If you suffer from osteoarthritis, you are familiar with how joint pain and reduced mobility affect all aspects of your personal and professional life. The chances are that you also know that this condition is challenging to treat and manage, which makes relying on pain medications the only option suggested by doctors.
While there is no definitive cure for osteoarthritis, there are several lines of treatment that allow you to manage your distress without medications or surgery – including Neuragenex’s Neurofunctional Pain Management protocols.
In this guide, we’ll look at the risk factors, impact, and interventions for osteoarthritis, as well as how a regenerative medicine approach can help you ease OA symptoms and regain your quality of life.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most widespread form of arthritis, an inflammatory degenerative condition that causes the components of the joints to break down over time. Also known as “wear and tear” arthritis, OA today affects an estimated 32.5 million people in the US alone, and it is considered to be one of the leading causes of disability in the elderly.
OA can occur in any joints in the body, but it is more likely to develop in load-bearing joints and areas of the body that are constantly under stress. These joints include:
- Low back (lumbar spine)
As osteoarthritis progresses, it can lead to damage to the cartilage (the soft cushioning between the joint’s bones), ligaments, tendons, bones, and synovium (the joint’s lining). The breakdown of these components leaves the joints exposed to shock and friction damage.
t also makes them more prone to inflammation, which can lead to pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced range of motion.
As your body attempts to counteract the pain deriving from the inflammation and damaged joint components, you may also experience abnormal joint mechanics, “clicking” noises, joint instability, and posture or gait problems.
According to statistics by the CDC, OA is estimated to affect nearly 30% of adults aged 45-64, and almost 50% of those aged 65 and older. Despite how common osteoarthritis is, diagnosing this condition remains challenging, and patients wait an average of 8 years to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
3 Categories Of Pain Mitigation
Many patients who suffer from the condition don’t know or understand their treatment options and often do little to treat it effectively. Whether patients refuse to seek treatment, or they know little about the treatment available, there are related risk factors that can and should be known by these patients.
These modifiable risk factors, while various, all fall under three categories of mitigation: personal, clinical, and public. The more personal risk factors related to osteoarthritis include the conditions that can be altered by the patient to reduce the complications related to osteoarthritis.
Clinical, modifiable risk factors are mitigated between doctors and patients and include prescriptions, therapies, and lifestyle education.
Publicly mitigated risk factors also include education about the condition of osteoarthritis and have more wide-reaching, informative capabilities.
Personal mitigated risk factors require self-derived motivation to create an effect such as modifying your diet or lifestyle, which is often very difficult to do and even more difficult to sustain.
While it is positive that these categories exist as channels for education, without intervention and action through these channels, patients with osteoarthritis will remain undertreated.
In other words, if patients are educated on how to treat their osteoarthritis, they may still do nothing if intervention and action are not pursued.
This ultimately means that there needs to be a safe and effective solution that can at the very least help patients reduce pain long enough to have the motivation to make changes in diet and exercise that can help their overall condition.
As we all know, it’s very difficult to want to exercise when you’re in pain. It’s also very difficult to be motivated to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle when you’re in chronic pain.
Ultimately, the first step in the process is to reduce patient pain in a safe and effective way so that there is motivation to engage in a healthy and active lifestyle.
6 Prevalent Risk Factors Of Osteoarthritis
One of the reasons why osteoarthritis remains difficult to diagnose and treat is that there is no single trigger that causes this disease. Nonetheless, some factors can increase your risk of developing this condition.
Some non-modifiable risk factors include:
- A family history of OA
- Hereditary musculoskeletal abnormalities, such as being born with thinner or weaker cartilage.
Joint injuries and trauma may also play a role in the development of osteoarthritis.
Furthermore, a 2019 study concentrating on the mitigation of knee osteoarthritis centered its arguments for treatment around six prevalent modifiable risk factors, including:
1. Obesity And Overweight
Having a high Body Mass Index of 25 or more is considered to be a leading risk factor for osteoarthritis. This is because the extra weight increases the loading on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees.
