Reversing Osteoarthritis – but First, What is It?
Osteoarthritis – the disease so awesome that 22% of American adults have been diagnosed with it, says the CDC.
Well, what the hell is osteoarthritis anyway? Simply, it’s the degradation of the cartilage in your joints. The “padding” between your bones become worn out and painful. Sounds fun, right? No, it actually doesn’t.
Doctors typically attribute osteoarthritis to “aging” or “having too much wear-and-tear”. They make it sound like we have predetermined amount of cartilage in our joints that will eventually run out (like a woman and her eggs).
You know what I say? I say this is BS. Why would humans be programmed in their DNA to never be able to regenerate a portion of their bodies that bears load and takes a beating everyday? Are we truly destined to be weak and useless at eventually in our lives? Unless that’s when we’re on our deathbeds, I think that’s not the case.
If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It
I’ve said it time and time again in multiple blog posts – our muscles and tendons will degrade if we stop exercising. So why wouldn’t our cartilage degrade too? Just like muscles and tendons, cartilage is living tissue that responds to stress. Wouldn’t it make sense that given the right amount of stress, it will adapt and grow stronger? This may be the key to reversing osteoarthritis. Back to this point in a second.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you should know that cartilage does not have its own blood supply, just like tendons don’t. Unlike tendons, which receive nutrition from its neighboring muscle’s blood supply, cartilage has no “attached muscle” to give it a free ride with blood supply. Neither does it receive some nutrition from the surrounding bone that it is actually attached to. This is one of the reasons why doctors believe osteoarthritis is a death-sentence.
However, our cartilage does get nutrition from is the surrounding synovial fluid, which is encapsulated by the cartilage and synovial membrane, forming a “water balloon” that further cushions the joints.
The synovial fluid is nourished from nearby blood vessels outside of the synovial membrane. When the joints are under compression and increased pressure, it has been seen in one study that the permeability of the cartilage increases. “The present work extends this model to include the condition that the permeability of cartilage is dependent on the extent to which it is deformed.”
It is through imbibition, as stated by the researchers, that synovial fluid enters the cartilage during compression and increased pressure, and is then expelled back into the synovial cavity during “relaxation”. Imbibition is described as “the displacement of one fluid by another immiscible fluid” by Wikipedia.
The Solution for Osteoarthritis is Movement
So, what does this all even mean?
Let’s refer back to my previous point – that cartilage is living tissue and needs the right amount of stress to stay strong. People who usually have awesome joints are athletes and people with high levels of fitness. As for people dealing with OA, these folks are usually older and out of shape.
By putting pressure and compressive stress on your joints, you pump synovial fluid in and out of your joints. This synovial fluid donates nutrients to and transports waste out of the surrounding cartilage. So, how do we put pressure and compression on our joints, you ask? Through movement.
How do we provide both the adaptive-stress and the nourishing anabolic compounds to our cartilage simultaneously? Through movement.
Theoretically, yet logically, how do we reverse and cure osteoarthritis? Through movement.
People need to keep moving. That is what makes reversing osteoarthritis possible. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was it destroyed overnight. The same principle applies to our bodies. It takes years of damage to manifest as health conditions, and it will take plenty of time to reverse it.
If this article was interesting to you, feel free to read the articles I’ve written on joints and movement: The Best Training Parameters to Strengthen Joints, Joint Hypermobility is a BS Diagnosis, Strengthening Joints through Exercise, as well as many others.