What is arthritis?

By Jana Bennett, R.Ph.

Arthritis is a chronic disease of the joints, especially the weight-bearing joints, that develops when the linings of the joints degenerate resulting in decreased mobility and pain. This wear and tear is primarily associated with aging and /or activity-related injuries.

What are the symptoms?

Arthritis symptoms come on gradually and effects may be felt in hips, knees, fingers, and spine, although other joints may be affected as well. Pain is the main symptom, which usually becomes worse with exercise. Folks may also experience morning stiffness. As arthritis progresses, joint motion is lost, and tenderness and grating sensations may develop.

Medications can help.

There are several over-the-counter medications that can help to decrease the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Products containing aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and ketoprofen all can provide relief. However, these can be hard on the stomach, so they need to be taken with meals to decrease the risk of digestive complications.

Supplements may be helpful.

Glucosamine sulfate, a nutrient derived from seashells, is an essential building block needed for the repair of joint cartilage. There are numerous studies that demonstrate the benefits of glucosamine sulfate in reducing the symptoms of arthritis. Supplementing with glucosamine sulfate is not a cure for arthritis, but can be beneficial in relieving the aches and pains associated with this condition.

Chondroitin sulfate is a major component of the lining of joints. People suffering from arthritis have shown a reduced level of chondroitin sulfate in the joint cartilage. As a result, there is potential for restoration in joint function when supplementing with chondroitin sulfate. Several double-blind trials have shown that supplementing with this substance may support reduced pain and increased mobility.

In this day and age, folks are leading more active lifestyles and may need to reduce their activities as a result of many disease states. Stay active by taking the time to eat well and exercise and consult with your doctor or pharmacist to see if over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or dietary supplements may be right for you.