Osteoarthritis 101

Osteoarthritis 101

Cartilage covers the ends of bones to create frictionless motion and cushion at the joint surface. It is a flexible connective tissue that resembles a firm gel made up of collagen and elastic fibers. Cartilage protects joints and bones by acting as a shock absorber. It provides support and resilience in bony areas where flexibility is needed. Overtime, cartilage can become damaged by injury or normal wear and tear. The problem arises when cartilage degenerates and chronic inflammation around the joints develops.

Arthritis is characterized by stiff, aching, hard to move joints and bones. It is a degenerative joint disease that worsens over time. Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as the “wear and tear” disease is the most common type of arthritis. It occurs when cartilage between bones and joints wears down allowing bones to rub together rather than giving them the protection and cushion they need. This leads to cartilage deterioration. Cartilage provides collagen and other substances that make connective tissues strong and flexible. Eventually, there is no cartilage left and functionality and shape of the joint changes causing pain and difficulty carrying out everyday tasks.


Arthritis is the number one cause of work disability in the U.S. 15 million adults reported suffering from severe pain due to arthritis. 33 million American adults have osteoarthritis. It affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 5 men. 1 in 25 working adults, age 18-64, suffer from or were issued work limitations. In 2019, arthritis contributed to $17 billion worth of lost wages. Two thirds of people with an arthritis diagnosis are under age 65. Almost half of adults with the diagnosis have another condition, such as, obesity, anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, or diabetes. By 2030, it is estimated that there will be 67 million American adults living with arthritis.


Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones deteriorates or wears down overtime. There is no more cushion or support left for frictionless joint motion. This wear and tear leads to joint inflammation, deformity, and deterioration of the connective tissues that hold the joint together and connect muscle to bone. OA is a degenerative disease that gets worse over time resulting in chronic pain, which can make performing activities of daily living difficult.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Different forms of arthritis have different root causes. There is no concrete cause. OA is multifactorial and depends on lifestyle and genetic factors. Some people have a genetic defect in the protein that controls collagen production leading to malformations in bones and joints. Being overweight adds pressure, stress, and strain on joints. Sport injuries and everyday falls can trigger cartilage deterioration. Overuse of joints or repetitive movements over the years without sufficient rest can lead to the development of osteoarthritis. Certain medical conditions, like gout, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders can contribute to the development of arthritis. Infections, chronic stress, gut dysbiosis, and leaky gut syndrome can lead to chronic low grade inflammation or autoimmunity. When treating and managing OA, it is important to find and treat the root cause.

Signs + Symptoms

Arthritis symptoms vary person to person, but generally pain and stiffness are the hallmark signs. Joint pain depends on the severity and location of the cartilage deterioration. Warm, red, tender joints are common. Inflammation, swelling, and fluid retention may be present. Joint stiffness is caused by staying in one position, like sitting or standing, for long periods of time. Intense stiffness first thing after waking up in the morning for longer than an hour is a classic sign of OA. Decreased range of motion and loss of flexibility in the joint can also be present.

The joints most commonly affected by OA are the spine, hips, lower back, knees, fingers, feet, and thumb base. Complications of OA include fluid accumulation in joints, painful bone spurs, depression, and sleep disturbances.

Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed by a physical exam and comprehensive patient history by your primary healthcare provider. Imaging studies like an MRI or X-ray may be ordered as well.

OA Treatment + Management

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that worsens over time. It causes chronic pain and stiffness. If you experience pain that never goes away, make an appointment with your primary healthcare provider. For specialized care, knowledge and expertise, seek a rheumatologist. Arthritis can be diagnosed in primary care, but rheumatologists are the arthritic experts. Medication therapy consists of analgesics, like acetaminophen (Tylenol), non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, and in severe cases, narcotics, like Percocet, can be prescribed to relieve pain.

Management includes healthy weight maintenance to decrease strain and fat accumulation in joints. A nutrient dense diet rich in fiber, anti inflammatory foods, and omega-3 fatty acids is key in minimizing joint inflammation. Practice daily movement and keep active to boost joint health and normal range of motion and flexibility. Chiropractic care can help alleviate symptoms. Ginger and turmeric are natural analgesics that inhibit induction of several genes involved in the inflammatory response. Frankincense oil can be applied directly to the affected joint to reduce pain. It blocks joint inflammation and slows periarticular joint destruction.

OA Supplements

Supplements can be added to the management plan to help restore cartilage, maintain strong bones, boost overall joint health, and provide analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Top supplements for OA include bone broth, glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oils, and turmeric and ginger. Bone broth is a great source of collagen that contains chondroitin and glucosamine that boosts joint health and reduces joint inflammation and pain. Glucosamine maintains the integrity of cartilage and prevents the loss of it from normal wear and tear. It supports joint health, flexibility, and comfort. Chondroitin supports the inflammatory response and boosts joint health. Fish oils provide lubrication for joints and reduce inflammation. Turmeric and ginger are natural herbs that provide analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.

Keys to Success

Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet, exercising daily, managing stress and getting proper sleep are the keys to success when it comes to osteoarthritis. Foods high in sulfur and omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation. Consume salmon, flaxseed, chia seeds, eggs, grass-fed beef, organ meats, papaya, pineapple, onions, garlic, and asparagus. Daily exercise is very important in maintaining a healthy weight and minimizing adipose tissue. It strengthens muscles and joints and regulates hormones. Stress management practices, like restorative or yin yoga, relieves tension, boosts flexibility, and gives the joints time to open up. Proper sleep ensures adequate rest for the body and mind and helps to normalize inflammation levels.

OA + Self-Awareness

You are the number one determinant in your success of living a healthy, abundant life. Be mindful of the choices you make each day. Seek a rheumatologist for specialized knowledge, expertise, and management with your arthritis diagnosis. If you feel any anxious or depressive feelings due to your pain, or suffering from stress due financial strain from missing work, seek a mental health expert. Make sure you are getting proper sleep and exercising everyday. Communicate with family and friends, and surround yourself with people who support you.

Final Thoughts

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and known as the “wear and tear” condition. It is a degenerative joint disease with slow destruction of the articular cartilage. More than 33 million Americans suffer from OA. It is the leading cause of work disability in the U.S. Classic signs of OA include joint pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and loss of flexibility. Once diagnosed with OA, the goal is to prevent any further complications or damage to the joint.

Protection of the cartilage is of the upmost importance. Daily movement and exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet, proper sleep, and stress management activities, like restorative yoga, are essential to boost joint health and prevent arthritis development. Supplementation can help restore cartilage, maintain strong bones, boost joint health, and provide pain relief. If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, seek a rheumatologist for specialized care and expertise. Practice self-awareness and do what you know is necessary for your joint and bone health. You are the CEO of your own health.

Thank you for reading.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.