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Osteoarthritis: self-help with joint pain

Status: 04/16/2021 11:35 a.m.

Osteoarthritis is a very common joint disease. What can you do to permanently relieve the pain - if possible without surgery?

Up to eight million people in Germany suffer from osteoarthritis. The affected joints hurt sometimes more and sometimes less. Osteoarthritis in the fingers makes it difficult to grip. Osteoarthritis in the knee and hip is typically initially noticeable as pain when starting - but later, regardless of the strain. Over time, affected joints become increasingly difficult to move.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis begins with a feeling of stiffness, sometimes swelling of the joint can be seen. In the further course there is usually first pain under exertion, then later on to permanent pain with restricted mobility.

Diagnosis of osteoarthritis

During the medical examination, you will first be asked where and when exactly the pain occurs. Palpation of the joints and examination of their function, the stability of the ligaments and the surrounding muscles are the next steps. Methods such as X-ray, computer or magnetic resonance tomography (CT or MRT) then provide information about changes in the joint space and possible cracks in the cartilage.

Arthroscopy, a method of "keyhole surgery", is rarely used today for osteoarthritis due to its lack of benefit.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a wear and tear disease. As a protective, elastic layer, the cartilage usually sits on the two ends of the bone that form a joint. A healthy layer of cartilage acts like a shock absorber: when the load is applied, the cartilage is compressed and then expanded again. The cartilage soaks up synovial fluid like a sponge. This synovial fluid nourishes it and keeps it supple. Over the decades, however, the cartilage becomes more brittle. Various factors can accelerate wear and tear. Including a lack of movement, because the nourishing synovial fluid is only pumped through the cartilage when the joint is in use.

Sometimes an accident or a congenital malalignment (dysplasia) is the cause of premature wear, for example knock knees. However, medicine now sees osteoarthritis primarily as a chronic inflammatory disease: the inflammation leads to cartilage degradation and pain. Obesity is a significant risk factor: the excess belly fat fuels systemic inflammation that also damages the cartilage. In addition, every additional kilo puts a double or triple load on our load-bearing joints: For example, when walking normally, the knees have to cushion 2.5 times the body weight, and when descending stairs even 3.5 times.

Treat osteoarthritis with nutritional therapy

A major key to healing osteoarthritis is a change in diet. With a conscious diet and moderate exercise, patients gain significantly better quality of life and can postpone or even avoid joint replacement, which is the very last resort. Nutritional therapy is based on two pillars:

  1. Inhibition of inflammation
  2. Relief of the joints by shedding excess pounds.
That is why there are few calories and animal products on the menu, but lots of vegetables and healthy vegetable oils. Anti-inflammatory spices also have an analgesic effect.
Nutritional therapy for osteoarthritis

Recipes for osteoarthritis

Fresh dishes with light ingredients and anti-inflammatory spices - our recipes are quick to prepare. more

Exercise therapy strengthens muscles and cartilage

As written above, enough movement is crucial to maintaining the joints. Naturally, one tries to go easy on painful joints - but this is only necessary in the case of acute inflammation (red, hot joints). The important synovial fluid is only pumped through the cartilage during movement, which nourishes it and "lubricates" the joint.

It is therefore important to move the affected joints and strengthen the surrounding muscles. This is done, for example, through targeted exercises several times a week, like weight training, if necessary, water aerobics that are gentle on the health or the joints. Massages can also improve mobility.

Exercise therapy for osteoarthritis

Movement in osteoarthritis: exercises and tips

With osteoarthritis, movement is crucial in order to strengthen the damaged cartilage and to strengthen the surrounding muscles. Movement can be easily incorporated into everyday life. more

Pain relieving treatment with compresses

Orthopedists warn against careless trust in tape bandages and bandages, which are now widely available. They are supposed to stabilize the joints while exercising. But that doesn't work: such products do not give patients with an unstable knee joint the necessary stability. Only the right training can stop or prevent osteoarthritis.

An oil made from raised bog peat, horse chestnut, field horsetail and lavender can relieve pain: the oil (anthroposophic medicine, from the pharmacy) is placed on a cotton cloth, which is fixed over the joint with a second cloth or a plastic bag. It should be used daily, leaving it on for at least a quarter of an hour.

How wraps help with joint pain

Pain in joints caused by osteoarthritis, rheumatism or gout can often be relieved without medication. Home remedies such as curd cheese, fenugreek or cabbage compresses can help. more

Use drug therapy only temporarily

Five grams of rose hip powder a day, obtained from the seeds and peel of the fruit, is helpful. Because the rose hip contains so-called galactolipids, which studies have shown can inhibit the breakdown of cartilage. Apart from this phytotherapy, medication for osteoarthritis is not a satisfactory solution in the long run.

Cortisone injections may relieve pain for a few weeks, but long-term use of cortisone weakens the bones. The effectiveness of hyaluronic acid injections (from cocks' combs) for building up cartilage has not yet been scientifically confirmed. Tablets with active ingredients such as diclofenac or acetylsalicylic acid suppress pain and inhibit inflammation. Because of their side effects, however, they are also only acceptable in the short term in acute phases.

Multimodal pain therapy for chronic pain

With an interdisciplinary treatment program, the so-called multimodal therapy, chronic joint pain can be brought under control in many cases. In the four-week intensive therapy, the participants learn a lot about typical characteristics of chronic pain, where it comes from and how they can deal with it. In the end, those affected know the differences between acute and chronic pain, can better assess the damage on the X-ray and know how painkillers work and are used correctly. The success rate is very high: 70 to 80 percent of the participants report lasting relief from their symptoms.

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The Nutritional Docs | 05.10.2020 | 9:00 p.m.