Hyaluronic acid (HA), is a special form of protein present in the human body, responsible for lubricating the movable parts, including the joints and muscles. In its natural process, the human body produces about 3,000 mg of hyaluronic acid daily.

Also referred to as Hyaluronan, it is basically a glycosaminoglycan (GAG), a substance that acts by attaching to the elastin and collagen in order to form cartilage.

The hyaluronic acid is widely spread across the body tissues, mainly including the:

i) Connective tissue (Muscles and ligaments)
ii) Epithelial tissue (Skin and organ lining)
iii) Neural tissue (Nervous system)

It plays an important role in a number of key processes in the human body, including wound repair and regeneration, cell signaling and morphogenesis. HA basically acts as a lubricant, antioxidant, a shock absorber and a cushion in the face of physical trauma. Since the levels of HA decline with age, it is important that appropriate HA supplements are used to make up for the resulting deficiencies.

Research Findings

An important research report on the medical uses of the hyaluronic acid points towards it role in joint cavity formation and bone growth, while also regulating bone remodeling . This particular study also highlighted the role of HA in treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee, through its action of lubricating and cushioning the joint.

Research shows HA to be carrying overall anti-inflammatory, anabolic and cartilage-protective properties that are effective in reducing pain and improving patient function.

Yet another research project concluded that as many as 80% of patients who participated in a study got substantial and immediate relief from painful symptoms of arthritis after they were treated with hyaluronic acid (Synvisc) injections. This respite from pain lasted for a period of 9 to 12 months, beyond which further injections needed to be administered.

HA and Joint Pain
In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of HA for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee in the USA. It is one of the latest natural remedies to be recognized widely in the treatment of joint pain.

Joint pain that can gain relief from the use of hyaluronic acid can arise from a number of conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Hyaluronic acid is said to be especially useful when it is administered in the injectable form, though oral supplementation of HA has also been showing positive results in the recent past. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually approves of the medical use of hyaluronic acid only in this mode.

To begin with, it is important to understand the significance of hyaluronic acid in the human body. To summarize, HA has the following key functions:

a. To provide lubrication to joints
b. To maintain integrity of tissues
c. To fight bacterial invasiveness
d. To maintain elasticity of skin
e. To ensure molecular transport between cells

With age, the viscosity of the fluid in the joints breaks down and becomes thin which adversely affects its ability to cushion the cartilage. This eventually leads to an increase in friction and damage on the cartilage surfaces of the joints. It is for this reason that medical research now is more focused on the role of HA supplements.

The ability of hyaluronic acid to restore the cushioning of joints in order to improve flexibility highlights the role of hyaluronic acid as a pain-relieving agent. It strives to improve joint pain in two main ways, including:

i) By restoring the cushioning of joints which further increases the flexibility and strength
ii) By increasing the supplies of synovial fluid which help in lubrication of the joints

Interestingly, it has also been observed that the hyaluronic acid can have excellent results when taken in combination with other joint health supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin .

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