Preserve Your Precious Cartilage

©2005 by Katherine Poehlmann, PhD


Complaints of “arthritis” can cancel a vacation, cut short a hiking field trip, end a golf game early, or put a hobby like needlework on hold.

There are dozens of disorders characterized by joint pain, inflammation, and chronic fatigue. Specific diagnostic tests can determine the cause. Often it is a microbial infection, as with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, MS, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Sometimes allergies (foods, chemical, environmental) can mimic arthritis symptoms.

Joint pain can also occur when the muscles surrounding the joint are lax and the bones are out of alignment. Joint integrity is lost as the misaligned bones do wear-and-tear damage to cartilage over time.

Cartilage is like a sponge – it needs fluid to function properly. This means not just water (although that's 70% of the cell structure) but fluids like hyaluronic acid, a natural substance our body produces to "grease" the joint during movement.

Compression/relaxation action in the joint moves these fluids around and results in flexibility and free movement. Inactivity makes cartilage thin, brittle, and subject to tearing. Helpful non-impact exercises are tai chi, yoga, Pilates, the Egoscue Method, and water aerobics.

Poor posture, ill-fitting shoes, or a sagging mattress can lead to joint pain. Carrying extra body weight, heavy purses, briefcases, or backpacks put undue gravitational stress on joints. Over time, these stresses will destabilize joint integrity, leading to osteoarthritis through wear and tear of cartilage.

Proper diet provides nutrients to nourish joint tissue. Good circulation of blood and lymph systems delivers those nutrients. Regular exercise promotes good circulation and muscle tone.

Sedentary living habits add to cartilage degeneration. Make sure your chairs and sofas provide good back support. Don't sit for more than an hour at a time at your desk or computer. At home, take a short break to do light housework or garden chores. Gentle stretches while on the phone or during TV commercials can help a lot to keep joints lubricated. At the office, try resistance exercises, stretches, and “wall pushups” when possible. Forego the elevator and take the stairs.

Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of pure (not tap) water daily. That’s the equivalent of two sports bottles. Herbal or decaffeinated teas count toward your water quota and provide an antioxidant bonus. The additives in sodas, fruit juices, and coffee do more harm than good.

Some supplements that nutritionists recommend to encourage flexible, elastic cartilage are MSM (500-1,000mg/day), glucosamine sulfate (1500 mg/day), chondroitin sulfate (1200 mg/day), unflavored gelatin (1 or 2 tsp per day), Vitamin C (500-2,000 mg/day), fish oil or flaxseed oil (1000 mg/day).

Discuss your particular vitamin/supplement needs and exercise plans with your health care provider.



Dr. Poehlmann is the author of Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Infection Connection, available on and at major bookstores, or click here to order now.


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