How much do you know about arthritis? While most people understand that the condition affects our joints and bones, the reality is that unless you are affected by it, common knowledge about the illness is minimal.
Osteoarthritis is one of over 100 different types of arthritis, and understanding its causes and symptoms is essential to obtain the best possible treatment and alleviate pain.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that causes cartilage to break down. As a result, the patient experiences pain and difficulty moving the affected joint. It’s the most common joint disease in the United States, and typically affects weight-bearing joints, such as the spine, knees, hips, and toes; although some people can also develop it in their fingers.
Symptoms and Early Signs
Symptoms of osteoarthritis tend to develop very slowly, so it’s important to pay attention if you’ve been experiencing them in the aggregate. They include the following:
- Joint stiffness, generally worse in the mornings
- Limited range of motion
- Joint tenderness
- A sensation of bones rubbing together when moving the joint
- Cracking sound when moving the affected jointJoints lock or “give out”
- Deformity of the affected joints
- Joint feels warm to the touch
- Sharp pain during or after movement
Risk Factors and Causes
Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage. There are many factors that influence this degeneration:
- Age: Osteoarthritis is most common in people over 65 years of age.
- Obesity: The extra weight places excessive stress on the joints.
- Diabetes: High glucose level can increase stiffness of joints.
- Trauma: Athletes who’ve suffered from a torn ACL are more likely to develop OA
- Repetitive Movement: Whether due to occupation, sports, or hobbies, repeating the same motion continuously without adequate recovery time can wear down cartilage.
Diagnosis and Treatment
During a medical exam, the doctor will conduct a physical examination to assess the range of motion and whether there is any inflammation or tenderness of the joints.
If the OA is severe, your physician may be able to diagnose the condition from the physical exam. However, in most instances, your medical provider will take a sample of fluid from the affected joint. They may also order X-Ray imaging.
Treatment options vary depending on how advanced the condition is and how it affects the patient’s quality of life. Among the more conservative treatments are physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, stretching exercises, physical activity, strength training, and weight loss. As a last resort, your physician may recommend surgery if conservative treatments have been ineffective.
Can Osteoarthritis be Prevented?
Even though it’s a common joint disease, it should be noted that osteoarthritis is not an inevitable part of aging. There are several lifestyle choices that can substantially reduce the likelihood of developing OA:
1. Exercise regularly. This will strengthen muscles and reduce stress on your joints. Make sure to warm up properly to increase muscle efficiency and reduce the chance of injury.
2. Maintain a healthy weight. This is another way to ensure less stress on your joints. Every pound of excess weight adds four times the amount of stress on weight-bearing joints.
3. Don’t ignore injuries. Some people (especially athletes) prefer to “tough it out” when they feel pain or discomfort. If trauma has affected cartilage, it is best to obtain treatment as soon as possible to prevent it from developing into osteoarthritis.
4. Rest. Although exercise is good for the body, so is rest. This is especially important since overuse is one of the main causes of osteoarthritis. If your job requires repetitive motion, talk with your doctor about modifications you can do to protect that specific joint. An Occupational Therapist may also be able to suggest work modifications to safeguard your health.
Natural Treatments and Foods to Avoid
If you prefer natural treatments, there are several options for reducing inflammation:
- Green tea
- Turmeric (can be taken as capsules or added to soups and smoothies)
- Epsom Salt Baths
- Increase the amount of produce you eat. If you’re not a fan of vegetables, you can blend them into smoothies and sweeten them with fruit.
- Increase intake of vitamin D
- Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene, and bioflavonoids
- Go for a walk on a regular basis
As you increase natural sources that reduce inflammation, make sure to avoid the following foods, which could flare up symptoms:
- Added sugars
- White flour
- Fried foods
If you’re at a loss about how to start making lifestyle changes and eliminating these foods, speak with your physician.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re experiencing symptoms related to osteoarthritis, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love.