Causes, symptoms and treatments for osteoarthritis
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Many people suffer from arthritis – including men and women, older people and even children. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and the most common type is called osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis: a degenerative joint disease
Osteoarthritis is known as a degenerative joint disease because people with it lose function of their joints over time. Osteoarthritis starts with the breakdown – or degeneration – of the joints between the body’s bones. This flexible tissue, or cartilage, provides a cushion where bones come together and prevents them from rubbing against each other when we move. Cartilage, just like any other shock absorber, can start to wear down with age and joint use, and as it does, the protective cushion between the body’s bones decreases. In osteoarthritis, this causes the bone underneath the cartilage to thicken and broaden out.
Osteoarthritis can affect many different joints, such as the hand, knee, hip and spine.
If the osteoarthritis worsens the cartilage may actually break away from the bone, and the bones may begin to scrape against one another and become bruised or damaged. This may result in around-the-clock pain.
The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain and stiffness. The pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis may be worse after resting or not moving the joint for a while. Osteoarthritis can also limit joint movement and flexibility, as affected joints cannot bend as easily or with their full range of motion. In extreme cases, osteoarthritis can even cause severe disability and may affect the ability to do normal daily activities such as walking, climbing up stairs or opening jars.
Osteoarthritis risk factors
Age is a factor for osteoarthritis. People usually develop osteoarthritis from their late 40s, through to old age. In Australia approximately 1 in 4 people aged over 65 are affected by it.
A family history of osteoarthritis and carrying excess body weight may also raise a person’s risk of developing osteoarthritis. In addition, joint injuries or fractures can lead to osteoarthritis later in life as can long-term overuse of joints e.g. tennis elbow. In addition, osteoarthritis is more common and severe in women, especially in the knees and hands.
Preventing osteoarthritis is not always possible because many factors contribute to its development. However, injuries to a joint may increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis in that joint in later life. To reduce this risk be careful not to overwork a damaged or painful joint, and try to avoid repetitive or excessive joint movements.
Another factor that may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis is being overweight or obese. Excess weight places additional strain on joints, particularly on the knees and hips.That means maintaining a healthy body weight can help to relieve existing joint pain and prevent the development or worsening of osteoarthritis.
Where mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis is concerned, treatment options include over-the-counter pain relievers and heat therapy to reduce pain. Medical guidelines from around the world recommend paracetamol as the pain reliever to use first to manage osteoarthritis pain. If you are experiencing lasting joint pain symptoms, speak to your doctor. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe other medications to treat osteoarthritis symptoms. Physical therapy, which includes specific strengthening exercises, staying active, losing weight and maintaining a positive attitude can also help manage osteoarthritis.
For more information on managing your osteoarthritis, visit Panadol Osteo's website www.myosteolife.com.au