Joint pain is a problem that many people face nowadays. Joints and joints are the parts of the body where 2 or more bones connect and are a mechanical part of our musculoskeletal system. A joint can function either stabilizing or participating in body movement. The basic components of a joint are cartilage, synovial fluid, and the synovial capsule. The bursa consists of tendons, ligaments and collagen fibers. Besides moving or supporting the body, another important function of the joints is to absorb shock when walking or running. They work like shock absorbers on a car. The synovial fluid also acts as a lubricant preventing wear and tear between the cartilages. A man who runs on a hard surface such as concrete receives a vertical load close to 4 points, which is absorbed by the intervertebral discs and synovial fluid in the hips and knees. Correspondingly, a woman walking down stairs wearing heels receives a vertical load close to 1.5 points. Without the existence of discs and synovial fluid our bones would have suffered tremendous destruction and deterioration due to the vibrations resulting from movement.
What are articular cartilages made of?
A large part of articular cartilage (~70%) consists of water. The non-liquid portion consists of collagen (~50%), lipids, inorganic salts, proteoglycans, chondrocytes, and various other compounds. There are 28 different types of collagen in our body. However, the first 3 are the most common: Type 1 (hair, nails, skin, bones), type 2 (joints), type 3 (connective tissue). Collagen is a form of protein (combinations of amino acids) which acts as a building block in our body. In the health of the joints, collagen is of the utmost importance for their proper functioning. Unfortunately after 30 our body produces collagen at a slower rate and in smaller quantities. One of the main reasons for joint degeneration is normal aging. Over time, the thickness of the cartilage on the surfaces of the joints decreases. The proteoglycans work in conjunction with the collagen in the joint to form a gel-like matrix that has the ability to absorb shocks and vibrations. Chondrocytes are responsible for the regeneration and repair of cartilage from damage.
Why do our joints hurt?
Joint pain can be felt in the shoulders, hips, hips, knees, fingers or even the spine. The pain may be constant or may come and go. It can also be accompanied by joint stiffness. What is certain is that severe pain in the joints affects the quality of life and our daily life.
What are the categories of joint diseases?
Joint diseases and injuries are divided into 2 main categories
1) in degenerative arthropathies such as spondyloarthritis and osteoarthritis
2) diseases related to inflammation (rheumatic diseases). This category also includes rheumatoid arthritis.
Other causes of joint pain also include:
The main causes that cause or lead to arthropathies are:
- genetic predisposition
- repetitive use or strain on the joint;
- age and gender
- lack of exercise
- poor posture over a long period of time
- musculoskeletal injuries with incomplete recovery
- lifting heavy objects with incorrect kinesiology
- excess weight
- anxiety and stress
- degeneration of the joints due to aging
What joint pain symptoms should we be concerned about?
Symptoms of joint pain range from mild to very severe, and may include:
- Local swelling
- Crackling in the joints
- Pain on movement
- Loss of movement (joint locking)
If the pain interferes with your normal daily activities it would be a good idea to visit an orthopedic specialist and ask to be examined.
The branch of rheumatology in medicine primarily deals with joint diseases related to inflammation in one or more joints.
One thing we need to focus on and build on is the process of inflammation. When injured, local inflammation is automatically created. This is a completely normal reaction of the body.
However, if correct and complete recovery is not done after an injury, the inflammation can become chronic.
The joint loses a large part of its range of motion and reflexes while the poor blood supply to the area causes arthritis and pain.
In addition to injuries, the main factors associated with joint problems and damage are chronic inflammation, increased body weight (body mass index over 30), lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle.
Over time inflammation in the locks and joints results in stiffness, muscle atrophy and weakness as well as tendon deformities.
What is arthritis and what are its forms?
Chronic inflammations in the locks are accompanied by pain and are a form of arthritis.
The main forms of arthritis are:
– Knee. The knees carry all the weight of the body and therefore suffer a lot of stress and damage. Especially if we are overweight and not exercising.
– Wrist. One of the most common injuries is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is not a form of arthritis. It is a neurological damage. Wrist problems are often faced by those who work in an office job, operate a computer and have the wrong posture. Wrist pain often starts in the neck as there is cervical syndrome or some form of subsidence in the neck vertebrae.
