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Arthritis and Joint Pain

Overview

Arthritis and joint pain affect nearly 40 million Americans Ė 1 out of every seven people. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, affects over 20 million, and is rapidly catching up to heart disease as the most common condition that can be prevented or lessened by good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Research into the fields of bone and joint health have challenged the long-held belief that arthritis and joint pain were an unavoidable effect of aging. On the contrary, many researchers now believe that diet and regular exercise can reduce bone and joint deterioration substantially, and may be the most effective ways to combat arthritis and joint pain.

 

What Causes Arthritis and Joint Pain:

Arthritis and joint pain is caused by inflammation in the joints Ė the places where two or more bones meet. Wherever two bones meet, the joint is cushioned by cartilage, a softer tissue. Over the years, wear and tear on the cartilage lead to its deterioration. This can be exacerbated by injury or disease that damages the cartilage, and by poor diet that doesnít provide all the nutrients needed for rebuilding healthy cartilage when itís damaged. As the cartilage deteriorates, the bones rub against each other causing inflammation and pain.

 

While doctors understand the mechanics that cause the joint pain and inflammation that accompanies arthritis, they are less certain of why some people develop arthritis as they age and others donít. The risk factors that theyíve implicated in the development of arthritis and joint pain include

  • Heredity, which seems to be a factor in about 25% of all cases of arthritis

  • Obesity, which puts undue stress on the joints of the knees, hips, back and feet. There may also be a nutritional factor contributing to the risks for arthritis associated with obesity.

  • Injury to the joints which damages cartilage and results in arthritis years later

  • Virus or bacteria may trigger rheumatoid arthritis

  • Excess uric acid contributes to inflammation and joint pain in the third most common form of arthritis, gout.

  • Arthritis and joint pain can be worsened by lack of movement. Just like muscles that atrophy through lack of use, joints can become stiffer and more painful if they are not regularly exercised.

 

Symptoms of Arthritis and Joint Pain:

The symptoms of arthritis include inflammation around the joints, joint tenderness, swelling and pain. Arthritis and joint pain most often affects the fingers, hips, knees back and neck, but it may affect other joints as well. Arthritis and joint pain caused by the various forms of arthritis can make it difficult or impossible to perform simple, everyday tasks like writing, opening bottles and jars, walking up or down stairs and other activities that involve the painful joints.

 

Treatments for Arthritis and Joint Pain:

Traditional medical treatment for arthritis and joint pain involves the use of anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers, surgery and the injection of hyaluronic acid into the affected joint. In addition, many doctors also recommend moderate, gentle exercise to keep the joints from stiffening further. While pain medication has been an accepted treatment for arthritis and joint pain for years, the recent recall of the prescription pain reliever Vioxx have raised some serious questions about the safety of those pain relievers. While people have always turned to alternative and complementary medicine for possible treatment of arthritis and joint pain, itís only in recent years that the medical establishment in the United States has begun to look seriously at the possible use of nutritional supplements and diet to prevent and treat arthritis and joint pain.

 

Two supplements that seem to hold the most promise for the treatment of arthritis and joint pain are glucosamine and chondroitin. Both are substances that occur naturally in the body. Glucosamine is a form of glucose that is believed to play a role in the repair and building of cartilage tissue. Chondroitin is a part of a protein molecule that gives cartilage its elasticity. Widely reported research studies have shown that people who take chondroitin and glucosamine in supplement form report less joint pain and swelling, and in some studies, the combination of chondroitin and glucosamine has also seemed to slow the deterioration of cartilage. The Arthritis Foundation suggests trying the supplements along with current medications for six to eight weeks to see if they provide relief for arthritis and joint pain.

 

Meanwhile, the National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, announced on October 14 (2005) that it will fund a new Center for Arthritis and Traditional Chinese Medicine to study the effects of Chinese herbal medicine on arthritis. Other natural supplements and herbs that are being considered for the relief of arthritis and joint pain are

  • SAMe (S- adenosylmethionine) has had positive effects on reducing inflammation and joint pain in a number of small studies. In a review of studies using SAMe that involved over 20,000 people, SAMe proved more beneficial than ibuprofen or aspirin in decreased joint pain, reduced swelling, less morning stiffness and increased range of mobility.

  • Omega 3 fatty acids may benefit people with rheumatoid and other inflammatory forms of arthritis and joint pain. In one study, omega 3 fatty acid derived from the New Zealand green lipped muscle improved the symptoms of 40% of the study participants.

  • Bromelain, a substance derived from pineapple, has natural pain relieving properties, and reduces pain more effectively than ibuprofen and aspirin, with fewer side effects.

  • Vitamin D, which prevents the breakdown of cartilage, and vitamins A, C,  E and B3 have all been associated with lower levels of pain and inflammation in people with osteoarthritis. In one study, participants who took 600 milligrams daily of vitamin E experienced significantly less arthritis and joint pain than those taking a prescription pain reliever. In another study, participants receiving supplements of vitamin B3 reported 30% improvement on their conditions. Those taking a placebo in that study reported a 10% worsening.

  • Avocado and soybean extracts reportedly reduced pain and level of disability and increased range of motion in study participants who took them in supplement form for six months.

 

The research results of various studies are making it increasingly clear that the disabling effects of inflammatory arthritis and joint pain are not the inevitable results of aging. Rather, when the body is provided with the nutrients that it needs to lubricate joints and rebuild cartilage, it can and does begin to heal itself. The result is reduced arthritis and joint pain.

 

Both the NIH and the FDA caution that dietary supplements are not standardized, or overseen by any government body. Because standards compliance is voluntary and up to the manufacturer of a particular supplement, they caution, itís important to purchase nutritional supplements from a company that is responsible and accountable for the products it sells.

 

Xtend-Life Natural Products, a New Zealand maker of nutritional supplements, maintains their own research and development company to ensure that all their products work together synergistically and completely. Their product for arthritis and joint pain relief,Arthrit-Eze , combines chondroitin, glucosamine, SAMe and 28 other ingredients that have been shown effective in helping build bone and cartilage. As a show of faith, Xtend-Life Natural Products shares their own technical research and their reasoning for including many of the ingredients in Arthrit-Eze to better help consumers understand their condition and how to help control arthritis and joint pain that is affecting their lives.

 

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