You read in many health magazines about pills to keep your joints flexible. Does this really work? I am now 48 years old, I feel fit and I exercise a lot. I exercise for about an hour and a half every day. But I do notice that my knees and elbows recover more slowly than when I was young. Are those pills for me?
Frank Mulder, physiotherapist
Your story shows that you exercise enough, so that’s not the problem. According to the Dutch Standard for Healthy Exercise, you should exercise for 30 minutes every day of moderate to intensive exercise to reduce the decline in endurance and muscle strength, among other things.
I find the term ‘flexible joints’ an unclear term. I assume that you mean joints without wear.
Wear and tear of the cartilage in one or more joints is called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the articular cartilage deteriorates. This cartilage also ensures that the joint can move smoothly and painlessly and has a shock-absorbing effect. In osteoarthritis, however, the articular cartilage is damaged, cannot recover and even disappear completely. The joint is less able to absorb shocks and movement is more difficult.
Recently, the substance glucosamine has become very popular. It seems like you can buy it everywhere and many well-known Dutch people promote this drug. There is also a lot of scientific research being done. The proponents of glucosamine claim that this substance inhibits the breakdown of cartilage and that new cartilage is even produced.
This is often supported by small studies. However, a few months ago, a large, well-researched study was published in the renowned New England Journal of Medicine showing that glucosamine does not work at all. More research is likely to follow, so we’re keeping a close eye on the studies.
My advice at the moment is that there are no pills that prevent joint wear. There is still no cure for osteoarthritis. You literally have to ‘learn to live’ with it. If the complaints get worse, I advise you to contact a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist gives you exercises and advice so that you can continue to move as well as possible, which ultimately reduces the complaints.
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