How many times did you wake up with stiff joints, thinking how nice it would be if we could just add some lube and make them run smoother, just like an old car. The researchers from the Rhode Island Hospital found the way to do just that, with the help of some mice. Scientists have found that introducing lubricin, a protein naturally produced by our bodies , to the liquid in our joints, could prevent osteoarthritis, or at least reduce the risk for it. Their findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mice are prone to very painful and aggressive arthritis, because they genetically do not make enough lubricin. Without lubricin, their joints suffer more friction, which cause the death of cells in joints. While lacking lubricin, the joints of mice have high level of hyaluronic acid in the synovial fluid of their joints. Hyaluronic acid is the thick liquid that provides cushioning to the joints. This made scientists wonder just how useful is the practice of injecting hyaluronic acid into the joints of human patients with osteoarthritis . They concluded that the real lubricant in the joints is the protein, not the acid and that adding protein lubricin to the liquid in the joints can actually prevent the development of osteoarthritis in people who are genetically predisposed to the disease, or who experienced trauma to the joints.
The researchers from the Rhode Island Hospital are currently working on developing a replacement for lubricin naturally produced by our system. They hope that this would add an important treatment options, but even more importantly, a prevention measures, for people with early osteoarthritis.
What is osteoarthritis?
The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative disease of joints caused by the trauma or infection of the joint, or advanced age. It most commonly affects joints in knees, hips, hands and spine.
Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in the joints to break down. Cartilage is a tissue that protects and cushions the bones” ™ ends in a joint and which absorbs the shock caused by body movement. With lost or damaged cartilage, bones rub each other and can seriously damage the joint.
Besides being very painful, osteoarthritis causes joints to swell, and can significantly impair motion and affect person”s quality of life and ability to work and be productive.
Obesity, injury and aging are main risk factor for osteoarthritis. According to the CDC, two out of three obese Americans will develop painful knee osteoarthritis in their life, and every second person will develop knee osteoarthritis by the time they are 85.
More than 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis and most start feeling symptoms around the time they reach their 45th birthday.
Osteoarthritis and exercise
Interestingly, osteoarthritis is both causing people to suffer the loss of mobility and forcing them to a sedentary lifestyle, and is caused by the lack of exercise and movements. According to the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, moderate physical activity three times a week can significantly (by 47 percents) reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis in older people. It sounds counterintuitive to recommend physical activity to people who are in pain because of their joint disease, but doctors believe that it is in fact the best alternative to medication.
There are three types of exercises recommended to people with osteoarthritis:
- Exercises promoting flexibility and increasing range of motion. The goal is to decrease pain and stiffness and allow joints full range of motion. Exercising involves full stretching and moving joints through full span. Exercises should be done daily.
- Aerobic and endurance exercises strengthen heart and increase the efficiency of the lungs. They help control weight which is huge risk factor for osteoarthritis. Aerobic exercise also increases energy level and promotes good sleep.
- Strengthening exercises improve and maintain muscle strength. Muscles provide support to the joints affected by arthritis.
If you have osteoarthritis, do not start any exercise before talking to your doctor. He or she will be able to tell you if you should give your joints some break, or whether some light exercise will make you feel better.
Nutrition and osteoarthritis
While there is no specific diet recommended to prevent osteoarthritis or to reduce its symptoms, losing weight is sure to give joints some relief and reduce pressure. In general, balanced diet that promotes healthy immune system and abundance of energy is recommended for everyone, healthy or sick. That means diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and lean meats.
Scientists found that supplements glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can reduce the pain caused by osteoarthritis and slow disease progression. Not all scientists agree with this, but one third of the patients suffering from osteoarthritis are taking one or both of these supplements with positive results. If it works, don”t knock it even if the research results are inconsistent.