Osteoarthritis is a crippling disease worldwide, with an estimated eight million sufferers in the UK alone. It has been described as like "wearing a suit of rusty armour," with unrelenting, razor-like pain.
So far medical science has not been able to reverse the degenerative condition.
However a discovery made by a German abbess in the middle ages may now hold the key to not only halting the degenerative process, but also help re-build damaged cartilage.
The holy woman, the erudite Saint Hildegard of Bingen, investigated animal tissue extracts and identified the beneficial effect of calf cartilage broth in the case of joint pain.
The active ingredient of the broth was collagen, which is derived from cartilage.
But a new natural collagen supplement has excited medical professionals following research that claims to have proven it helps regenerate joint tissue in older patients and also helps explain how the regenerative process happens in the joints.
Usually sufferers resort to desperate treatments such as acupuncture, hot packs, cold packs, analgesics, physical therapy, glucosamine, unloading knee braces, and arthroscopic surgery.
But the main ingredient in the product, Flexeze Fortify, is collagen hydrolysate powder - a specially processed form of collagen claimed to be more bioavailable – that is absorbed by our body more easily, than unprocessed collagen.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study, jointly undertaken in America by Harvard Medical School and Tufts Medical centre in Boston evaluated patients over the age of 48 with arthritis of the knee.
The 30 patients were divided into two groups, a control group and a study group. Half of them took collagen hydrolysate and the other group a placebo.
The MRI scans taken after one week, 24 weeks and 48 weeks, showed patients had significant re-growth of damaged cartilage.
The year-long trial reported that while the cartilage in the placebo group deteriorated over the weeks, the groups taking the supplement collagen hydrolysate (Flexeze Fortify) experienced regeneration in cartilage.
The cell-study results compliment those of researchers at the Kiel- based Collagen Research Institute who reported to the congress of the Osteoarthritis Research Society International (ORSI) in Montreal.
They noted that the bioactive collagen peptides formulation in Flexeze, were found to stimulate cell metabolism in knee-joint cartilage and promote the regeneration of cartilage tissue.
Dr Andrew Carson, a GP who is Associate Dean, GP Education, Birmingham and Solihull and Medical Advisor to the NHS Executive in the West Midlands said: "These two studies show real promise.
"I am not aware of any other product which has been shown to regenerate articular cartilage.
"The best that other products have achieved in the past is a reduction in the speed of disease progression and a subjective improvement in pain sensation.
"The improvements seen in the growth of the articular cartilage in the study group achieved statistical significance.
"I would recommend anyone taking glucosamine and chondroitin to consider this option which is a natural product with no known side-effects."
Pat Jones, 68, a former Olympic hurdler and now a dog agility trainer from Woking, Surrey, said: "When I was in my teens I was very sporty and realised my sporting dreams by being chosen to represent Great Britain in the hurdles at the 1968 Mexico Summer Olympic Games.
"I've always valued being healthy and active and my work as a trainer of agility dogs keeps me on the go all the time.
"Unfortunately my hip and knee joints are now paying the price and I have been diagnosed with arthritis.
"I have been able to manage my condition through diet, exercise and a carefully controlled mixture of painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and injections.
"Despite this, I regularly suffered from bad flare ups, which would leave me in great pain and aching joints which severely limits my movement.
"If I walked for 20 minutes, I was in dreadful pain for several hours afterwards.
"I didn't want to undergo knee surgery, because it is a major operation, but for the first time I was beginning to think about it.
"Within a week of starting the Flexeze, I thought I was simply having a good run because my recovery rate after going for a walk was shorter than it had been.
"But the improvement carried on, and suddenly I was able to walk the dogs for two hours a day.
"At Christmas, I stopped taking painkillers for the first time in ten years.
"I still have the odd bad day, but they are few and far between. I have also noticed that my knee is much less swollen than it had been before."
Scientific studies appear to back Flexeze's claims that it is ideal for people who suffer from constant or intermittent joint pain and related conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as those who wish to take action to address the deterioration of cartilage in their joints either through age or exercise.