Joint pain affects hundreds of thousands of people in our country, causing everything from minor twinges and inconvenience to total, crippling disability. The causes vary between individuals, as do treatments, but one thing all sufferers share in common is that they would all feel more comfortable and mobile without it. The major causes of joint pain in our society are osteoarthritis, inflammatory types of arthritis such as rheumatoid or gout, and physical joint injury (which, in the long term often leads to arthritis in the affected joint).
Osteoarthritis is caused by the deterioration and wearing away of the protective cartilage at the bone ends, causing bone to grind against bone, causing actual bone damage, deformation and sometimes inflammation of surrounding soft tissues. This is usually the type of arthritis seen in the elderly, affecting knees, hips, spines and hands most often. It can be totally debilitating with no remissions, and is a frequent reason for hip or knee replacement surgeries.
Rheumatoid arthritis and gout are inflammatory conditions of the joints that cause severe, acute bouts of pain, redness, swelling and joint deformity. The exact causes are not definitely known, but certain bacterial or fungal pathogens and diet are thought to be connected to the conditions. These diseases alternate between flare ups and remissions, with no particular duration for each stage. It is believed that, in rheumatoid arthritis, some type of environmental factor triggers an offbeat reaction in the autoimmune system, causing the system to attack one’s own body cells. Over time this type of arthritis will also cause debility and joint fixation.
Injuries result in joint pain for obvious reasons. A very common injury is is a torn meniscus or cartilage in the knee that usually requires removal of the torn piece to prevent it from interfering with movement of the joint. This also leaves a compromised area in the knee with less protection than it should have. Depending on the amount of lost cartilage, intermittent pain with certain moves can cause pain for years or become lifelong. Damaged ligaments, also very common in knees, can result in weakened structure that does not hold the joint together in a stable position. These types of problems create perfect situations for formation of arthritis as years go by.
Protecting our joints is key to preventing or relieving joint pain. The best thing to do is avoiding movements that are not in line with the natural bend of the joint. Makes sense! Antiinflammatory medications are useful in decreasing the inflammation that causes pain, but many have side effects, like causing bowel or stomach ulcerations or increased bleeding, so not everyone can take an adequate amount for very long. Eating a nourishing, well balanced diet for adequate bone, cartilage and ligament production is necessary. Particularly important for this are the nutrients calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin D and essential fatty acids, found in substantial amounts in dairy products, fish oils, navy beans, tofu, turnip greens, bok choy, tuna and whole wheat flour. Additional supplementation of particular substances such as glucosamine and chondroitin have proven to be highly beneficial at restoration of damaged areas within the joint.
Enzymes, specifically seapeptase and bromelain are also being shown to fight inflammation either by blocking or destroying causative factors, greatly decreasing the pain and damage of arthritis.