You can expect muscle aches and joint pains that come from the normal wear and tear on our body as you age.
But when it becomes an unbearable grinding in your knees or wrists, you might be dealing with early signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA).
Now I know what you’re thinking:
Osteoporosis? Rheumatoid arthritis? What are we talking about, here?
Don’t worry – we’ll arm you with info about recognizing and treating this degenerative disease for your next doctor’s visit. We’ll also share why adding omega-3s to your diet can help reduce signs of OA.
Check it out!
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of joint disorder in the United States. In fact, knee osteoarthritis occurs in 10% of American men and 13% of women ages 60 and over (1). OA tends to affect other weight-bearing joints, including the hips and spine. You may even experience it in your hands.
Cartilage is the tissue that serves as the “shock absorber” at the ends of your joints. When cartilage wears down, you’ll likely experience OA pain in the affected joints whenever you attempt your normal daily activities.
Osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid Arthritis
While some symptoms of the two disorders overlap, here are a few distinguishing factors:
- Cause – Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease caused by wear and tear on your joints, while Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joint space.
- Presentation – Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect pairs of joints with immune system-related symptoms like fever and fatigue that go beyond the scope of OA.
- Prevalence – OA affects many more people in the United States than RA.
They progress differently and are treated differently, too. More on that in a minute.
Common osteoarthritis risk factors:
I’m sorry, ladies.
But female gender is one of the risk factors for developing osteoarthritis pain.
- Advancing age
- Overuse of joints
- Joint injury/Joint Damage
- Bone density
- Muscle weakness. (1)
What are Early Osteoarthritis Symptoms?
Because osteoarthritis is a biological disorder caused by wear and tear, a group of scientists believes a “pre-OA” stage must exist (2).
If you meet the risk factor criteria or you simply want to stay ahead of the pain, here are the early symptoms to look out for:
- Joint stiffness/Joint Pain– No surprise here: take note of constant stiffness or pain in joints, especially when you wake up, go to sleep, or haven’t moved for a bit.
- Bone rubbing – Do you feel a grating sensation or hear the joints rubbing when you move? See joint space narrowing below.
- Joint space narrowing – A study found a loss of joint space in the hips of professional ballet dancers. This is part of the wear and tear that leads to bone rubbing.
- Bone spurs – These bony growths feel like hard lumps around your joints and are common with OA.
- Decreased Range of Motion – Physical activity becomes more difficult, as you can’t bend and flex your joints as well.
Your doctor can confirm some of these early signs, like joint space narrowing and bone spurs, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Scientists agree MRI is the preferred method over traditional X-rays due to its ability to visualize multiple structures like bone, cartilage, and ligaments.(3) (4)
So, identifying OA in its early stages would allow for treatment to potentially slow or prevent the most severe symptoms from occurring – great news for you if you’re reading this!
Speaking of treatment…
Best Natural Osteoarthritis Treatments
To treat OA pain, doctors often begin with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like NSAIDs. But constant use of these can produce nasty side effects for your stomach, kidney, and liver.
Instead, replace NSAIDs with an omega-3 supplement to fight inflammation flare-ups for soothing pain relief.
One study found supplementing with omega-3s reduced signs of OA. The researchers proposed “a high n-3 [omega-3] diet has the potential to reduce signs of OA in both cartilage and subchondral bone” (5).
Add in :
- Gentle physical activity like tai chi or yoga
- Low-impact exercise (as discussed with your doctor) to maintain a healthy weight and take the strain off weight-bearing joints
- An assistive device (cane, walker) to further reduce weight on knee joints
- Schedule physical therapy for help from a healthcare professional
Identifying early signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis using these treatments will help you avoid joint replacement surgery.
As always, ask your healthcare provider before doing making changes to your exercise regimen or diet.
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