It begins slowly. Then we become aware that our hips usually feel stiff when we get up after sitting for a long time. Or our knees start aching for no apparent reason. And fingers! Definitely achy. What’s this, rings are trapped behind knobbly knuckles? The doctor’s verdict is a bit of a surprise and leaves us rather outraged: “But I’m not that old. What have I done? How much will this limit my lifestyle? Am I doomed to move like an old person?”
Joint stiffness and pain, sadly, stalk everyone, some earlier than others. It’s all to do with cartilage and the connective tissue at the end of our bones which, apart from injuries carried forward from our younger sportier days, naturally start to change as we get older. The result is that mainly knees, hips and fingers become stiffer and less flexible. Oddly enough our ankles, which as weight bearing goes are at the end of the line so to speak, typically don’t change much as we get older.
A joint story:
Joints are the points at which two moving bones come together. They are designed to allow smooth movement between bones and to absorb movement shock. They comprise:
- Cartilage, which is a hard, slippery coating at the end of each bone. Tough and elastic, cartilage doesn’t have nerves or blood supply. It receives its nutrients from synovial fluid which moves through the joint spaces as a result of compression and relaxation caused by movement. This is why exercise improves the nourishment of cartilage.
- Synovial fluid lubricates joints and keeps cartilage smooth and healthy.
- Surrounding a joint and holding everything in place is a tough membrane called the joint capsule.
- Lastly, joints include tendons attaching muscles to bones and ligaments, that connect two bones or cartilages, or hold together a joint. Their job is to keep everything stable and to allow movement, bending and mobility.
A cartilage story:
Healthy cartilage requires water, proteoglycans to attract and hold water, and collagen “netting” to keep the proteoglycans in place. Cartilage is made of:
- Water (60 – 85%) for lubrication and nourishment.
- Collagen, a protein, provides cartilage with elasticity and the ability to absorb shock. It also creates a netting to hold proteoglycans in place.
- Proteoglycans, apart from having a funny name, are huge molecules made up of protein and carbohydrates, which are woven around and through collagen fibres to form a dense netting. They make the cartilage resilient so it can stretch and act like a sponge to trap water.
- Chondrocytes in the cartilage are miniature factories that produce new collagen and proteoglycan molecules. As we get older they also release enzymes to destroy and dispose of ageing collagen and proteoglycan molecules.
An ageing story:
- Proteoglycans change as we age, causing the joint to become less resilient, more susceptible to damage, and the cartilage to become thinner.
- Fluid in the joints decreases so that in some people the surfaces of the joint do not slide over each other as easily as they used to do. As a result, cartilage surfaces begin to rub together and erode.
- Joints become stiffer because the connective tissue within ligaments and tendons becomes more rigid and brittle, limiting the range of motion of joints.
- Sometimes a deposition in and around ageing joints, known as calcification, occurs. This is common in the shoulder.
A “what to do” story:
We can support our joints by:
- keeping our weight within a healthy range to limit the amount of stress placed on our joints.
- doing low impact exercises that do not put too much pressure on our joints, like swimming or cycling. This builds muscles which support joints. (Speak to a health care provider before beginning a new exercise programme).
- drinking enough water. Joints, as well as every other cell in our bodies, need adequate amounts of water to function optimally.
- taking a well formulated supplement with high dosage ratios of chondroitin and glucosamine, like OsteoEze Gold or one of the other quality products in the OsteoEze range (click through).
A chondroitin and glucosamine story:
Since chondroitin and glucosamine are key structural components in cartilage, they play an important role in the maintenance of healthy joints. International research shows that a high dosage ratio of these two substances work together to help the body to build and repair damaged or eroded cartilage, thereby helping the body to counter impaired mobility and to relieve the symptoms of painful and inflamed joints.
OsteoEze Gold contains the high dosage ratio of glucosamine (1500 mg per day) and chondroitin (801 mg per day) which can assist the body with cartilage degeneration. Since cartilage regeneration is a mechanical process, consumers should stick to the optimum daily dosage until they experience an improvement in mobility and a reduction in pain which can take up to three months. Vitamin C to aid with collagen production and manganese, an anti-oxidant, complete the OsteoEze Gold formula.
Chondroitin is a large molecule-sized compound that is used in the formation of the structure of the joint matrix, the intercellular substance of cartilage.
- Because chondroitin pulls water towards itself it may help to attract water molecules into the cartilage matrix, which also acts as a spongy shock absorber.
- Since chondroitin is a building block of proteoglycan molecules found in cartilaginous tissues, it can influence the formation of new cartilage matrix by stimulating chondrocyte metabolism and synthesis of collagen and proteoglycans.
- Chondroitin has also been reported as inhibiting “bad guy” enzymes: leukocyte elastase, which is secreted in inflammation, and hyaluronidase, which is an enzyme that lowers the viscosity of the fluid between the cells in the joint.
- Chondroitin also stimulates production by the synovial cells of hyaluronic acid which is a component of synovial fluid responsible for lubricating the joint. Viscosity is subsequently improved and synovial fluid levels return to normal.
Glucosamine is an amino-monosaccharide that is naturally produced in humans. It is one of the major substrates used in the biosynthesis of large molecules that form the cartilage which covers the surface of bones where they connect with other bones. Glucosamine is a major building block of proteoglycans and is needed to make the proteins that bind water in the joints.
We can’t stop our joints from responding to the stresses of our active lives. Neither can we put a halt to ageing. However we can understand the kind of lifestyle support that our joints need and take positive steps to implement changes needed.