Arthritis is the inflammation and swelling accompanied by tenderness of one or more joints. The most common symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically get worse with age. There are various types of arthritis, including Gout, Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, one of the most common joint conditions, is a degenerative joint disease characterized by joint cartilage damage. It occurs when the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of our bones wears down over time. Pain and stiffness are the main symptoms. Osteoarthritis usually affects middle-aged and older people. Although it can damage any joint, this disorder commonly affects joints in the spine, hips, shoulders and knees.
1. Age – Usually osteoarthritis is associated with older adults but can also be found in younger adults but mostly due to trauma
2. Weight – Too much bodyweight on your joints can be stressful for the joints especially the hips, back, and knees
3. Sports Injuries – A sports injury can be a possible cause for osteoarthritis. Ligament injuries, tears ACL or dislocated joints are risk contributing factors to developing future osteoarthritis
4. Genetic predisposition – You are more inclined to suffer from the symptoms if your immediate family including parents or grandparents have suffered from the same
5. Gender – Women are at a greater risk to osteoarthritis
6. Occupation related osteoarthritis – Depending on your daily physical activity at job or home, repetitive physical strain on your joints can cause wear and tear in your cartilage causing joint pain and stiffness
7. Bleeding into the joints due to conditions like haemophilia, or necrosis of a tissue due to decreased blood supply can also be a cause
The symptoms of osteoarthritis are as below
- Decreased range of motion
Diagnosis & Treatment
A physical examination will help your specialist evaluate the affected joints for any kind of tenderness or swelling.
- X-rays: The specialist may recommend imaging tests like X-rays. Although cartilage is not visible on X-rays, any loss of cartilage could be revealed by identifying narrowed spaces between the bones of your joint. Bone spurs around a joint are also an indication.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Detailed images of bone and soft tissues, including cartilage, can be visible through an MRI. Though not a common mode to diagnose osteoarthritis, it could help with more insight for complex cases
- Synovial (Joint) Fluid Analysis. Your doctor may use a needle to draw Synovial fluid (also called joint fluid) from a symptomatic joint or bursa during a joint aspiration (arthrocentesis). The fluid is then tested if arthritis was caused due to any other problems like gout, infection, or inflammation.
Osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, but treatments can reduce pain and help you move better.
- Medications: Medicines like over-the-counter NSAIDs, taken at the prescribed doses for pain. NSAIDs gels applied over the affected area might help too.
- Exercises: The right set of exercises to strengthen the muscles performed on a regular basis and maintaining optimal weight can help reduce pain and increase flexibility. Go easy and do not overdo as that might lead to soreness and pain. Yoga and Tai chi involve exercises and stretching with deep breathing that can contribute positively to your physical health. Do ensure to be gentle with yourself and avoid strain on painful joints. Exercises, like walking or swimming, can also be useful.
- Occupational therapy: An occupational therapist can guide you to do daily tasks reducing the stress on the already affected joint. Examples like using a stool in shower to help with arthritis affecting knees or a toothbrush with a bigger handle to reduce the stress on finger joints
- Surgical and other procedures. If the above treatments do not help, your doctor may advise procedures such as Cortisone injections.. Joint replacement surgery or Arthroscopic procedures may also be the options. Talk to your doctor about the available options.
- Hot and cold compresses. The Heat can help muscles relax and ease stiffness while reducing spasms. Cold can reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain in your joints.
Assistive devices like a cane can relieve the stress on your joints. Holding the cane in the hand which is opposite to the leg that is painful might help.
When to see your doctor?
- The pain is sudden and is accompanied by fever; you may have infectious arthritis.
- If sitting for short periods or in the early morning after waking up you experience joint stiffness and pain, you might be developing an arthritic condition.
Osteoarthritis impacts the quality of life of an individual as if affects the mobility, causing pain and stiffness in joints. However, symptomatic treatment and lifestyle changes can help you cope better