What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a chronic condition associated with damage to the cartilage within the joints of the musculoskeletal system. While some forms of arthritis are known to affect internal organs, osteoarthritis only affects the joints. Osteoarthritis occurs more frequently among populations of adults over the age of 60. Individuals who suffer from osteoarthritis at a young age typically sustained a joint injury that placed them at a higher risk.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis can be widely varied. Generally, patients with osteoarthritis experience joint stiffness, pain, and reduced ranged of motion, and these symptoms generally worsen over time. Further, it is not uncommon for symptoms of osteoarthritis to come and go. Osteoarthritis has also been linked with the formation of bony enlargements around the small joints in the fingers, called Heberden’s nodes. These result from bone spurs within the joint. Heberden’s nodes are frequently associated with pain, but not always, and limit the range of motion within the joint.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition affecting the joints. The end of each bone, where it converges with another bone, is coated with a soft, compressible tissue called cartilage.
Cartilage helps the joint glide smoothly, prevents the two bones from rubbing together, and acts as a shock absorber. This cartilage can become damaged as a result of wear and tear over a number of years or as the result of a specific injury.
If the damage to the cartilage is bad enough, there is a high risk of bone rubbing directly onto bone. This leads to significant pain, inflammation, and a loss in flexibility in the joint itself.
Additionally, damaged cartilage may break off into the bursa, which is the sac of synovial fluid found around the joint. The most common joints that are affected by osteoarthritis include the hands, knees, hips, and spine.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis tend to occur gradually. Generally, osteoarthritis has been regarded as a result of wear and tear on the joints that occurs over the course of an individual’s lifespan; however, several risk factors have been identified that include:
- Being overweight
- Increasing age
- Joint injury
- Joints that have not properly developed
- Genetic defect of joint cartilage
- Prolonged stress on the joint from certain jobs or sports
Treatment for Osteoarthritis
There is no cure for osteoarthritis. The primary goal for the treatment of osteoarthritis is providing pain relief and improving joint function. In terms of pharmacotherapy, the first line of treatment for many cases of osteoarthritis is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug . This medication is recommended because of its ability to reduce inflammation within the joint and, thereby, reduce pain. prednisone and cortisone, may also be recommended to reduce inflammation within the joint causing pain.
In terms of non-pharmacotherapy, regular exercise, stretching, and physical therapy are likely recommended. Also, there is some evidence that a well-balanced and nutritious diet can help with reducing complications associated with osteoarthritis. For instance, it is recommended that individuals experiencing early symptoms of arthritic pain eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, increase the amount of fish they consume for the Omega-3 fatty acids (which is thought to provide some relief to general arthritis symptoms), and eat less fatty foods, such as red meat.
Patients experiencing chronic joint pain associated with osteoarthritis may wish to try more aggressive forms of managing their symptoms. There is some support for the benefits of corticosteroid injections to reduce the degree of inflamed tissue and reduce pain.These procedures include joint injections, knee joint injections, or hip joint injections. Treatment plans typically involve multiple injections to achieve maximum pain relief. It is recommended that you discuss your options with your doctor in order to determine what is best for you.
In terms of alternative techniques, biofeedback training has received support for helping patients manage their symptoms of pain associated with osteoarthritis. This treatment involves teaching patients relaxation and coping skills that allow them to gain some control over their pain symptoms.
Complementary therapies have also shown promise for patients with osteoarthritis. Techniques such as acupuncture, when done in combination with other forms of treatment for pain, can be extremely beneficial.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic pain condition affecting the joints within the musculoskeletal system. Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, swelling, stiffening, and weakening of the joint. These symptoms are generally caused by damage to the cartilage within the joint, whether by general wear and tear or by trauma. There is no cure for osteoarthritis; however, there are a number of different treatment options for managing the pain associated with osteoarthritis. In general, a trial of more conservative forms of treatment is recommended prior to attempting more aggressive interventions. Patients with chronic osteoarthritis pain are encouraged to speak with their physician about the possibility of corticosteroid injections to help relieve their symptoms of chronic pain.