Forestalling joint pain

It's a chilly weekend afternoon and snuggled up on a cosy rocking chair by the bedroom window, you are about to finish reading this fabulous novel. After having basked quite a while in the feel-good vibes of the novel's climactic finish, you decide to rise from your chair for a brisk walk around the house.

To your utter dismay, your right knee gives a loud ominous pop and a twinge signals the onset of an excruciating pain that renders you unable to rise out of the chair let alone stand up on your own at once. And the horrid realisation hits you with a jolt — one cannot have the same bounce in step in their '50s like in their '20s.

 Nightmarish, isn't it?

Even this mere envision thought can send chills down your spine. The tell-tale sign of geriatric-joint pain can veritably prevent you from leading a life unbound to the shackles of aging.

How many times did you come across somebody in their '50s, or '60s, who has not complained if not knee, but of a joint pain located somewhere else?

Regardless of how alarming the scenario might seem in the carefree and footloose '20s, given the sedentary lifestyle of the millennials, this happens to be where we all might be headed to. A drastic cutback in physical activity, paired with aging, exacerbates the situation.

Growing up, it's a common scene in every home to come across our beloved grandparents' complaints about aching joints, or even get to see them become bedridden from the health issue eventually. Seeing no other apparent solution except painkillers, most people resort to diverse home remedies such as using hot water bags, and pain remitting balms.

Although painkillers might provide temporary relief from the pain, they fall short in ensuring cure or long term remission. Over time, they are forced to adapt to reduced mobility owing to their joint pain and have to face trouble in completing day to day chores.

Stress from run of the mill daily tasks like walking, sitting down, squatting, gripping things, rising up from sitting positions, climbing stairs etc become too much for the joints. There are many causes of joint pain — osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, bursitis, etc.

The 'geriatric curse – Osteoarthritis' alone accounts for 87 percent of causes behind all joint pains.

WHAT IS OSTEOARTHRITIS?                               

Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the shock-absorbing and supporting tissue of bones, known as cartilages, break down. It is a manifestation of wear and tear arising from the overuse of joints. Osteoarthritis usually occurs with age. However, it can also occur due to joint injury, or obesity which is known to exert pressure on joints. Automatically, the questions arise —

A. What are cartilages made of?

Cartilages are connective tissue and hence, comprise cells embedded in extracellular matrix. This matrix is composed of collagen fibres and ground substances, namely – glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans, and water. Popularly known as GAGS; these glycosaminoglycans are essentially what provide joints with tensile strength, flexibility, and weight-bearing capacity. Aging robs the joints of the GAGS required for them to function properly and stave off stress.

Hence, preferably after turning 50, it is advised to take glucosamine supplements to help prevent osteoarthritis.

For some unexplained reason, many people tend to believe that Vitamin D and Calcium will both prevent and heal joint pain. But this information happens to be quite incorrect and misleading to some extent.

What calcium will do is maintain bone density, while Vitamin D is going to help absorb Calcium. They are necessary to maintain the strength of bones and promote overall bone health. But your joints will need glucosamine to provide them with their own strength.

GAGS are the diesel for your body's junctions. Very much analogous to a machine, the body's joints end up jammed and rusty if they are not supplied their fuel — glucosamine.

Glucosamine and chondroitin have their natural source in the exoskeletons of shellfish, lobster, crabs, shrimps, etc. and crustacean shells do not turn edible even after proper cooking. So, supplements are the only exogenous supply of GAGS.

B. What to do?

Our favourite cliché makes it here too – prevention is better than cure.

Men in their '50s and postmenopausal women should start taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements on a daily basis, and alternating between months. Other important supplements like Vitamin D and Calcium should not be missed. However, consulting your physician is always recommended for the correct dosage and to find out if you are contraindicated due to some other health condition or concurrent drug prescription.

Aging is a mystery, weakening over time, you wake up one day to find the once young body unyielding to its own wishes, insistent on a bit more rest and a little more support. Let's not have joint pain subdue the gifts life has to offer. Here's to healthy aging!


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