In this post we discuss how to maintain healthy, pain-free joints.
Do you have pain in your fingers, wrists, knees, elbows, or lower back? These are common concerns for many adults, and it all has to do with joint health.
Read on to learn tips on how to keep your joints healthy, along with a primer on joint anatomy plus the most common joint diseases you may want to learn more about.
What Do Healthy Joints Look Like?
From the moment we wake up in the morning to when we are engaging in physical activities during the day, we are constantly using our joints.
We usually don’t think about overusing our joints until a problem (like pain, loss of flexion, swelling, and more) arises due to arthritis, torn ligaments (such as ACL or MCL), and/or other overuse injuries.
Before we dive into joint issues, let’s look at some joint anatomy.
- Cartilage is found at the end surfaces of the bones and provides a natural cushioning to prevent friction and the bones from rubbing against each other.
- Synovial fluid is a natural lubricant for the joint to reduce friction. This is encased in the synovial membrane which is further encased in the joint capsule.
- Joint capsule provides additional stability and support for the joint and allows for reduced friction as well.
- Ligaments connect bone to bone and is made of connective tissue.
- Tendons (not pictured) connect muscle to bone and is made of connective tissue.
All About Arthritis
You have likely heard of or experienced arthritis. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis affects over 350 million people in the world today and is known as the ‘wear and tear’ type of arthritis. It commonly presents during middle age and progresses with time. Osteoarthritis involves the cartilage thinning and wearing away due to the natural aging process, wear and tear, and inflammation. This is typically the beginning of the symptoms that we commonly see with osteoarthritis including stiffness, pain, weakness, and swelling.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that can affect the entire body (not just limited to the joints) and can affect anyone at any age. In this disease, the body’s immune system starts to attack its own healthy tissues. Specifically, the joint space around the membrane, also known as the synovial membrane, is attacked and destroyed.
What are Some Similarities Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have some common features including:
- Clicking and grinding of the bones when you move
- Worsening in cold, damp, and moist environments
How are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis Different?
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis also have some differing features including:
- Symmetry – Osteoarthritis is not symmetric in nature (one particular joint can be affected and that can be limited to one side of the body). Rheumatoid arthritis usually occurs symmetrically. If one elbow is affected, the other likely is too. That is seen throughout the condition.
- Progression – Because osteoarthritis is a deteriorating disease, it can come on and progress slowly. Rheumatoid arthritis can come on suddenly and go into remission in waves.
To illustrate, the diagram above shows three joints. The first joint (left) is a healthy joint, with the synovial fluid (dark blue) and cartilage (light blue) intact. The second joint pictured (middle) represents a joint with osteoarthritis. You can see the cartilage has been worn down and thinned to the point that the bones are now rubbing together. There is no longer any protection between the bones, and this can cause great pain and discomfort. Finally, the third joint shown in the photo (right) represents a joint with rheumatoid arthritis. Swelling and inflammation can be seen in this joint, as the immune system has attacked the healthy synovial membrane tissues.
Ways to Maintain Healthy, Pain-Free Joints
The good news is that there are things you can do each day to build healthy, pain-free joints and prevent joint issues from happening in the first place.
Here are three tips to help keep your joints feeling and functioning at their best.
- Be active and stay active – You’ve heard it before, but it is so important to be active and engage in physical activity whenever possible. Staying mobile ultimately reduces stiffness and pain around joints. Whether it’s on your own, or with the help of physical therapists and trainers, it is important to be active whenever you can. Not sure how which activities to do? Try swimming! It allows you to practice mobility and flexibility without applying much pressure on the joints.
- Check your diet – Are you eating processed foods that make inflammation in the body worse? Instead, try consuming more anti-inflammatory foods like those high in omega-3 fatty acids such as chia seeds, flax seeds, and avocados. Also, double check that you are getting all the vitamins and minerals needed for healthy joints and bones. As you may know, calcium and vitamin D are great for bone and joint health.
- Try herbal medicine – Herbs are a powerful solution to managing many diseases. Boswellia is one of those ingredients known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Boswellia use dates back thousands of years, being used in India, North Africa, and many parts of the Middle East.
More recently, medical research has begun to reveal its full potential and extensive anti-inflammatory properties as well. This herb has particular impact on the 5-LOX enzyme involved in inflammatory pathways that produces pro-inflammatory leukotrienes.
Boswellia is available in supplement form. Our joint health formulation, Genuwell, is a natural health product that helps with joint health and aims to reduce symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. The overall benefits include reduction of pain and swelling, and improvement of joint function.
In a clinical study by Kimmatkar, N. et al, patients given boswellia for 8 weeks reported a decrease in knee pain and joint swelling along with an increase in knee flexibility and walking distance.
Genuwell contains a highly effective form of boswellia (proprietary name K-Vie™) shown to reduce inflammation in multiple inflammatory conditions like traumatic brain injuries and osteoarthritis. Learn more about Genuwell.