What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a common form of "arthritis", which is the general term for the inflammation of joints. It is sometimes called degenerative joint disease, which means the symptoms and problems get worse over time. This condition is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in one or more of the joints in the body. Common forms include joints that bear much of our weight, like hip osteoarthritis or an osteoarthritis knee condition. It can also affect smaller joints, like fingers, thumbs, neck, and the big toe. Joints that have suffered from past injuries or excessive amounts of stress are more susceptible to degeneration through osteoarthritis.

The degeneration in joints is caused by damage to the cartilage that protects the joints. Cartilage is an elastic, rubber-like material that reduces the friction in the meetings points of bone joints. Imagine it functioning like a shock absorber. When osteoarthritis affects your joints, the cartilage begins to lose its elasticity and becomes stiff and easier to damage. As the osteoarthritis becomes more advanced, the cartilage starts to wear away

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Osteoarthritis symptoms, much like other degenerative diseases, develop quite slowly but get worse over time. The signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis can include:

Pain. You may feel sharp or aching pain in the joints during movement, or after movement.

Loss of Flexibility. You experience an increasingly limited range of motion when you try to move your joint. Over time, the range becomes smaller.

Tenderness. When you touch the joint or press lightly, it feels tender and sore.

Stiffness. Morning stiffness is a major symptom for osteoarthritis. Your hands are noticeably difficult to move. It's also common to feel stiffness after a period of inactivity.

Grating Feeling. When you use the joint, you can hear or feel a sensation of the bones grinding or grating on one another.

Causes of Osteoarthritis

There are a number of factors which can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Heredity

Genetics and having a family history of osteoarthritis will it make it more likely that you could develop the condition. Also, people born with other types of bone or joint deformities (such as scoliosis) are at a higher risk for developing osteoarthritis.

Injury

Joint degeneration is negatively impacted by injuries to the bone and the joint. Athletes, especially those with knee-joint injuries, are farm more likely to develop an osteoarthritis knee condition. Other common injuries that lead to the development of osteoarthritis are spinal injuries or broken bones near a joint.

Obesity

Particularly for knee and hip arthritis, obesity can be a major risk factor. Keeping a healthy weight can help to prevent joint degeneration in major weight-carrying joints. Even after osteoarthritis has been established, reducing your weight can decrease the rate of degeneration.

Overusing Joints

Joint overuse can occur for many reasons, often due to occupational responsibilities, such as repeatedly bending down or bending the knees. Overusing the joints can lead to the development of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis Treatments

While there is no known cure for this condition, the treatments for osteoarthritis can help patients to reduce the pain and maintain joint movement, strength and flexibility. There are a number of easy medications to take that can help you manage your pain symptoms. NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly sold over the counter at drug stores and are often prescribed by physicians for mild to moderate pain from degenerative joints. Your doctor can help you decide the dosage you should be taking on a daily basis. For more advanced and severe cases, doctors can prescribe stronger medications that help reduce the inflammation and slow down the bone degeneration. However, stronger medications typically have more severe side effects and shouldn't be taken unless necessary. Always talk to your doctor about whether your treatment plan is right for you.

Alternative Treatments

Many patients find that making some lifestyle changes can help improve their symptom management. Getting enough rest and finding activities that don't overuse your joints can help you find aggravated joint relief. Finding an exercise routine that is low impact, such as biking or swimming, can help you to stay active and healthy without upsetting your arthritic joints. Keeping a healthy weight is also important for relieving pain in the weight bearing joints such as your hips. Some patients find that a special diet for osteoarthritis can help them find pain relief and reduce their joint aggravation. Diets generally include many sources of calcium, ginger, and soy.