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Osteoarthritis

Preventing Osteoarthritis

Keeping weight in control is very helpful for preventing osteoarthritis in the long-term. Excessive weight adds stress to weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. Osteoarthritis can be prevented if injuries are avoided. Proper sports equipment and safety precautions can also prevent joint degeneration.

Is Surgery for You?

When osteoarthritis symptoms persist despite other therapies, joint replacement surgery is often considered. This surgical procedure is an option for those who are healthy enough and who have severe osteoarthritis. Joint replacement surgery is used to replace a damaged joint with an artificial one. The most common joints replaced are the knees and the hips.

Osteoarthritis and Exercise

Low-impact exercise activities, such as swimming, walking, and bicycling, can improve mobility and strength and ultimately reduce pain. Strengthening the muscles around affected joints by training with light weights can be helpful to also reduce pain. For example, strengthening the quadriceps muscle of the knee can reduce osteoarthritis knee pain. See your doctor for the optimal exercise routine.

Osteoarthritis and Weight

Obesity is a risk factor for osteoarthritis and aggravates existing osteoarthritis. Weight should be reduced in those who have osteoarthritis and are overweight. Interestingly, even modest amounts of weight reduction can be associated with significantly less joint pain from osteoarthritis. This weight reduction also reduces the risk of rapid joint damage from osteoarthritis.

Supplements

While there are limited studies showing significant benefit of glucosamine and chondroitin, some individuals with osteoarthritis feel these food supplements help to reduce their joint pain. Chondroitin can affect the actions of certain blood thinners.

Medication for OA

The pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis can be relieved with over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication, including aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. Pain-relieving creams or sprays can also help when applied directly to the sore area. Persisting pain can be eased by injection of steroids or hyaluronans into the affected joint.

Supportive Devices

Finger splints and braces can reduce joint stress, relieve pain, and improve function and mobility. Crutches or walkers can improve walking ability. Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the spine can be relieved by using a firmer mattress and with back bracing or with a neck collar.

Physical Therapy Treatment

There is no specific treatment that can stop the progressive degeneration of cartilage from osteoarthritis. However, joint function can be improved by many therapies, including physical therapy that is designed to increase flexibility and strengthen muscle power. Hot or cold applied topically as compresses can relieve aches and pains from osteoarthritis.

Long-Term Complications

Osteoarthritis does not affect internal organs like rheumatoid arthritis can. However, osteoarthritis can cause significant deformity and loss of function and mobility. Bowing of the knees can result from severe loss of cartilage in the knee from osteoarthritis. Bony spurs in the spine can irritate adjacent nerves to cause numbness, tingling, and pain in areas supplied by the nerves affected.

Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

To diagnose osteoarthritis, the doctor will review your symptoms and examine your joints for swelling, redness, warmth, and range of motion. X-rays or other imaging tests can be used to determine the extent of joint damage and/or rule out other joint problems. Blood tests can exclude other conditions that affect the joints.

How Osteoarthritis Impacts Daily Life

The symptoms of osteoarthritis vary from patient to patient. Some people with osteoarthritis have no symptoms, while others have significant pain and stiffness when the joints are used. Depending on which joints are affected, osteoarthritis can cause difficulty standing, walking, turning knobs or keys, opening jars, etc. Osteoarthritis involving the spine can lead to nerve irritation associated with numbness and tingling.

Risk Factors You Can Control

Activities that can injure the joints can increase the risk of future osteoarthritis. Certain sports and job hazards can increase the risk for osteoarthritis. Obesity is also a risk factor for osteoarthritis, particularly involving the knees and hips.

Risk Factors You Can't Control

Aging is the major risk factor for osteoarthritis. Joint injury and joint surgery also predispose to the development of osteoarthritis. The tendency toward developing osteoarthritis can be inherited.

What Causes Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is most commonly a result of aging cartilage. Aging cartilage progressively becomes stiffer and more vulnerable to wear and tear. Severe osteoarthritis can cause the cartilage to wear away virtually completely so that the adjacent bones in the joint rub together with use. This is referred to a "bone on bone" joint disease.

Where Does Osteoarthritis Cause Pain?

Osteoarthritis is common in large weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, and spine. It is also common at the base of the thumb, the small joints of the fingers, and the neck.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Symptoms of osteoarthritis typically develop slowly. Pain with use of the involved joint is a common symptom. Stiffness and pain immediately after being sedentary is a feature of osteoarthritis and is referred to as a "gel phenomenon." The morning stiffness of osteoarthritis typically lasts no more than 30 minutes. Hand involvement with osteoarthritis leads to knobby enlargements of the small joints of the fingers.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a progressive form of arthritis that is characterized by breakdown of the cartilage in joints. Osteoarthritis is abbreviated OA and is also known as degenerative joint disease and "wear and tear" arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes pain in the joints with activity. The knees and the hips are common locations for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is common in people over 60 years of age, but it can affect younger people, particularly where they have had joint injury or surgery.

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