Most of our joints are hinge like structures where two bones meet to allow motion. Bones rubbing against one another do not wear well and with time deform and cause pain. Fortunately, our joints have a remarkable substance covering these bones called articular cartilage. This cartilage has no nerve endings, so we don't feel pain. Cartilage and can last for years with little signs of wear, however, when it wears out, it is gone. Our bodies do not regenerate articular cartilage. With all of our technology, medical science still cannot regenerate articular cartilage in a joint.
X-ray of normal knee and knee with arthritis. Notice the loss of joint space with bone touching bone in the knee with arthritis.
We all want our joints to last as long as possible. In some cases our genetic makeup dooms us to early arthritis. However, taking care of our joints can delay the onset of their degeneration despite what we inherit from our parents. Anything that increases the load on our joints or changes the normal joint physiology, can accelerate the loss of cartilage.
Maintaining an ideal body weight and avoiding high impact activities can go along way to prevent our joints from premature wear. If we injure the articular cartilage or interrupt the normal synovial lubrication, our joints can quickly wear out. Exercise has been show to delay the onset of arthritis. Maintaining joint flexibility and muscle strength is believed to be essential for healthy living and joint function.
Many people ask if supplements can restore joint cartilage or delay the onset of arthritis. Despite numerous advertisements to convince the public that a particular product will cure or delay arthritis, non bias studies proving the benefits of these supplements are hard to find. A well balanced diet will probably do more to delay arthritis by helping to maintain an ideal body than any advertised joint saving remedy.