One of the most important stages in the history of man is his evolution to the upright posture. The resulting instability due to bipedal locomotion and the fatigue of maintaining a vertical posture, constantly defying the force of gravity, predisposes the locomotor system to continuous tension and wear. With this in mind, we must adopt a lifestyle and measures to protect our joints.
Aggressor, victim, reaction
Schematically speaking, there are three main actors responsible for joint pain and osteoarthritis: an aggressor, a victim, and an accomplice. The ’aggressor’ or external factors include trauma, unfavourable climate conditions, incorrect posture, stressful conditions. The aggressor induced by external agents is enhanced and amplified by the ‘complicity’ of internal favouring factors, which depend on our build, eating habits, lack of exercise and emotional tension. The ‘victim’, represented by the joints of the locomotor system, reacts to the aggression by external agents, opposing a more or less inflammatory response that predisposes to cartilage wear, typical of the arthritic process.
Looking after our joints
Movement is vital for our joints. The joint surface is in fact nourished by the synovial fluid that circulates between the bone surfaces thanks to movement. Therefore, in order to keep our joints free, tone our muscles and ensure solid bones, the joint system needs to be regularly mobilised. Several dietary supplements are known for their protective action on joints, having an anti-inflammatory and protective effect on the joint cartilage, documented by studies.
Protection against inflammation
In phytotherapy, plant-based preparations are available to reduce inflammation and counteract pain, such as Devil’s claw, Boswellia, Meadowsweet, and Pycnogenol. Devil’s claw in particular, which is native to Southern Africa, is considered the star of anti-arthritic plants due to the presence of active ingredients (iridoids) in the secondary roots, which have an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and protective action on joints.
Protection against wear
Some supplements primarily perform an active protective function on the joint cartilage, such as palmitoylethanolamide or PEA, hydrolysed native collagen, undenatured type II or UC-II collagen, vitamin C. In particular, the low molecular weight peptides obtained from the hydrolysis of native collagen stimulate the regeneration of cartilage, thus stimulating the synthesis of collagen, glycosaminoglycans and hyaluronic acid, reducing the painful stiffness typical of osteoarthritis.