age is another contributing factor to OA as cartilage naturally wears away with time.
Can glucosamine help?
Glucosamine is an amino sugar that occurs naturally in the body and could help repair joints. The body uses glucosamine to produce the chemicals that help build cartilage, tendons, ligaments and joint fluid. However, our body’s ability to produce glucosamine decreases with age so OA sufferers may wish to consider adding a supplement to their diet.
Scientists at the University of Alberta in Canada researched the effectiveness of glucosamine on 40 women and five men who were given 500mg of glucosamine sulfate or 400mg of ibuprofen for 90 days. The results showed 71% of those in the glucosamine test group experienced at least a 20% decrease in osteoarthritic pain with a significant reduction of pain felt carrying out daily activities.
In a European clinical trial, Spanish scientists randomly assigned 318 patients with 1500mg of glucosamine sulfate, a placebo or acetaminophen. They concluded that glucosamine may be the preferred treatment for knee osteoarthritis due to its effectiveness in pain relief.
How to alleviate the pain of OA
Osteoarthritis is generally understood to be a progressive disease, meaning symptoms will gradually get worse over time. There is no cure for the condition but there are lifestyle changes sufferers can make to help with the pain. Exercise that is easy on the joints, such as swimming, yoga or walking, could help, as could avoiding processed food and getting more omega-3s (healthy fats found in oily fish) into your diet. By actively managing your osteoarthritis with the help of glucosamine you may be able to control symptoms.