In turn, the excessive constant stress – which is significantly aggravated during movement – speeds up the wear and tear of the joint’s components. Overweight and obese individuals are between 2.5 and 4.5 times more likely than people with a healthy weight to develop OA.
Some existing comorbidities have been seen to be linked to osteoarthritis – or are aggravated by it. These conditions include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
According to statistics by the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance, nearly a third of adults with arthritis are diagnosed with depression or anxiety, which is three times higher than the general population. Additionally, 61% of patients awaiting knee replacement surgery due to OA also have cardiovascular disease.
3. Occupational Factors
Some occupational activities may increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis. This occurs when you perform repetitive and forceful movements with your joints, thus putting the joint’s components under excessive stress and accelerating the degeneration of cartilage.
Activities that are considered to be risk factors for osteoarthritis include sports involving jumping, throwing, and swinging motions, as well as high-impact exercises. You can also overuse your joints if you are a construction worker, dancer, miner, assembly line technician, or work in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.
4. Physical Activity
As seen above, intense physical activity can harm your joints. However, having a sedentary lifestyle and poor conditioning are also risk factors for OA.
Weak muscles affect how body weight and external forces are distributed during movement. In particular, if your muscles are not strong enough to support your musculoskeletal system, the joints become constantly overloaded. This shift in mechanics speeds up the wear and tear of cartilage and makes developing osteoarthritis more likely.
5. Biomechanical Factors
As seen above, some biomechanical factors, such as being born with weaker cartilage, are congenital and non-modifiable. However, some other risk factors for osteoarthritis can be easily addressed over the course of your life. These include posture problems, an abnormal gait (the way you walk), and improper form when practicing sports.
If left unaddressed, these biomechanical problems cause some parts of the joint to bear excessive stress and become exposed to friction and shock damage during movement, which can increase your likelihood of developing OA.
6. Dietary Exposures
Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory disease, which can be aggravated by lifestyle factors that cause further inflammation. In particular, a diet rich in saturated fats, red meat, fried foods, dairy, and refined sugar or carbohydrates can speed up the degeneration of the joint’s components.
A poor diet can also lead to other conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which are known risk factors for OA.
Other lifestyle factors that increase inflammation and harm your joint health include smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol.
While all of these risk factors fall into the categories mentioned above (personal, clinical, and public), the most imperative factor for all of these risk factors is that they have a potential for mitigation and assist in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
For example, the risk factor of obesity is a factor that can be mitigated to change the severity of osteoarthritis. This risk factor falls almost entirely into the personal category, less so for education and more so for intervention.
Suppose a patient is aware of and educated about the processes and their responsibilities. In that case, they have to maintain their weight: without personal intervention and action, the risk factor will remain, and osteoarthritis pain will not likely be mitigated.
While the study continues to address these risk factors and the importance of educating patients, doctors Tsvetoslav Georgiev and Alexander Angelov also conclude that “[i]n the era of age- and obesity-related diseases, the combined effects of local and systemic risk factors should be managed by combined measures”.
Patients should be made aware that the effective treatment of their osteoarthritis includes educating themselves personally and with their physicians.
At the same time, if patients do not make the right decisions and act for themselves, and they do not use “combined measures” to fight their osteoarthritis, it is likely that the condition will progress–and not in a good way. But what are these “combined measures,” specifically?
Interventions To Manage Osteoarthritis-related Pain
While patients follow their doctors’ advice, they often conclude that even while they do so, the pain and inconvenience of osteoarthritis permeate too much of their lives and they would like to do more. Doctors Georgiev and Angelov list the following interventions:
Femoral Muscle-Strengthening Physical Activities
Working with a specialized physical therapist can help you understand how to boost your body’s conditioning and strengthen your muscles in a safe, injury-free way. Over time, stronger muscles can ease the pressure on the joints, thus relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
While femoral muscle-strengthening physical activities are recommended for knee OA, a custom exercise program should look at what areas of your body are affected by osteoarthritis.
Some dietary modifications can help you manage your OA symptoms. According to a 2018 study, it may be beneficial to increase your consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (such as oily fish and fish supplements), keep blood cholesterol levels in check, and boost the intake of Vitamin K.
