Osteoarthritis

About Osteoarthritis - An Overview

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful condition involving the deterioration of the cartilage inside your joints. Affecting some 27 million people in America, it is, by far, the most common arthritic condition.

Cartilage - The Key to Understanding Osteoarthritis

Inside the joints where human bones meet - places like elbows, knees, shoulders, ankles, and knuckles - is a spongy tissue at the end of the bones called cartilage. Cartilage cushions the bones when we move, protecting the ends from touching, allowing us to twist, bend, turn, and enjoy a broad range of motion. The older we get, the more cartilage can deteriorate - especially in joints that we use over and over. It can also be damaged through injury. As cartilage degrades, the bones are no longer being properly cushioned. The joints can become damaged. Pain and stiffness result, and range of motion is diminished. A person with this kind of deteriorated joint is said to be suffering from osteoarthritis.

Risk Factors

Osteoarthritis can affect anyone, but there are some risk factors that can increase your chances of having the condition:

  • Being Over 65 - Since cartilage degenerates, over time, through “wear and tear”, age increases risk.
  • Prior Injury - Any kind of injury that involves bones, joints, and tendons can lead to OA. Sports injury in youth, for example, can contribute to earlier OA in adults. That’s why people who have been injured need to have regular check-ups and x-rays to keep a watchful eye on their joints. They also need to maintain a safe, smart active lifestyle. Learn more about Movement As Medicine.
  • Being Female - More women than men suffer from OA. It is not known why. Women are more likely to seek medical advice then men are, thus it is also unknown if occurrence of OA among men is being under reported. Early menopause has a slight increase of risk factor.
  • Being Overweight - Extra pounds increase the burden on the joints, increasing the “wear and tear”. Losing ten pounds can not only help ease the pain of OA, it can also help slow the rate of cartilage degeneration.
  • Family History - If others in your family suffered from OA, you could, too.

Pain - The Most Common Symptom

Recurring pain in any joint can indicate OA, especially:

  • Pain at joint movement - The same joint hurts, especially during weight bearing activities, and lessens when you stop moving. Pain is sometimes accompanied by crepitus, a crackling sound that occurs when the joint moves.
  • Symptoms worse at end of the day and/or upon waking - For some people, tender and stiff joints are worse when they awaken and lessen with use. For others, a day’s use leaves their joints hurting more.
  • Decreasing range of motion - As the disease advances, joint destruction hampers movement. Inflammation and swelling can start to occur, and there may be accumulation of synovial fluid that distends the joint capsule, resulting in increased pain.

Osteoarthritis? Arthritis? What’s the difference?

Osteoarthritis is so common, that conversationally, when people say “arthritis” they are usually referring to OA. But medically, the term “arthritis” refers to a range of conditions involving the joints. Other painful arthritic conditions are the result of swelling and inflammation in the joints caused by autoimmune reactions. These conditions include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Inflammatory Arthritis, and Spondylosis.

Staying Active is Essential

Once you are diagnosed with OA, there are many treatment options to help you. Excessive pain does not need to be endured. Maintaining an active lifestyle - and not becoming sedentary - is important. Movement can help lessen pain and prevent it from getting worse. But you need to know the right, safe, and smartest moves for you.

Like all treatments, your proper “movement prescription” requires having a pinpoint diagnosis and an understanding of your unique, personal condition.

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