your power to heal arthritis

Your Power to Heal Arthritis


Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a painful, often debilitating condition affecting millions worldwide. Some call it degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. Rates of joint replacements continue to rise—even in younger people ages 45–54. Perhaps you or someone close to you suffers from this condition. But here’s the good news: osteoarthritis is often preventable and manageable with the proper lifestyle habits. This gives us an enormous opportunity to take control of our health and reduce chronic pain and healthcare costs. I am on a mission to educate and empower people and change mindsets so we may continue growing and thriving. Remember, with the right knowledge and lifestyle changes, you have the power to prevent, manage, and heal osteoarthritis.

In the following post, I will provide you with a concise understanding of osteoarthritis, its symptoms, and risk factors. I will delve into the controllable lifestyle causes, the cartilage repair process, and, most importantly, how you can play a crucial role in your own health management by adopting the best practices for joint health. Your proactive approach to health management is key in preventing and managing osteoarthritis.

Signs, symptoms, risk factors

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage, which serves as a protective layer for the bones, deteriorates. It affects weight-bearing and frequently used body parts like hands, spine, hips, and knees, but it can impact any joint. This leads to stiff and painful joints, and bone-on-bone contact can cause deformities. X-rays or MRIs may reveal loss of cartilage, bone spurs, cysts, or thickening of the bone. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

While scientists are making great strides in discovering how to repair and grow cartilage to reduce the need for replacements, this will not address the underlying causes of osteoarthritis. It also fuels a mentality that our bodies will inevitably break down—but we can get our joints replaced! The truth is, we should not be pushing our bodies until they break.

Whether or not you’ve received a formal diagnosis of osteoporosis from your doctor, you may be experiencing one or more of these symptoms.

  • Joint pain, swelling, tenderness or achiness
  • Joint stiffness, especially when waking up or after sitting for a long time
  • Crunching or crackling sound or grating sensation in a joint(s) when moving
  • Loss of flexibility and range of motion
  • Bony outgrowths in fingers or toes

Has a doctor told you your arthritis (or any health malady for that matter) is due to “old age”? Have you heard you can’t control your biological age? As a female, maybe you think you are at higher risk of osteoarthritis than males. These things don’t have to be true. Some factors CAN be controlled. We can address excess body weight, recovery from joint injury, and repetitive activities that can wear away the joint cartilage over time. Muscle weakness and laxity can make joints unstable and misaligned, putting strain on joints, and chronic systemic inflammation can destroy joint cartilage. These are all risk factors we can control at some level.

Three risk factors you can control

1. Posture and movement patterns

your power to heal arthritisAs a Hanna Somatic Movement Educator, I’ve learned that maintaining a healthy posture and maintaining movement patterns are key to preventing joint degeneration. Yet, modern sedentary lifestyles don’t support this. Sitting for long periods and leaning toward screens lead to chronic muscle tension. Our nervous system learns, remembers, and maintains these tense muscular patterns as we adopt dysfunctional posture and movement patterns. This tension causes joints to misalign, increasing pressure on cartilage and leading to its breakdown.

Overusing joints, as in sports or repetitive work, strains cartilage and triggers inflammation. Without cartilage protection, bones thicken and develop spurs and cysts, causing pain and limited movement. These changes can be prevented and reversed by releasing muscle tension, retraining posture, and avoiding joint overuse.

2. Chronic inflammation

Understanding the impact of systemic inflammation is crucial as it’s linked to chronic diseases like osteoarthritis. Chronic inflammation occurs with constant joint misuse. Diet also plays a significant role, with research highlighting that nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids can alleviate symptoms. Supplements can’t counteract a diet rich in inflammatory foods. A 2021 study showed knee osteoarthritis patients on a Western diet had worse symptoms than those on Mediterranean or vegetable-based diets. These high-fiber diets helped reduce joint damage and pain.

Other lifestyle factors also increase inflammation and osteoarthritis risk. Chronic stress, exposure to toxins like heavy metals and pesticides, and imbalances in the body’s electrical energy are linked to inflammatory conditions.

3. Excess Body Weight

Excess body weight is a major controllable risk factor for osteoarthritis because it increases pressure on joints.  Studies show that each pound of weight loss reduces knee pressure by four pounds. Inflammation from excess weight contributes to osteoarthritis. Obesity can raise the risk of osteoarthritis in joints throughout the body. Therefore, weight loss lowers osteoarthritis’s risk and severity by reducing mechanical load and inflammatory substances that damage cartilage.

Give cartilage a chance to heal

Cartilage continuously grows and maintains itself throughout life. It was once believed that chondrocytes, the cells responsible for cartilage, couldn’t migrate. However, recent research shows chondrocytes can migrate depending on the situation. A 2019 Duke and Lund Universities study found that human cartilage can regenerate more than previously thought, suggesting potential for enhanced joint repair and limb regeneration.

Despite its repair abilities, cartilage healing is hindered by two factors. First, cartilage lacks its own blood supply and relies on joint movement to receive nutrients. It requires moderate movement to stay healthy and promote the healing process. Second, rest alone isn’t enough to aid cartilage repair effectively. Addressing underlying issues like body use patterns, chronic inflammation, and excess weight is crucial.

Steps to prevent, manage and heal arthritic joints

An important first step is to stop or reduce activities that cause or worsen joint damage to allow cartilage to heal. As a Hanna Somatics Educator, I can help you determine the cause and teach you simple, gentle somatic exercises to release muscle tension and correct imbalanced posture and movement patterns. Training in this field for several years has greatly benefited my body. Additionally:

  1. Gradually start a gentle strengthening routine, loading and unloading joints under the supervision of a qualified professional.
  2. Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet, like the Whole30 program, to reduce inflammation and lose weight if needed.
  3. Reduce systemic inflammation by reducing stress and eliminating toxins. Meditation, red light therapy, and sauna sessions may also be helpful.
  4. Incorporate movement and physical exercise, but stay within your comfort zone. Try low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, gentle forms of yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong that do not stress joints.
  5. For joint replacement and cartilage transplant recovery: Hanna Somatics exercises can speed healing, release tension, and restore natural movement patterns.

I encourage you to address early warning signs of osteoarthritis, such as joint pain and crunching sounds, to make healing easier. Proper self-care can reduce pain, suffering, and healthcare costs, making osteoarthritis not inevitable.

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