A Condition of Wear & Tear
Osteoarthritis – A Common Form of Arthritis
23+ Million Americans have Osteoarthritis also known as QA. Over one-third are women, and the vast majority are 45 years or older. Most people believe Osteoarthritis is a natural consequence of aging, but heredity and injury are equally high-risk factors.
If you are suffering from pain in your knees, hands, hip or spine that gets worse with use, over 40 years of age, and waking up with a stiffness that typically last 30 minutes or less you may have osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that covers the joint wears away. Your joint space narrows, bone spurs form, the joint becomes inflamed, and the nerve endings become irritated.
People with osteoarthritis usually complain of joint pain after any activity involving that joint. Morning pain and stiffness are also common but usually resolve after 15 to 30 minutes. Over time, as the cartilage continues to wear, pain often increases.
What is the Cause Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis happens gradually over time.
Risk Factors of Osteoarthritis
- Being overweight
- Getting older
- Joint injury
- Joints that are not adequately formed
- A genetic defect in joint cartilage
- Stresses on the joints from certain jobs and playing sports
How Is Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?
Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint. It occurs most often in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.
Warning Signs of Osteoarthritis
- Stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time
- Swelling or tenderness in one or more joints
- A crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone
How Is Osteoarthritis Treated?
Doctors often combine treatments to fit a patient’s needs, lifestyle, and health. Osteoarthritis treatment has four main goals:
- Control pain
- Weight control
- Rest and joint care
- Improve joint function
- Achieve a healthy lifestyle
- Keep a healthy body weight
- Complementary & alternative therapies
- Non-drug pain relief techniques to manage pain
The hands, feet, knees, hips and spine (cervical spine/neck and lumbar spine/low back) are the most common areas affected by OA. Osteoarthritis of the hands often strikes the base of the thumb, at the end and middle joints. It is also frequent in the base of the big toe, and tight shoes and heels will make the pain worse. People with OA of the hips feel pain in their groin and thighs, which sometimes travels or “refers” to the knee. Individuals with OA of the knee complain of pain and stiffness around the joint.
Osteoarthritis can severely restrict mobility and movement. Osteoarthritis of the hip and knee can cause pain with even simple weight-bearing activities, such as walking. Osteoarthritis of the hands impairs activities that require dexterity and grip strength. Pain due to OA of the spine often increases when rising from a sitting or lying position, and worsens with prolonged standing or walking.
A diagnosis of osteoarthritis is determined by a history and physical exam and x-rays. X-rays show narrowed joint spaces (due to loss of cartilage) and spur formation. Laboratory studies will also be ordered, and results will be normal if it truly is OA. An abnormal lab result may suggest that there is another cause of the pain, or may indicate that two types of arthritis are present.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis. Treatment focuses on relieving pain, reducing inflammation and improving joint motion. Common medications used to treat OA include both prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, including acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, and COX-2 inhibitors2 like Celebrex®. Glucosamine is another treatment that some patients find helpful with the pain of OA and is available over the counter. A large clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health – NIH is underway to determine the safety and effectiveness of glucosamine in OA. In addition to drug therapy, people with osteoarthritis are usually encouraged to exercise, which increases flexibility and builds muscle strength. Controlling body weight is another good strategy because it helps to lessen stress on weight-bearing joints. Surgery may be recommended to relieve pain in damaged joints, or to replace joints that are severely damaged.
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