Arthritis Myths

January 30, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

This past week, I learned of two new studies that question a few common misconceptions about arthritis. I thought it would be important to share these with you, as some of you may be avoiding these resources due to incomplete information.

Exercise and Arthritis

A review was just published in the Journal of Anatomy about the role that exercise plays in the development of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that causes inflammation and deterioration of the cartilage that cushions bones. It is a progressive condition that ultimately leads to a growing level of pain, a greater dependence on pain relievers and sometimes surgery. OA can also cause significant limitations in the ability to walk, play sports and generally engage in any type of physical activity.

A popular theory about how OA progresses is by repetitive use of particular joints, such as the knee. Because of this view, certain healthy forms of exercise are avoided for fear that they could be too hard on the joints.

The researchers who conducted this extensive review found the opposite to be true. They summarized their findings by stating that, “Despite the common misconception that exercise is deleterious to one’s joints, in the absence of joint injury there is no evidence to support this notion. Rather it would appear that exercise has positive salutory benefits for joint tissues in addition to its other health benefits.”

Osteoarthritis EffectsChondroitin for Long Term Relief

The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin is probably the best known and best selling nutritional supplement to support joint health. But some health experts claim that glucosamine is the real star of the duo. They say that chondroitin just adds expense, but doesn’t really offer any benefit to our joints.

New research from Paris disputes the anti-chondroitin assertions of some doctors. 622 OA patients participated in this 2 year study. Half of the OA sufferers were given a daily dose of 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate. The other half were administered an inactive placebo.

The researchers also x-rayed the patients’ knees to determine the amount of “joint space loss” between the bones. “Joint space loss” is a method of determining the rate of OA joint damage. The greater the amount of loss, the faster the disease is moving forward. They took this measurement at the beginning of the trial, after 1 year, at 18 months and at the end of the trial.

Here’s what the researchers summarized at the conclusion of the trial:

  • Those using chondroitin showed a significant decrease in the amount of joint structure loss, as compared to those using a placebo. This tells us that the OA was progressing at a slower rate in those taking chondroitin sulfate.
  • There was also a reduction in joint pain in those supplementing with the chondroitin.
  • The chondroitin use was not associated with any safety concerns.

Based on this well designed study, the authors commented that, “The long term combined structure-modifying and symptom-modifying effects of CS suggest that it could be a disease-modifying agent in patients with knee OA.”

I use chondroitin sulfate myself. I don’t have osteoarthritis, but I’d like to prevent it. And based on this and prior research, I think that chondroitin (and exercise) may just give me an edge.

Be well!


Tags: ,
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Bone and Joint Health, Nutritional Supplements

One Comment to “Arthritis Myths”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: The right type of exercise benefits cartilage integrity and knee function ….

    Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Feb 9.

    Effect of Exercise on Patellar Cartilage in Women with Mild Knee Osteoarthritis.

    PURPOSE: To investigate the effects of exercise on patellar cartilage using T2 relaxation time mapping of MRI in postmenopausal women with mild patellofemoral joint osteoarthritis (OA).

    METHODS: Eighty postmenopausal women (mean age: 58 y (SD 4.2)) with mild knee osteoarthritis were randomized to either a supervised progressive impact exercise program three times a week for 12 months (n = 40) or to a non-intervention control group (n = 40). The biochemical properties of cartilage were estimated using T2 relaxation time mapping, a parameter sensitive to collagen integrity, collagen orientation and tissue hydration. Leg muscle strength and power, aerobic capacity and self-rated assessment by the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) were also measured.

    RESULTS: Post intervention the full-thickness patellar cartilage T2 values had medium size effect (d= 0.59; 95% CI: 0.16 to 0.97, p=0.018), the change difference was 7% greater in the exercise group compared to the control group. In the deep half of tissue, the significant exercise effect was in medium size (d= 0.56; 95% CI: 0.13 to 0.99, p=0.013), the change difference was 8% greater in the exercise group compared to the controls. Also, significant medium size T2 effects were found in the total lateral segment, lateral deep and lateral superficial zone in favor of the exercise group. Extension force increased by 11% (d=0.63, p=0.006) more and maximal aerobic capacity by 4% (d=0.55, p=0.028) more in the exercise group than controls. No changes in KOOS emerged between the groups.

    CONCLUSIONS: Progressively implemented high-impact and intensive exercise created enough stimuli and had favorable effects both on patellar cartilage quality and physical function in postmenopausal women with mild knee OA.

    Be well!


Leave a Comment