Cartilage normally covers the ends of bones in joints and provides a smooth, gliding surface, that aides the body in absorbing shock of day to day activities such as walking and going up and down stairs.
During osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes stiff and brittle, losing its shock absorbing qualities, and eventually wears away. This causes stress on tendons and ligaments, and could possibly lead to bone on bone contact.
It is most common in joints responsible for weight bearing such as the knee, hip, and spine. It can also show up in other joints such as the fingers, toes, and neck.
- Hereditary: joint or cartilage defects may be inherited. Those born with joint defects or joint hypermobility may be more likely to get OA.
- Obesity: Shedding those extra pounds may help decrease the risk of developing OA in weight bearing joints such as the spine, knee, and hip.
- Injury: Those who have sustained joint injuries, such as a knee injury, a severe back injury, or a broken bone near a joint may be more inclined to develop OA.
- Age: Although more common in older adults, even younger individuals may develop OA.
- Gender: Women are more likely to develop the condition.
- Muscle Weakness: Muscle weakness places more stress on joints, leading to overuse and possible damage.
- Poor nutrition: Eating a balanced diet is key to setting the body up for success and production of quality tissues.
- Pain: Is the most common symptom in weight bearing joints, and presents after prolonged activity and overuse
- Joint Stiffness: Is common after a period of rest or sleep, but usually subsides within 30 minutes of movement.
- Joint Swelling: Joints may become enlarged due to bony overgrowth or as a response to overuse.
- Nerve Symptoms: OA in the spine may cause symptoms such as numbness or pain in the arms and legs.
The main goals of treatment are to relieve pain while maintaining joint range of motion and function.
- Weight Loss: Losing those unwanted pounds will help reduce daily stresses and forces on weight bearing joints which are susceptible to arthritis.
- Physical Therapy: As a non-invasive option to enhance quality of life, physical therapists utilize techniques in manual therapy, aquatic therapy, and individualized therapeutic exercise. Physical therapy will help strengthen your body and reduce the impact of OA on your daily life. Treatment will help decrease joint stiffness and improve overall pain free range of motion.
- Medications: Over the counter medication (Advil, Tylenol, Ibuprofen) and prescription medication (Celebrex, Naprosyn, Feldene) may be very effective as short-term relievers of pain and inflammation. Be careful though, many may have long term side effects such as stomach issues, increased risk of heart attack, and long term kidney or liver damage. Always speak to your doctor before beginning a new medication.
- Surgery: Surgical procedures are used when conservative measures are not able to solve the problem. Surgeries may clean out, replace, or remove part of affected joints to reduce pain. Surgeries should not be thought of as a quick fix, and still take time and effort post-op to regain function and use of the joint.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle including eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting adequate exercise are all steps every individual can take to help reduce the effect osteoarthritis has on their daily life.
Tips provided by Jeff Romans, PT and student therapist Matt Harrison. Matt Harrison completed his clinical rotation in our Onondaga Hill and Cicero locations.
More information on arthritis is to come this month, including a Free Seminar in which we will be covering managing arthritis pain with nonsurgical methods. Register today!