The pain of osteoarthritis can be debilitating. But a new study has found that some simple lifestyle and dietary changes can make a significant difference to your pain levels and your consequent quality of life. Osteoarthritis is a condition that mostly affects the knees, hips, feet and hands. It is caused by deterioration of the joint and can lead to severe pain, aching and stiffness.
The World Health Organization describes osteoarthritis as “one of the 10 most disabling diseases in developed countries”.
WHO Priority Medicines for Europe and the World Update Report estimate that 130 million people will have the condition by 2050.
Alternatives to pain killers and surgery – yes please!
Currently the main treatments offered to sufferers are pain killing medications or surgery. However, researchers at the University of Surrey* have found that people can make a difference to their condition through diet and exercise.
The study used information gathered from previous research dating back to 2000. The researchers were keen to know what, if anything, people with osteoarthritis can do to self-manage their condition and alleviate the debilitating symptoms. Three simple changes were shown to make an important difference:
- Fish Oil
Consuming a gram of fish oil per day has been shown not only to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis but also to improve heart health. Fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids which reduce joint inflammation and, so, relieve pain. These are docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.
- Weight Loss and Low-Intensity Exercise
Weight loss and low-intensity exercise help people with osteoarthritis to bring down the levels of cholesterol in their blood. There is a proven link between high cholesterol and osteoarthritis so bringing levels down with a good diet and regular exercise is one of the keys to joint health. Being overweight, drinking alcohol and smoking all contribute to osteoarthritic pain because they affect the body’s energy metabolism and promote inflammation and disease in the body. These should also be factored into a self-management programme.
- Vitamin K
Vitamin K, which is found in green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, romaine lettuce) as well as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower, helps to treat the symptoms of arthritis and may even help to prevent worsening of the condition. Vitamin K supports the body to repair and prevent damage to bones and cartilage.
Protect your general health with the right lifestyle
With the number of people suffering from osteoarthritis continuing to rise, the more of us who take positive steps to protect ourselves from the disease or alleviate some of the symptoms if we have it, the better.
While doctors and nutritionists have urged us for many years to eat healthily and exercise, the link between a healthy diet, healthy bodyweight and healthy joints has never been more clearly understood.
The University of Surrey study demonstrates the need for effective approaches to self-care in the treatment and prevention of degenerative diseases affecting our joints.
Worldwide, experts estimate that 18 per cent of women over the age of 60 and 9.6 per cent of men develop osteoarthritis. For a quarter of sufferers, many day-to-day activities become impossible. Osteoarthritis is a major problem facing the developed world. By eating more healthily, exercising regularly and taking certain supplements, we may be able to protect ourselves from the pain of this debilitating condition.
Joint replacement surgery is highly effective if the pain can not be treated by lifestyle changes
Joint pain that is caused by mild osteoarthritis could benefit from either non-operative treatment or minimally invasive surgery. This can delay, often for several years, the need for more serious operations such as a partial or complete knee and hip replacements.