FAQs about the joints
1 • What are joints made of?
A joint is the connection point at the end of 2 bones. At this location the ends of the bones are covered with cartilage, a resistant and very smooth substance that enables the bones to slide over each other to maintain fluid mobility of movement during day-to-day activities.
The system is retained within the joint capsule that joins the 2 bones and stabilises the joint. The synovial membrane covers the joint capsule and secretes synovial fluid.
Cartilage is composed of 70 to 80% water and a mesh of fibres and proteins:
- Collagen fibres give the cartilage its solidity and resistance.
- Hyaluronic acid ensures elasticity.
- Proteoglycans containing glucosamine and chondroitin act as sponges that retain water enabling the joint to absorb impact.
The chondrocytes are specialist cells which renew cartilage by producing collagen fibres and chondroitin.
Not having any blood vessels, cartilage is nourished and lubricated by the synovial fluid, a viscous liquid that enables the bones to slide freely and therefore promote mobility, while providing the joint with a high level of shock absorbency.
2 • Osteoarthritis or arthritis, what's the difference?
It is not easy to differentiate between osteoarthritis and arthritis. Although they are both forms of rheumatism and cause joint pain, their mechanisms are quite different.
The suffix '-itis' indicates the inflammation of an organ or tissue. By definition, arthritis is therefore an inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis is mechanical degradation of the cartilage, but is also accompanied by inflammation!
Accordingly, a person suffering from osteoarthritis may have painful outbreaks of arthritis.
|The range of inflammatory joint disorders
||Mechanical destruction of the joint cartilage accompanied by inflammation
|Pain when at rest, especially at night. May dissipate with mild physical effort and by exercising the joints
||Pain during physical effort and movement. Reduces when at rest
|Reversible, may be treated
3 • "Osteoathritis = ageing" - is this correct?
No, arthritis can occur at any age. It has multiple origins: build up of strain injuries, physical overwork, excess weight, genetic, diet. It can take place as a result of major trauma, at any age. However, only 3% of the population under 45 are affected, 65% over 65 and 80% from the age of 80.
4 • And does gender come into it?
In terms of joints, women are not the same as men. After the age of 50, osteoarthritis is more common in women than men. The cause, oestrogen. Chondrocytes carry oestrogen receptors. When stimulated, they induce the synthesis of growth factors. After the menopause there is a drop in oestrogen levels, and therefore a reduced synthesis of these growth factors and bone fragility.
5 • "Weather-sensitive" joints: myth or reality?
People frequently talk of resurgent joint discomfort when it rains. It has been "refuted" by the Academy of Medicine, which did not confirm a link between atmospheric pressure variations and the re-emergence of discomfort. It seems that we would be better looking for a link with lack of exercise: in bad weather people don't go out and tend to stay still, which leads to discomfort. So keep moving! On the other hand, it is true that in general rheumatism may be relieved by the heat from a hot water bottle or hair dryer.
Did you know?
Inflammatory rheumatism generally occurs in young adults and may even affect children (arthritis and juvenile ankylosing spondylitis).
Among top-level athletes, the risk of arthritis in the knee or hip is greater than 85%. Most at risk: footballers, handball and hockey players.
Morning "unlocking" takes too long, stiffness? I take care of my joints
By following a healthy lifestyle
I give up smoking: a possible trigger factor for inflammatory rheumatism via the mechanisms of oxidative stress.
I avoid being overweight: being overweight 'weighs down' on the joints, especially the knees. Losing 1 lb equates to relieving 2 lbs off the joints with each step. Accordingly, losing at least 5% of your body weight slows down cartilage degeneration.
I limit stress: it's well known - repeated stress increases muscular tension and therefore sensitivity to rheumatism.
I take physical exercise, but not to excess: regular physical activity helps to retain flexibility in the joints. But too much is detrimental! Intensive sport makes excessive demands on the ligaments and joints, with repeated microtrauma and mechanical stress leading to worn cartilage.
