Osteoarthritis: Symptoms, Information & Treatment


Information and facts on Osteoarthritis (OA) a form of arthritis that is the leading cause of chronic disability in the United States today.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis, is a group of mechanical abnormalities involving degradation of joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. The main symptom is pain, causing loss of ability and often stiffness. The pain experienced is generally described as a sharp ache or a burning sensation in the associated muscles and tendons.

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, and the leading cause of chronic disability in the United States affects nearly 27 million people.

Osteoarthritis also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, is a group of mechanical abnormalities involving degradation of joints, including articular cartilage and subchondral bone. Symptoms may include joint pain, tenderness, stiffness, locking, and sometimes an effusion. A variety of causes, hereditary, developmental, metabolic, and mechanical, may initiate processes leading to loss of cartilage. When bone surfaces become less well protected by cartilage, bone may be exposed and damaged. As a result of decreased movement secondary to pain, regional muscles may atrophy, and ligaments may become more lax.

Osteoarthritis is not considered to be an autoimmune disease but a chronic degenerative disorder related to but not caused by aging, as there are people well into their nineties who have no clinical or functional signs of the disease.

Primary osteoarthritis is mostly related to aging. With aging, the water content of the cartilage increases, and the protein makeup of cartilage degenerates. Eventually, cartilage begins to degenerate by flaking or forming tiny crevasses.

Secondary osteoarthritis is caused by another disease or condition. Conditions that can lead to secondary osteoarthritis include obesity, repeated trauma or surgery to the joint structures, abnormal joints at birth (congenital abnormalities), gout, diabetes, and other hormone disorders.

Osteoarthritis has no cure but you can treat its symptoms

The main symptom is acute pain, causing loss of ability and often stiffness. "Pain" is generally described as a sharp ache, or a burning sensation in the associate muscles and tendons. OA can cause a crackling noise (called "crepitus") when the affected joint is moved or touched, and patients may experience muscle spasm and contractions in the tendons. Occasionally, the joints may also be filled with fluid. Humid and cold weather increases the pain in many patients.

Acetaminophen is often recommended because it relieves pain with the fewest side of effects. Over-the-counter NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen reduce inflammation as well as pain and may be helpful. However, these drugs can irritate the stomach. To prevent irritation, try coated aspirin or take medication with meals.

If the pain is severe such as suffering chronic knee pain, your doctor may prescribe stronger NSAIDs and, rarely, corticosteroid injections, shot directly into your joints. Topical therapy, with creams that contain aspirin compounds, may also relieve pain. Along with drug therapy, exercise, and physical therapy, alternative arthritis treatments may also bring relief.

Self-treatment for Osteoarthritis

Self-care is also a valuable tool in treating arthritis. Learning to pace yourself during the day and getting enough rest at night are two of the most important ways to help yourself if you have osteoarthritis. Rather than think about what you can no longer do, focus on what you can do instead.

Regular exercise increases joint protection by stimulating the production of synovial fluid, which coats the ends of the joints. Like oil, this thick substance lubricates your joints and may help prevent further damage.

Gently moving the joints and stretching the muscles and tendons are the best ways to relieve strain on painful joints, improve body alignment, and help you feel more relaxed and in control of your disease. You should do a few simple, carefully controlled mobility and stretching movements once or twice daily, even when your joints are swollen and painful.

Rest is also important because it can lessen inflammation. The key is balance. Adjust the amount of rest and exercise according to the stage of your disease and how you feel each day. Too much inactivity makes the conditions worse, but too much exercise puts you at risk for exhaustion, injury, and more pain.

Therapies that manage osteoarthritis pain and improve function include exercise, weight control, rest, pain relief, alternative therapies and surgery.

Exercise as much as you can to increase movement and strength, improve the functioning of the joints, and create better all-round physical well-being. Learn to listen to your body and know when it is telling you to take things easy.

Surgery for Osteoarthritis

Your doctor may recommend surgery if your joints are severely damaged. One procedure, called osteotomy, corrects bone deformity by cutting the bone and repositioning it. Osteotomy is usually done on the knee.

Osteoarthritis of the hip

As in other joints that carry your body's weight such as the knees, the hips are at risk for osteoarthritis. If you have later stages of osteoarthritis and your hip joint hurts in bed at night, your doctor may recommend a total hip replacement surgery called arthroplasty.

Total joint arthroplasty involves resurfacing, or refining, the ends of the bones so they can move more freely against each other. This term is also used for total joint replacement in which the joint is removed and a metal, ceramic, or plastic device is inserted in its place.

Arthritis Awareness - Blue Ribbon

Blue arthritis awareness ribbonThe color blue denotes arthritis awareness. The month of May is designated as arthritis awareness month

Quick Facts: Osteoarthritis Symptoms &

Common Osteoarthritis symptoms include:

  • Stiffness after resting that goes away after movement.
  • Pain that is worse after activity or toward the end of the day.
  • Sore or stiff joints, particularly the hips, knees, and lower back, after inactivity or overuse.

Osteoarthritis, or OA, can also affect the neck, small finger joints, the base of the thumb, ankle, and big toe.

The pain may be moderate and come and go, without affecting the ability to perform daily tasks. Some people's OA will never progress past this early stage. Others will have their OA get worse. The pain and stiffness of more severe osteoarthritis may make it difficult to walk, climb stairs, sleep, or perform other daily tasks.

Exercise is one of the most important treatments for people with osteoarthritis, whatever your age or level of fitness. Your physical activity should include a combination of exercises to strengthen your muscles and exercises to improve your general fitness.

Statistics: Osteoarthritis

OA is the most common form of arthritis, and the leading cause of chronic disability in the United States. About 27 million people in America have osteoarthritis. Common risk factors include increasing age, obesity, previous joint injury, overuse of the joint, weak thigh muscles, and genetics.

  • Symptomatic knee OA occurs in 10% men and 13% in women aged 60 years or older.
  • Osteoarthritis affects about 1.9 million people in Australia, and 8 million people in the United Kingdom.
  • Overall, in the United States, OA affects 13.9% of adults aged 25 years and older and 33.6% (12.4 million) of those 65+ in 2005; an estimated 26.9 million US adults in 2005 up from 21 million in 1990 (believed to be conservative estimate).

Latest Osteoarthritis Publications

Survey of adults with osteoarthritis of the knee without joint replacement surgery show 95% avoid or make accommodations to daily activities because knee pain.

Researchers discover new mechanism of joint destruction that grinds healthy cartilage and worsens osteoarthritis identified in human hip joints.

People with higher risk for osteoarthritis can reduce their risk for cartilage degeneration by maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding risky activities and strenuous high impact exercise.

New research shows significantly higher osteoarthritis incidence rates in military populations than among comparable age groups in the general population.

Due to obesity and symptomatic knee OA Americans over the age of 50 will together lose the equivalent of 86 million healthy years of life.

Clinicians who care for patients with osteoarthritis (OA) are likely not following standard care guidelines that are based on current medical evidence.

Tanezumab is the first new drug for general muscle or joint pain in over 100 years.

Clinical practice guidelines for treating glenohumeral joint osteoarthritis.

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