Archive for May, 2013
Most drugs designed to treat osteoarthritis do so only by addressing the primary symptoms of the disease: joint pain and inflammation. Reducing swelling is highly effective at reducing the friction within the joint space, and can slow the deterioration of the cartilage. This delays the progression of the osteoarthritis and, theoretically, could speed the healing process. Unfortunately, since cartilage heals so slowly, non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) are often prescribed in large doses over long periods of time. For some individuals, large quantities of NSAID’s can lead to bad reactions. These individuals often turn to herbal supplements to replace the NSAID’s in their daily routines.
Recent research in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research found that garcinia kola, a common African herbal supplement, is effective in treating osteoarthritis of the knee. Garcinia kola, like most western osteoarthritis medications, acts as a painkiller and antiinflammatory. This article confirms that individuals taking garcinia kola did better than those with no treatment, but found that traditional NSAID’s were more effective in reducing knee pain and swelling.
The FDA examines herbal supplements like garcinia kola differently than it checks medications. This directly leads to a reduction in quality control, and can allow impure products to reach the market. Always be aware that herbal supplements are not part of the pharmaceutical industry, and so are subjected to less stringent inspections.
While many herbal supplements are promising, they are often less effective than their manufacturers suggest. Herbal supplements are most appropriate as substitutes for western medications which cannot be taken for a specific reason. If you hear about a promising herbal supplement, consult your doctor before taking it, and do not assume that it will perform as advertised.
The knee joint is the junction of the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone), with the patella (knee cap) resting in an anterior groove. When the leg is loaded, weight travels down the thigh towards the knee, but before it hits the shin, the force is dispersed by two shock absorbers in the knee called the menisci. The menisci are filled with fluid, and when loaded, they spread the force over a broader area to prevent point-specific loading. Without the menisci, isolated forces could lead to breakdown and could damage the cartilage in the knee, and eventually the bone surfaces themselves.
Unfortunately, the menisci are often injured. More specifically, the medial meniscus is frequently damaged as part of the “terrible triad” (a simultaneous injury to the medial collateral ligament (MCL), the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and the medial meniscus). Meniscal tears are particularly dangerous because the menisci have very little blood supply. This means that it is difficult for your body to provide the nutrients necessary to heal the menisci, and so they recover very slowly. This is also troublesome because it may permit serious harm without severe pain, so you may not be aware of the severity of your injury. This lack of pain is often short-lived, since research published in the journal, Arthritis and Rheumatism demonstrates that meniscal injury often precedes damage to cartilage and then osteoarthritis.
Even painless meniscal injuries are nearly always accompanied by swelling, so do not assume that you are healthy if your swollen knees are painless. Anything that cause s excessive swelling may be causing harm. If you think you may be injured, consult your doctor immediately. If you wait until you feel pain, you may already be waiting too long.