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Joint Pain

"The cartilage is gone. Cartilage does not regenerate. You'll need a joint replacement to allow you to move normally without pain."

Many of you have heard this advice from an orthopedic surgeon. The excellent result from a hip or knee replacement is usually quite dramatic. But why go through an operation with its attendant risks if it can be avoided.

Joint destruction is a gradual process and takes years, even decades, to lead to disability. When arthritis of a joint is far advanced due to destruction of the cartilage pain and limited joint motion are the result. When the discomfort and limited mobility prompt you see a doctor, it is already too late to salvage the joint.

If you begin to notice joint pain or pain from tight ligaments around the joint that is recurring or constant then you should take notice and begin a program to halt the process before joint replacement is needed.

Start with topical therapy to relieve the pain. Ben-Gay or other liniment (Icy Hot, Mineral Ice, Sports Cream, capsaicin and others) should be tried. Topical therapy requires 4 or more applications daily to work effectively. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil and others) or naproxen (Aleve and others) should be used sparingly. These drugs can have life-threatening adverse effects such intestinal ulcers with bleeding, kidney failure, and interference with blood pressure control medication and heart medication if taken regularly. Acetaminophen is a much safer alternative. Do not exceed the maximum recommended daily dose.

Next, begin an exercise program to use and strengthen the muscles that are involved with moving the painful joint. Consult a trainer at a local gym or school to help design an exercise program for you if needed.

Finally, take a vitamin D supplement, at least 1000 units daily. Vitamin D may be the most important nutrient that can help regenerate and maintain cartilage if begun at the first sign of recurring joint pain and stiffness. Because of admonitions about sun exposure and the consumption of dairy products (fortified with vitamin D), we have all become vitamin D-deficient. (Fatty fish is also a good source of the vitamin). Liver disease and certain medications may interfere with the beneficial effects of vitamin D and require taking a supplement to avoid deficiency. The vitamin is also important for muscle strength. It may take a few weeks or more to feel the benefit of a supplement. Do not take vitamin D if you high blood calcium or advanced kidney disease.

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