The endoskeleton of humans, referred to as vertebrates, is composed of rigid bones that come in all shapes and sizes. Of their many functions, providing internal structure is the main purpose. To facilitate movement, a joint is located where two bones connect.
Structure and Function
Bones must be strong and hard, yet lightweight. Due to this fact, they have a complex internal structure resembling a honey-comb.
The bone comprises several different types of cells. Osteoblasts are bone forming cells; they are considered immature bone cells. Osteocytes are osteoblasts that have migrated towards the bone surface and become trapped by the bone matrix that they produce. Osteoclasts are cells that degrade bone in a process otherwise know as bone resorption. These cells secrete enzymes that act upon the bone surface. Bones act to protect the various organs of the body. The skull shapes the face and protects the brain. The backbone protects the delicate spinal cord which facilitates messaging between the brain and body. The heart, liver, lungs, and spleen are protected by the rib cage and the intestines, bladder and, in women, the reproductive organs are protected by the pelvis.
There is another component to bone that helps make it relatively light-weight, stronger, and some what flexible. That component is collagen upon which the hard bone crystals (hydroxyapatite) are deposited by osteocytes. Bones have metabolic functions in which they store minerals, growth factors, and fat; they also balance blood pH, act as an endocrine organ and have detoxification properties. Calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are the most notable minerals stored in bone.
Movement of the body is made possible through the use of joints – they allow for flexibility of the skeleton. There are different classifications of joints depending on their movement. Some joints, such as the knee or elbow, open and close like a hinge. Others have a much broader range of movement, such as the hip, which can move front, back, sideways and rotate. Joints are classified based on their range of motion. Some joints are immovable, such as the fibrous joints between skull bones.
Other joints are partially movable and just move a little. The spine is an example of such cartilaginous joints where each vertebra moves in relation the one above and below it. The last classification is probably the one that most people think of when they imagine a joint – it is a free moving, or synovial, joint. Synovial fluid lubricates this type of joint and allows it to move easily.
Bone and Joint Conditions
A fracture is a break in the bone. Bone cells fill the gap and repair the break after a fracture. By wearing a rigid cast, the bone can sit in place and repair correctly. A fracture may occur due to a high-force impact, or it may be caused by an underlying medical condition that weakens the bones, such as osteoporosis.
Arthritis is a condition associated with inflammation of the joint. There are many different kinds of arthritis with the most common form being osteoarthritis. Most complaints associated with arthritis include joint pain. Joint pain is a result of the inflammation surrounding the joint, normal daily activities causing wear and tear, muscle strains caused by movement against stiff joints, aging and fatigue.
Osteoporosis is classified in different ways depending on the cause of bone loss. It is not always, but most usually, an age related condition that occurs more commonly in post-menopausal women. Osteoporosis is a condition associated with increased risk of fracture.
Learn about Osteoporosis
Ways to help your bones & joints
Genetics, excess stress on the body, aging and not getting enough nutrients can affect the bones and joints. Research shows many supplements can and do help. Some of the most popular natural ingredient supplements can mimic, affect or contain compounds found in healthy joints, such as cartilage and fluids.
Pycnogenol® is a clinically studied ingredient shown to be beneficial in aiding with arthritis. Pycnogenol has demonstrated its ability to promote joint mobility and flexibility and naturally relieve the aching. Studies revealed that after supplementation with Pycnogenol, joints were more flexible and less medication was required.
Hyaluronic acid is classified as a glycosaminoglycan, meaning it is a long, unbranched chain of repeating disaccharide units. The repeating disaccharide unit includes a hexose (six-carbon sugar) and a hexosamine (six-carbon sugar containing nitrogen). Hyaluronic acid is a component of synovial fluid in joints and is one of the main lubricating components. It is also anchored covalently to cartilage and helps to absorb water to keep cartilage smooth and lubricated. Supplementation appears to aid in the lubrication and cushioning of joints.
Glucosamine is one of the most well known ingredients in joint health. It is naturally found in exoskeletons of shellfish as polyglucosamine. Glucosamine helps produce glycosaminoglycan, which is an important component of connective tissue and present in joint cartilage. Research has suggested that glucosamine may stimulate synovial production of hyaluronic acid. Glucosamine helps to support healthy joints by increasing joint fluidity and may help regenerate cartilage.
Boswellia is a plant that has shown to provide beneficial anti-inflammatory actions. The primary mechanism by which it works is by inhibiting 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX), but it also affects TNF-alpha and interleukin-6 activity. In clinical trials, boswellia has been shown to reduce joint pain.
Calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin C all assist in the maintenance of strong bones and helps prevent fractures. Vitamin D assists in intestinal absorption of calcium and also helps to retain calcium in various cell types. Magnesium assists in the proper utilization of calcium and combines in crystalline arrangement with calcium and phosphate while vitamin C supplies reducing equivalents to proline hydroxylase in the cross linking of collagen strands.
GeniVida® is a pure and soy free genistein. Research shows that GeniVida can significantly increase bone mineral density in post menopausal women. GeniVida also has benefits associated with older men, such as bone and prostate health. It supports calcium and mineral retention by binding to some estrogen receptors. Long term supplementation with genistein can produce ongoing beneficial effects on bone metabolism.
Vitamin K2 helps calcium go to where it is needed (bones and blood) and away from where it is not needed (calcification of soft tissue and arteries). Although Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin, the body stores very little of this and regular intake is needed. Vitamin K2 supports bone retention and arterial health through the synthesis of proteins involved with calcium utilization. K2 also works as a co-factor in the carboxylation of a few key calcium-binding proteins, including osteocalcin. Additionally, there is a lower risk of K2 at effective dose levels interacting adversely with Coumadin.