Osteoarthritis: Taking Care of Degenerative Joints
Repairing Cartilage to Heal Joints
The word “arthritis” conjures up images of gnarled fingers and chronic pain. But it actually means any joint inflammation. There are over 200 known causes and types of arthritis. People can get arthritis from any inflammation in their bodies, such as:
- Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease)
- Degenerative joints
- Autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis)
- Metabolic issues (gout)
- And many others
Have you ever seen bumps or knobs on people’s finger joints? Those nearest the fingernail are called Heberden’s Nodes. Enlargement of the middle joints are called Bouchard’s Nodes.
These boney swellings are an enlargement of the cartilage in the joint. It feels like very hard rubber but generally isn’t painful. Many things damage the cartilage:
- Lack of blood flow
Where there is any kind of injury and the cartilage is unable to repair itself correctly, the cartilage continues to enlarge as it attempts to repair. At this point, this knobby bony deformity is not damaged or inflamed, such as with most other types of arthritis. It is simply unable to repair itself. A very common early sign of osteoarthritis are these types of nodes.
People with osteoarthritis may experience the following symptoms:
- Enlarged cartilage
- Pain is often worse after exercise or pressure on the joint
- Grating or crackling like sand in the joint when moved
- Morning stiffness
However, these symptoms are usually only noticed later in the development of the disease. Often there are no early symptoms, even though x-rays can show joint damage. The reason for this is because the cartilage is degenerating for lack of nutrients, energy, or use. But since there are no pain nerves in cartilage you don’t feel it breaking down. When you do feel pain, it is because the cartilage has completely worn away and the bones are rubbing against each other. Bones have lots of pain nerves. That is when the worst symptoms of osteoarthritis start to manifest: pain, stiffness and swelling.
For this reason it is very important not to wait until you have lots of symptoms to take care of degenerative joints. If your knee is not working properly, it can be helped early-on, but may require surgical replacement if you wait too long.
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