The word arthritis means “joint inflammation,” and “osteo” is Greek for “bone.” So, Osteoarthritis is not exactly the same as other forms of arthritis. In fact, more than 100 different conditions can affect the joints and their adjacent bones, muscles, and tissues. They are classified into various major types of arthritis, depending on whether or not inflammation, infection or bleeding is the major component. All of these types of arthritis are completely different, with different presentations, symptoms and treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), osteoarthritis affects as many as 27 million Americans. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, which gets worse with age, and often attributed to wear and tear. This type of arthritis affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint. In other words, osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition in which cartilage wears away.
When someone has osteoarthritis, it makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Once the cartilage lining starts to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments must compensate and work harder. This can cause swelling and the formation of bony spurs, called osteophytes. Severe loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position.
Risk factors for OA include:
- A job that puts stress on your joints
- Joint injury
- Joint malformation
Diagnosis for Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a slow-developing disease. It’s a silent disorder that can be difficult to diagnose until it begins to cause painful or debilitating symptoms. Early OA is usually only diagnosed after an accident or other incident that results in a fracture requiring an X-ray.
In addition to X-rays, your doctor may use an MRI scan to diagnose OA. This imaging test uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create images of your bone and soft tissues. Other diagnostic tests include a blood test to rule out other conditions that cause joint pain, like rheumatoid arthritis. A joint fluid analysis can also be ordered to determine whether gout or an infection is the underlying cause of inflammation.
Treatment options for Osteoarthritis
OA can’t be cured, but you can manage symptoms with a combination of lifestyle changes, home remedies, and medication. You’ll work with your doctor to determine the best course of action. Depending on the severity of the disease, the following treatments may relieve pain and stiffness:
Exercise: Physical activity strengthens the muscles around your joints. Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Choose exercises that don’t irritate your joints, such as walking, swimming, and gentle stretches. Tai chi and yoga can improve joint flexibility and reduce pain.
Lose weight: Being overweight can put too much strain on your joints and cause pain. Shedding excess pounds helps relieve this pressure and reduces pain. In addition, a healthy weight can lower your risk for other health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Heat and cold therapy: Experiment with heat and cold therapy to relieve muscle pain and stiffness. Apply a cold or hot compress to sore joints for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.
Pain relief: Use anti-inflammatory or numbing creams applied directly to sore joints, or take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn). If symptoms don’t improve with over-the-counter pain relievers, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid to reduce pain. You may also be a candidate for a cortisone injection in the affected joint.
Therapeutic devices: Some devices can alleviate or ease pain from walking or standing. Wrap a brace around your ankle, knee, and other joints. Use a walking cane if joint pain or stiffness slows mobility.
Sometimes, doctors recommend nonsurgical treatments to reduce joint pain and stiffness. Physical therapy can improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles around your joints. Since OA can also affect the joints in your hands, knees, and fingers, it can result in different limitations.
Working with an occupational therapist can help you cope with these limitations and learn new ways to perform everyday tasks. Your doctor may recommend surgical procedures if your condition doesn’t improve with home treatment and therapy. These include realignment bone surgery and joint replacement surgery.
To learn more about osteoarthritis and how to treat it, call Lynx Healthcare at (509) 591-0070, or for Spokane, call (509) 321-4575 to request an appointment.