The facts About Osteoarthritis

Body Health Blog

As Vancouver's Sports Chiropractor, Armitage & Associates is committed to helping you maximize your performance potential. These articles are provided to help you understand muscle and joint behavior, prevent injury, and aid recover from common activity-related injuries.


The facts About Osteoarthritis

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage, which is the smooth material at the end of the bone that acts as a shock absorber and allows joints to move in a smooth manner. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage breaks down and wears away. The body also lays down extra bone in the form of bone spurs along the edge of the joint. Small pieces of bone or cartilage can break off and become stuck in the joint causing it to lock. This can lead to inflammation and pain in and around the joint structures.

Is this something inevitable or is there something we can do to maintain the function of the joints and even a longer period of active mobility in our lives?

  • After the age of 40, our level of glucosamine sulfate production decreases.
  • This will result in cartilage erosion, narrowed joint space, with pain, inflammation, stiffness and deformity.
  • The body makes its own glucosamine — it actually makes all we need up until the age of about 45.
  • Glucosamine is responsible for maintaining joint cartilage to provide shock absorption and maintains fluidity within the joint

Osteoarthritis and Sports

In the past, there has been much debate among sports medicine experts about sporting activities that increase the risk of developing, or worsen the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Research has shown that individuals of all ages can tolerate moderate amounts of exercise without adverse consequences or accelerated development of osteoarthritis. However, extreme participation in high impact sports, especially with years of play at an elite level, can increase the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis. Sports that subject the body to repetitive high impact and torsional loading, such as soccer and football, increase the risk of cartilage degeneration and early arthritic changes.

Other factors that may increase the chances of developing osteoarthritis include:

    • abnormal joint shape or alignment
    • joint instability
    • muscle weakness or imbalance
    • excessive weight
    • excessive training
    • previous injury or surgery to a joint
    • age of fifty or over

So what can athletes and ex-athletes do?

Maintain an active lifestyle. Aerobic exercise, strength training, range of motion exercises and fitness walking are excellent choices. Swimming or pool running is a great choice for osteoarthritic patients as it places minimal stress on the joints. Pilates and yoga classes increase core stability as well as range of motion and flexibility. Correct biomechanical deficiencies such as over-pronation or spinal and pelvic misalignments. Obtain a functional assessment from a qualified sports chiropractor and/or physiotherapist.

Nutritional therapies that have been useful are glucosamine sulfate, omega 3 supplements and oils (from nuts, seeds and cold water fish), vitamin C for collagen formation, sulphur containing amino acids (from some vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and dairy products) for joint cartilage health, bioflavinoid and antioxidants (from fruits and vegetables, selenium and vitamin E) for their anti-inflammatory effects, improved circulation and protection against free radicals.

The current research status of glucosamine sulfate supports its use as a safe and effective biochemical intervention in the treatment of osteoarthritis. It should be utilized to complement other natural therapies (e.g. manipulation, mobilization, soft tissue therapies, acupuncture electro-modalities), exercise and other evidence-based dietary and supplementation measures, as part of the holistic management of osteoarthritic cases.

There is also encouraging evidence to support its use as a natural agent that may be useful in the management of inflammatory bowel diseases and possibly as an intervention to prevent age-related biochemical changes associated with the development of osteoarthritis and other degenerative conditions.

Glucosamine dosing:

      • Anti-Aging (after 40): 500‑1000 mg per day
      • OA and other cartilage problems: 1500–2000 mg per day (sports injuries)
      • If on a diuretic drug or 200 lbs or more take 2000/day – diuretic drugs cause more glucosamine to flow right through the body without being absorbed.
      • 10mg/lb in younger persons (these people don’t have to go on it for the rest of their life) they will take it due to some type of injury to repair a cartilage problem.

Once you are pain free, biomechanically functional and can return to activity without pain, you can withdrawal the glucosamine because they are still making their own at a sufficient amount.

Glucosamine Side effects (very rare):

      • GI upset
      • Drowsiness
      • Skin reaction
      • Headache

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agents

The most effective Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agents Include:

      • Curcumin — is the active anti-inflammatory agent found in the spice turmeric.
      • Boswellia
      • White willow bark extract
      • Ginger root extract
      • Bromelain
      • Quercetin

Consult your health care provider before taking any supplements. There may be contraindication and risks associated.

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and T.E.N.S. (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) have been shown effective to reduce osteoarthritic symptoms.

Medications include acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Celebrex is also effective and spares enteric irriatation but has come under scrutiny recently due to studies showing serious side effects associated with long term use.

Surgery. Joint replacement is the most common surgery for osteoarthritis. Success rates for surgery range from 90% after 10 years to 75% after 15 years. As always, surgery should be tried only after the above conservative treatments have been exhausted.

Chiropractic and Osteoarthritis

The goals of chiropractic care when treating OA are to relieve pain and improve range of motion of the joint. Specific treatment depends upon which joint is affected. Joint manipulations and mobilizations have been shown to increase range of motion, restore normal movement of the affected joint, relax muscles, improve joint coordination and reduce pain. Chiropractors can help implement lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and weight loss programs to reduce pain and improve overall quality of life. Soft tissue therapy can provide relief in muscle soreness and pain by relieving muscle tension, reducing adhesion formation and improving circulation with in the muscle. Implementations of specific rehabilitation exercises are important to improve strength, stability and reduce any muscle asymmetries. A combination of conventional treatment and complementary and alternative medicine may be most effective.

Helewa A, Walker JM. Epidemiology and economics of arthritis. In: Walker JM, Helewa A, eds. Physical Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: WB Saunders Co; 1996:9–18.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis prevalence and activity limitations—United States, 1990. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2004:43:433–438.


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