In case you or someone close to you is struggling with a health issue, it’s always recommended to learn as much as possible about it. If this condition is osteoarthritis, here is everything you need to know.
What is osteoarthritis?
First and foremost, you should understand what osteoarthritis is. Often referred to as OA, degenerative joint disease, or wear-and-tear arthritis, this is the most common of chronic joint conditions. A person that has osteoarthritis can often experience pain because the cartilage – that covers the bones and prevents them from rubbing against each other within a joint – breaks down. It can affect hands and fingers, shoulders, the spine, hips, and knees. Although it’s most often found among older people, it can occur at any adult age. Osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
In terms of symptoms, people that suffer from OA can experience pain and stiffness in the joints. Then, a reduced range of motion and less flexibility as well as inflammation and discomfort when touching the affected areas are also possible. What is more, when moving their joints, there could be popping, clicking, grating, or crackling sounds. Bone spurs might also occur, but they are usually painless. Over time, the pain can increase in intensity and even be followed by swelling.
Something you should keep in mind is that osteoarthritis can be difficult to diagnose until it begins showing painful symptoms. As it is a disease that develops slowly in most cases, your doctor might not notice it right away. To diagnose it, professionals use X-rays, MRIs, blood tests, and synovial fluid analysis. It can be diagnosed early after incidents and accidents that require using an X-ray to see if there is a fracture.
The cause of osteoarthritis is joint damage. There are many reasons why one might develop joint damage, but the main one is age. With age, our bodies go through a lot of repetitive stress and it reflects on our joints. Joint damage can also occur due to poor posture, past injuries, joint malformation, and obesity. Furthermore, some risk factors can increase one’s chances of having OA. For instance, women are more likely to have osteoarthritis than men, and having undergone menopause can also have an effect. If someone in your family already has this condition, you might be more likely to have it too. Your occupation and other medical conditions can increase the risk as well.
When it comes to treatments for this condition, they are typically centered around the symptoms, their severity, and location. With that in mind, there is a wide array of solutions that could work for different individuals.
For one, medications can provide relief. There are oral pain relievers and topical OTC products like gels, creams, and patches. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids can reduce pain and swelling too. Some people are also prescribed antidepressants as certain ones are approved for musculoskeletal pain. Furthermore, try experimenting with cold or heat therapy a few times a day for 20 minutes because it can help with pain and stiffness.
It’s important to note that in certain situations surgery might be the best solution. For instance, joint surgery like a hip replacement is the necessary course of action for some individuals that are dealing with osteoarthritis.
Then, as being overweight puts extra pressure on the joints, shedding some weight might be able to reduce pain. You should consult with your physician to see whether you should adjust your diet and see what they would suggest. A healthy diet also reduces the risk of other issues like heart disease and diabetes.
Getting enough sleep is crucial for feeling better as well. To lower swelling and inflammation, resting your muscles is always recommended, so don’t push yourself too far, either during exercise or everyday tasks. Check with your doctor how you can get more hours of sleep per night if you’re currently not getting enough shuteye.
Physical activity is also useful for relieving stiffness and strengthening the muscles near the joints. About half an hour of exercise a day should be enough, but remember to opt for low-impact options like swimming and walking to prevent further injuries and avoid putting stress on your joints. Yoga or tai chi might also be right for you.
Finally, you should be aware of the fact that osteoarthritis can lead to physical and emotional complications too. For example, due to OA, you might have trouble sleeping, gain weight, experience hairline fractures, and see bleeding near the joints. Anxiety and depression are also not uncommon as people lose function.
While there is no cure for OA, don’t lose hope and ignore the symptoms. There are treatments that can help you feel better.