What is Osteoarthritis? Symptoms, Causes, & Natural Remedies
Osteoarthritis (OA) is considered very common, with over 32.5 million cases in the United States alone. The condition impacts the joints, leading to pain and stiffness, but there are many other osteoarthritis symptoms. So what is Osteoarthritis? What are the Osteoarthritis symptoms and causes? Is there an Osteoarthritis natural remedy available? Keep reading to learn more!
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that impacts millions of people worldwide. The most common form of arthritis, this condition is caused by the cartilage at the end of the bones wearing down over time.
When there’s no longer enough cartilage, the bones continue to rub together, causing pain. The pain can be intense for some and manageable for others. If no precautions are taken, the symptoms can worsen.
Typically, the condition will be found in the following joints, although they can occur on any joint:
While it’s possible to manage the condition, there is no cure. Quick treatment, managing your weight, and staying active can help slow the progression of cartilage wearing down.
The initial stages of OA are less painful than when the condition progresses. Since the cartilage continues to wear down, the severity of the osteoarthritis symptoms will continue to increase. While a doctor’s diagnosis is recommended, the following symptoms are a good sign that you have OA:
- Bone spurs. As the bones begin to rub together, the friction can lead to hard lumps and extra bits of bones forming. The bone spurs will be present around the joints.
- Pain. By far the most common symptom is pain. After or during movement, the joint that’s impacted with OA will experience pain.
- Flexibility loss. A loss of flexibility is common. You may not be able to fully straighten or bend your knee, or you may notice that you lost full range of motion in the impacted joint.
- Stiffness. The joint will often become stiff and may even be difficult to fully straighten. Stiffness will set in after long periods of inactivity. Oftentimes, when a person wakes up, they’ll notice stiffness.
- Swelling. The soft tissue around the joint will swell. A person with OA in the hands will experience this around their finger joints.
Joints may also become tender, and pain can be felt when applying pressure to the area. If allowed to progress, the condition can lead to disability. In fact, OA is the most common cause of disability in the world.
Chronic pain and stiffness, experienced in the most serious cases, can make it difficult to complete daily tasks. Sleep disturbances are also common as the pain intensifies.
What Causes Osteoarthritis
OA is the leading cause of disability, and it’s most common in older individuals as the cartilage conditions to wear down. The damage, which doesn’t heal on its own naturally, will accumulate over time, compounding the symptoms.
The older a person is, the more wear they’ll have.
Of course, there are some factors that can lead to joint damage. These factors include:
- Ligament injuries
- Torn cartilage
- Dislocated joints
Some people have malformed joints and poor posture, which can start to prematurely wear down the cartilage.
Certain risk factors can increase the risk of osteoarthritis occurring. Factors that may make you have a higher risk of OA are:
- Gender. Women are more likely to have OA than men, although scientists still don’t know why.
- Weight. Obesity puts excess strain on the joints, causing the weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips, to have undue stress. Fat tissues also lead to inflammation due to a protein that the tissue produces which causes swelling in and around the joints.
- Age. The older a person is, the higher their risk of OA.
- Injuries. Specifically, joint injuries can increase the risk of OA. Oftentimes, these injuries are years old and don’t cause OA immediately. The damage to the joint or the cartilage can be minor at the time, but it can lead to OA earlier than expected.
- Joint Stress. The stress put on your joints will play a major role in which joints start experiencing cartilage wear. Repetitive motions, at work or when playing sports, are key contributors to the condition because the same joint is under undue stress.
- Deformities. Some people suffer from bone deformities that can lead to the cartilage being defective.
- Disease. Certain diseases can also contribute to cartilage loss and osteoarthritis. Diabetes and hemochromatosis (when the body has excess iron) can both cause OA to develop.
One study from early 2020 found that osteoarthritis is more prevalent than previously thought. The condition was found to impact over 300 million across the globe in 2017. Since OA is the leading cause of disabilities and the lack of treatments available for the condition, it’s important to focus on prevention from an earlier age.
There's been a significant increase in cases since 2007, with a rise of over 31.4% in the past decade.
Osteoarthritis Remedy: Natural Options
Doctors may recommend a variety of treatments to help stop the progression, and primarily the pain experienced when a person has OA. Traditional treatments include the use of NSAIDs, tramadol, and corticosteroid injections. The risks associated with these treatments have many sufferers seeking natural remedies for osteoarthritis.
The lifestyle choices outlined previously will provide the most significant impact on reducing your risk of OA.
Note: A lot of the natural remedies available are anecdotal and don’t have studies backing their efficacy. Users that are suffering from severe pain or discomfort should seek traditional and natural methods to treat OA.
Acupuncture has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. One 2018 review found that on its own, acupuncture didn’t reduce pain. However, an additional study found that when combined with typical treatments from a physician, those that used acupuncture alongside their normal treatments experienced an improved function and a reduction in pain.
The Arthritis Foundation notes that a lot of animal studies show the promise of OA relief and prevention. One study found that high diets of fish and levels of omega-3 fatty acids were able to reduce the occurrence of OA in over 50% of guinea pigs.
Another study found that mice with knee OA had much healthier joints when supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids.
Green tea is known for its high antioxidant properties, but the tea’s ability to stop cytokine formation and inflammation is key. A 2011 study suggests that consuming green tea may be able to prevent OA from occurring.
Ginger is one of the most common natural treatments for arthritis thanks to the extract’s anti-inflammatory benefits. The compounds in ginger act much in the same way as COX-2 inhibitors, which are commonly found in medicine that’s been formulated to help with pain and inflammation.
A 2016 study found that people experienced less knee pain after knee surgery when supplementing with ginger.
One study conducted in 2001 uses high concentrations on participants suffering from OA in their knees. The group reported that the extract helped reduce pain when standing and after walking.
Ingesting ginger and also using a cream applied directly to the impacted area can alleviate symptoms.
Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt baths are known to help alleviate inflammation. Since the swelling in the joints becomes painful, laying in an Epsom salt bath can help reduce symptoms.
As an organic commercial solvent, DMSO is often used for its powerful delivery properties that allow medicine and other ingredients to absorb in the body faster and at higher levels. But on its own DMSO is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help with both joint and muscle pain.
Studies have indicated that DMSO’s capacity as a free-radical scavenger plays an important role in its effects on arthritis. The Committee of Clinical Drug Trials of the Japanese Rheumatism Association conducted a trial with 318 patients and concluded that DMSO both relieved joint pain and increased range of motion and grip strength.
CBD is becoming a popular choice for pain sufferers because it allows them to apply the CBD directly where they experience pain.
Cannabinoids like CBD will attach themselves to specialized receptors in a person’s brain and immune system. The CB2 receptor, in particular, can play a significant role in managing pain and inflammation. As CBD enters your body, it can attach to your CB2 receptors. CBD also encourages the body to create its own cannabinoids. This is why researchers have come to believe that CBD can have a significant impact on chronic pain.
A 2015 study tested the potential for using CBD to treat arthritis. Rats with arthritis were administered different amounts of CBD gel transdermally and had their pain symptoms monitored and the inflammation in their joints measured. The study concluded that the use of topical CBD has the potential as an effective treatment of arthritic symptomatology.
Osteoarthritis is painful with no cure, but changing your lifestyle choices, losing weight, and using some of the natural remedies above can help slow progression and even alleviate pain.
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