– Spine. The most common conditions concern the neck and waist area (lumbar spine) which are degenerative diseases or arthritis after injuries where proper rehabilitation has not been done.
– Fingers. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the fingers. Over time it causes distortions and deformity.
– Shoulders. Inflammation usually occurs in the shoulders after injuries. The shoulders are a particularly complex joint that often, even without cause, presents with painful tendinitis. Many of the pains are rooted in the neck. However, if we do not exercise often, these joints lose a large part of their range of motion, their propriety and are vulnerable to injuries.
– Elbow. The most common elbow condition is tennis elbow or epicondylitis. The inflammation at the specific point subsides over a long period of time, especially if we do not do special rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy.
– Hip. Hip injuries mainly concern older people. The most common form is osteoarthritis which is created due to wear and tear of the joint over time.
In addition to the above forms of arthritis, there are also autoimmune forms such as rheumatoid arthritis. Statistically, rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women. The mechanisms that trigger the autoimmune reaction are not yet known.
However, in relevant studies it was found that severe vitamin D deficiency is associated with autoimmune diseases, including RA. Other factors are hormonal imbalance, such as very low testosterone levels in women.
The process of regeneration and repair of cartilage from wear and damage requires “excellent quality” materials that our body receives through food.
As we understand if the quality of our diet is poor our body cannot draw the necessary repair and regeneration materials, which means that repair is done at a slower rate or even not at all.
We must also note that a diet that includes many processed foods based on flour and sugar increases inflammation in the body.
Such a diet also creates enzymes that destroy collagen fibers as the so-called AGE’s (advanced glycation end products) are produced.
Other foods that skyrocket markers of inflammation in the body are:
- trans fatty acids (hydrogenated oils or otherwise trans fatty acids)
- vegetable cooking oils (seed oils) as they contain huge amounts of omega 6 fatty acids
- dairy products that are full fat such as yellow cheeses etc
- processed carbohydrates
- high fructose glucose syrup (HGFCS)
- processed grains (even fitness products)
- production meats (poultry and beef) from animals vaccinated with hormones and antibiotics
- farmed fish such as salmon
Natural treatment of joint problems
In the case of degenerative diseases, if a special treatment and support program is not followed, there is gradual deterioration with an increase in symptoms.
With a correct and comprehensive program, however, patients can prevent further joint degeneration while reducing symptoms.
Physical treatment for joint-related problems includes:
- Lifestyle change
On a daily basis the patient must move. Joints need to move to stay healthy and functional. Lack of movement accelerates degeneration.
- Specialized exercise
Regular exercise is mandatory with a special program. Exercises that should be included are:
- proprioception (balance plates, pilates balls, rubber bands, functional open range exercises)
- strengthening (exercises with dumbbells, rubber bands or with body weight, following guidance)
- physical therapy / kinesitherapy
- gentle aerobic exercise such as swimming, cycling, walking on grass or tartan
- Body weight
If you have joint problems you must definitely lose all the extra pounds you have and maintain a healthy body weight. A damaged or degenerated joint cannot support additional load.
Sleep is of utmost importance in the joint repair and regeneration process. Research has shown that lack of sleep slows down the process of regeneration and healing of wounds or musculoskeletal injuries.
The wrong diet can make matters worse as it can trigger joint inflammation or more importantly, deprive the body of valuable ‘building blocks’ for repairing and regenerating damage.
Rarely, however, can someone radically change their diet and habits so that diet alone has an anti-inflammatory effect and reduces symptoms such as pain and stiff joints in the morning, as soon as we get out of bed.
Nutritional supplements with a beneficial effect on joint health
There are natural food supplements with active substances such as:
- natural vitamin C
- collagen type 2
- Hyaluronic Acid
- antioxidants such as lycopene
- the flavonoids
- the polyphenols
- herbal extracts such as catechins from green tea;
- the curcumin found in the spice turmeric
- the ginger
- vitamin D3
- krill oil and the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin
- the pomegranate and the beetroot juice
- omega 3 fatty acids
Combinations of the above ingredients in nutritional supplement formulas have an extremely beneficial effect in fighting inflammation, reducing pain and stiffness.