Osteoarthritis is considered the most common joint disorder. With age, the body experiences normal wear and tear. Osteoarthritis is normal wear and tear in the joints. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage cushioning the bones at the joints begins to break down, allowing the bones to rub together. This results in joint pain, stiffness and swelling. Bone spurs may also form around the affected joint and ligaments and muscles around the joint will grow stiff and become weaker.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis typically begin to appear around middle age; by age 70, nearly every adult will experience at least minor symptoms of osteoarthritis. While age is the primary risk factor related to osteoarthritis, there are other factors that can lead to the painful condition. These include:
- Genetics, family history
- Being overweight as extra weight increases wear and tear on joints
- Fractures or other joint injuries, including injuries to cartilage and ligaments
- Jobs that involve kneeling or squatting for more than an hour per day; jobs that involve lifting, frequently climbing stairs or even lots of walking.
- Playing impact sports (football), or sports that involve twisting (basketball, soccer) or throwing (baseball, basketball)
- Bleeding disorders causing bleeding in the joint
- Medical disorders that cause a block of blood supply near the joint
- Other types of arthritis
The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain and stiffness. The pain associated with this condition often worsens after exercise or with weight or pressure on the joint. Some individuals even notice a rubbing or cracking sound when they move the affected joint. Joint stiffness that occurs in the morning after first waking up may last 30 minutes and is usually improved with mild activity. As the condition progresses, pain and stiffness may worsen and be present all the time, not only with exercise and activity. In a few cases, individuals with osteoarthritis may experience little to no symptoms.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are several treatment options to relieve pain and symptoms. Common treatments include:
- Prescription medications and over-the-counter pain relievers
- Physical therapy
- Lifestyle changes, including weight loss
- Braces or splints to support weakened joints
- Orthopedic surgery such as arthroscopic surgery to trim damaged cartilage, changing alignment of bones to relieve stress, surgical fusion of bones and total or partial joint replacement.
If you are experiencing joint pain or have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, contact Pine Creek Medical Center to learn more about your options for pain management and treatment.