Be sensible about it and vary activities so it is not always the same joints being used. Also remember to do your stretching exercises. Gentle on the joints: cycling and swimming. More aggressive, especially on hard ground with very little shock absorber effect: running, tennis, squash.
I favour a diet that supports the joints:
- On the menu should be fruit and vegetables high in alkaline minerals. Excess acid due to excessive consumption of meat, refined sugar, salt, etc. are aggressive on the tissue and may lead to the 'plunder' of the de-acidifying minerals required for good osteoarticular health. Sensitive joints may be an indication of this phenomenon.
- I also favour polyphenols and other molecules with antioxidant properties: I use spices (all spices chase off oxidative stress) and I combine lots of colours on the plate.
- Omega 3 from small wild fish or rapeseed and walnut oil.
- I drink plenty (water, green tea, fruit tea), remember that cartilage is 75% water!
- I reduce cooking temperatures: at high temperature "glycated proteins" are formed, substances which trigger an increase in inflammatory molecules, very aggressive on the joints. These are found in fried, grilled and roast food, so should be consumed in moderation.
By making use of micronutrition and beneficial plants
Certain substances taken as supplements have a so-called chondroprotective effect, as they provide nutrients that promote the synthesis of cartilage components, inhibiting its degradation and sometimes even reducing pain. Although such substances do not cure osteoarthritis, they may slow the condition down. Among the best known chondroprotectors:
- Glucosamine sulphate: Glucosamine is naturally produced in our body by the chondrocytes. Incorporated within cartilage, it slows down its degradation and stimulates matrix production. Glucosamine sulphate appears to enhance the lubricating action of synovial fluid and to attenuate symptoms in the joints.
- Chondroitin sulphate: Like glucosamine, chondroitin is produced by the body and also acts on pain and inflammation.
The effect of glucosamine and chondroitin is not immediate, it generally appears after taking supplements for 3 months.
- Hyaluronic acid: Naturally present in the joints, hyaluronic acid is a component of synovial fluid, it increases its viscosity and therefore the lubrication of the joint.
- Collagen: An intake of collagen stimulates cartilage tissue regeneration by increasing the synthesis of its components, and reduces joint pain.
Did you know ?
Industrially reared chicken, cow and pork carcasses, shark cartilage, shellfish… Be careful where these materials are sourced from!
Favour ingredients of marine origin from the by-products of fishing (fish skin and bone residues) or of plant origin (e.g. obtained via fermentation).
- MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane), naturally present in numerous foods (milk, seafood, chocolate, coffee), is a source of sulphur. Present in high concentration in the joints, sulphur is used in the synthesis of cartilage components. MSM has therefore been used for a long time to treat joint pain.
- Silicon: Although it is one of the main minerals in the human body, it is especially prevalent in conjunctive tissue (skin, cartilage, bone). It is notably involved in the synthesis of collagen within the cartilage.
- Vitamin C: Without vitamin C our body would be unable to synthesise the collagen of our joints. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C traps free radicals and therefore protects the chondrocytes from the oxidative stress induced in response to inflammation.
Horsetail: Horsetail is especially rich in antioxidative flavonoids and minerals, notably silia, which promote remineralisation and cartilage renewal.
Harpagophytum: Also known as 'devil's claw', harpagophytum has been used for centuries by the peoples of Africa to ease inflammation and joint pain.
Nettle: Naturally contains silicon. Used over the ages for its multiple benefits, nettle is good for the bones and soothes joint pain. It also helps to eliminate the toxins able to 'clog up' the joints.
Bamboo: Bamboo stem has an especially high silicon content, a component of bone and cartilage, and therefore enhances the resistance of conjunctive tissue and helps to prevent degeneration of the cartilage.
Curcuma: The virtues of curcuma come from its high content of polyphenols, including curcumin, a renowned anti-inflammatory.
Talk to your doctor or therapist.