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New ways to tackle osteoarthritis

Maintaining agility of the joints

‘If you rest, you rust’. A saying that applies particularly to the joints. Whether they be knee or hip joints or the intervertebral discs in the spine, all joints rely on being moved. And if they are not moved, they start to ‘rust’ – and osteoarthritis can develop.

Osteoarthritis is one of the ‘typical’ signs of old age and describes the wear of the cartilage in our joints. Taking preventative measures at a younger age can help delay or avoid this condition by significantly stabilising the joints, ligaments and tendons and keeping them flexible.

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Osteoarthritis – what is it?

Osteoarthritis occurs in joints where the cartilage has been worn down, usually through ageing. The knee and hip joints are most commonly affected but osteoarthritis in the finger joints or shoulder is also widespread. The pain occurs because when the cartilage mass in the joint wears down, the bones rub against each other. The damaged cartilage and the friction combine to generate pain.

Our bones are connected by joints which allow our skeleton to move. Every joint has a protective capsule around it, comprising the hinge between the bones. Inside the capsule is the joint cavity, which separates the two joint surfaces and layers of cartilage on the ends of the bones. In this way a healthy joint experiences very little friction during a movement, further helped by the joint lubricant (synovial fluid) in the cavity. This fluid allows the cartilage and joint surfaces to move against one another as though they have been oiled and with barely any friction. The lubricant also acts as a supplier of nutrients to the cartilage. 

Osteoarthritis and metabolism

If the cells in the cartilage are well supplied with nutrients, they form healthy cartilage. However, if insufficient nutrients get through, the cartilage suffers. As cartilage can only partially regenerate itself, if high loads or injury damage it, recovery of the tissue can only be part-successful. The best recovery comes from the cartilage being well supplied with nutrients. If not, it wastes away, leaving the bones to rub against each other as osteoarthritis takes a hold.

Osteoarthritis can be caused by overloading during manual work, playing a lot of sport or as the result of an injury or accident. However, too little physical exercise and sedentary lifestyles can also lead to the condition.  In short, osteoarthritis is most frequently the result of taking too little exercise, overloading the joints and a deficient supply of nutrients.

Cartilage, like bone, wastes away slowly over many years and people may not be aware of the problem until quite a lot of damage has been done. As with many degenerative disorders, the pain only sets in over the years and cannot be cured quickly, if at all. So, as with tackling the threat of osteoporosis, prevention is better than cure and steps should be taken earlier on to slow down future progress.

How is cartilage nourished?

Our blood transports necessary nutrients to the organs of our body but as the capsule that surrounds the inside of the joint acts like a protective shell, the cells of the cartilage surface cannot be reached directly via the bloodstream. A process called diffusion ensures the nutrients can pass through the joint capsule and reach the cartilage. Physical exercise intensifies this process. Think of it like a pump – the pressure and relief, movement and counter-movement help boost the nutrient flow to the cartilage. However, among those who don’t exercise enough, the cartilage cells remain undersupplied.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive to be physically active when suffering pain from osteoarthritis, exercise is, in fact, essential to reduce pain and slow the advance of the condition. Painkillers alone are not a permanent solution – they simply mask the pain but don’t address the cause. Boosting the metabolism in and around the joint is a better solution and this is best promoted by regular exercise which creates gentle loads that draw the nutrients into the joint and build up the surrounding muscle. This relieves damaged areas and can greatly reduce pain over time. Gentle exercises are recommended to ensure the load is manageable and little friction is caused on the cartilage surfaces.

Osteoarthritis and LIV treatment

The Low Intensity Vibration treatment is ideal for people with osteoarthritis as its movement is gentle and the loads are manageable. Daily treatment provides regular, gentle vibration stimuli that supply pressure and relief in the knees and hips as well as movement and counter-movement. The gentle, low vibrations improve metabolism, ensure the nutrients are pumped efficiently into the joint cavity and train the muscles in a targeted manner.

Good results can be seen among people who use the LIV each day for 10 minutes: the regular sessions are needed to boost the flexibility and integrity of the joints and slow the advance of osteoarthritis.

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