Monday, April 1, 2013

Know Your Enemy - Diagnosing & Managing Osteoarthritis Pain

Perhaps you have a stiff back when you wake up. Sore knuckles when you write a paragraph or two or try to open a jar. A "trick" knee that acts up when you take the stairs. Could it be the effects of getting older or something more serious?

If you're experiencing joint tenderness, stiffness or pain, a limited range of motion in your limbs, swelling or cracking noises with movement (such as in the knees or ankles) you may suffer from the most common form of degenerative arthritis - osteoarthritis. Pain, of course, is the primary symptom of osteoarthritis, but because the disease presents differently in different people, you may have osteoarthritis and not even know it.

Unlike other forms of arthritis - such as rheumatoid arthritis - osteoarthritis is a localized disease. In other words, pain is localized in the specific joints affected by the disease. Injury and abnormal use of joints - particularly weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees and ankles - leads to a breakdown, or degeneration, of the precious cartilage in the joints. As this natural cushion disappears, inflammation increases causing pain.

X-rays and other imaging devices can show evidence of osteoarthritis in some patients, but not all. Knowing your body - and recognizing pain - is key to preventing further damage and pain. Because osteoarthritis is degenerative, use of the arthritic joint only increases pain and, in mild to moderate cases, the only improvement will be experienced with rest. As the disease worsens, patients may find little relief with rest and resort to medical intervention - from invasive surgery to prescription medications.

A visit to your doctor is the first step in diagnosing osteoarthritis although, again, x-rays do not always show evidence of the disease. If you've started feeling pains in your joints, the time to act is now! By putting off what needs to be done, you place yourself at risk for further deterioration and related injuries as your body tries to compensate for painful arthritic joints.

Rather than resorting to prescription medications that put the patient at severe risk and serve only to mask the pain, many people are turning to what some call the most effective non-invasive treatments available to osteoarthritis sufferers... supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are two naturally occurring molecules that act as the building blocks for cartilage in the joints of humans and animals. Damaged joints have less of these two vital molecules available and this puts the already-damaged joint at a severe disadvantage. When they are made available to the damaged joint, however, the body gets to work rebuilding damaged cartilage and reversing the effects of osteoarthritis.

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