A nutritious and balanced diet can also help you manage other risk factors for osteoarthritis, such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
A 2013 study highlights how, for every 5 kg weight gain, the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases by 36%. If you are obese or overweight, following a weight loss program and re-educating yourself about food choices is essential to manage osteoarthritis.
By losing weight in excess, you can also find relief from OA symptoms, especially in load-bearing joints such as the knee and hip.
As seen above, certain activities represent risk factors for osteoarthritis. While you may not be able to change sports or jobs, you can ease the symptoms of OA and slow down the degeneration of cartilage by working with an occupational therapist.
A professional will instruct you on how to engage in lifestyle and professional activities safely, safeguard your joints during everyday movements, and prevent injuries or flare-ups.
Management Of Comorbidities
Osteoarthritis is often part of a more complex clinical picture, which commonly includes disorders such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Managing these existing conditions can help patients boost their overall health and quality of life, which translates into a reduction of symptoms and improved joint function.
Biomechanical support, such as wearing braces for 7 hours a day, may be correlated to a reduction in pain, according to a 2017 study. However, this intervention does not improve the inflammation levels and health status of the joints.
While education and intervention about these risk factors can help to lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis, the study also concludes that “[a]n individual risk factor modification program should be developed in accordance with patient preferences and habits, the workplace, medical history, and overall health condition.”
Patients should take heart in the fact that, with the advice of their doctor, maintaining their osteoarthritis and lessening its impact greatly depends on the individual choices they make related to their risk factors. In the meantime, there are treatments for osteoarthritis, and they are just a phone call away.
Nonsurgical Treatment Option For Osteoarthritis
In the year 2000, a clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of another nonsurgical treatment known as viscosupplementation was conducted.
While the clinical trials of viscosupplementation were in their infancy, Dr. John Watterson found that “…the lack of systemic side effects and the potentially lasting effects make it an appealing option” (2000).
The process of viscosupplementation is best described as an injection of hyaluronic acid which is a cushioning and lubricating fluid within the joint that creates a loosening and relaxing of the joint by giving it a cushion effect and taking the direct contact pressure off the joint to help relieve the pain.
As I mentioned, this nonsurgical option uses a safe natural lubricating fluid called hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid has been USDA approved for decades, and Dr. Watterson attests to this benefit by stating that “[t]he US Food and Drug Administration approval of hyaluronic acid as a device has avoided the need for meeting the more stringent criteria for approval as a drug”.
Decades later, the use of hyaluronic acid in viscosupplementation has remained an effective and affordable solution to treat osteoarthritis.
A Neuragenex Approach To Pain Management
Neuragenex uses this treatment for osteoarthritis as part of its Neurofunctional Pain Management treatment program; combining pain-relieving high-pulse electrical stimulation with specialized hydration therapy.
The proprietary treatment protocol used by Neuragenex is called Neurofunctional Pain Management and is very effective at relieving pain and restoring health.
In the case of osteoarthritis, viscosupplementation helps to create that cushion effect in the joint that helps reduce the immediate inflammation so that the other elements in the treatment program have an opportunity to take action.
While viscosupplementation cushions and loosens the joints affected by OA, Neurofunctional Pain Management treatments further reduce the pain and help reduce chronic systemic inflammation.
Many patients report pain relief after only one session with Neuragenex and comment on quality-of-life improvements that assist in overall increases in health, such as improved sleep and more physical activity. Patients experience greater mobility, strength, and restoration of the motor skills they used to enjoy in their daily lives.
Hundreds of patients who suffer from chronic pain (including pain from osteoarthritis) report relief after starting treatment sessions, making Neurofunctional Pain Management a strong and attractive treatment option for patients with chronic osteoarthritis pain.
Live A Pain-Free Life With Neuragenex
Neuragenex is pioneering the field of Neurofunctional Pain Management.
The mission of Neuragenex is to relieve pain, restore health, and magnify the quality of life without drugs, surgery, or invasive procedures. It is our vision to be the first thought, the first choice, and the first step in the journey of chronic pain treatment.