|Being able to move freely and enjoy one’s favorite activities is a fundamental part of good life quality. Healthy bones and joints are critical to keep people moving freely. Dr. Siripong Ratanachai, a board certified orthopaedic surgeon at Bumrungrad, answers readers’ questions about bone and joint health.
Q: My back and fingers make cracking sounds when I stretch them. Could this be a sign of a joint problem?
A: Joints are protected by synovial fluid that carries nutrients and gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The fluid acts like a protective safety shell that covers the body’s joints. When we move or stretch, the resulting pressure causes gas bubbles in the synovial fluid to expand until the bubbles pop – hence, the popping sounds.
Generally, the only cause for concern about cracking or popping sounds coming from a joint is when the sounds are accompanied by joint pain, swelling or stiffness. These could be signs of some serious joint conditions that require medical treatment without delay.
Q: I’ve read differing opinions on whether joint health can be improved by taking a glucosamine sup-plement. Is it a good idea to take glucosamine for healthier joints?
A: Glucosamine is an amino acid combination of glucose and glutamine that is found in joint cartilage. The amount of glucosamine declines as we age, increasing the chance of cartilage damage caused by illness, disease, genetics or the aging process.
When considering glucosamine supplements for joint health, there are pros and cons to weight. Some glucosamine users, especially osteoarthritis sufferers, report improved joint mobility, while others experience negative responses or side effects such as allergic reactions.
Research studies on glucosamine have so far been inconclusive, so it’s recommended that you talk to your doctor before taking a glucosamine supplement.
Q: Is acupuncture effective for relieving joint pain? If so, how does it actually work?
A: While acupuncture is not a magic “cure-all”, it can be an effective treatment for a number of medical conditions – with minimal potential side effects.
Acupuncture points are areas of the body with heightened electrical sensitivity. Inserting needles at these points can stimulate sensory receptors and nerves to transmit impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system; in turn, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland release endorphins and other chemicals which act as natural pain killers.
The results of acupuncture treatment can vary from one person to another. Do not rely on acupuncture alone to treat chronic diseases or serious illnesses with-out first consulting your doctor.
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