Are you over 50 years and finding it extremely difficult to mobilize your daily routine? Or are you using hot and cold packs to soothe the excruciating pain in your spine quite often? It is high time you ask your doctor all about Osteoarthritis that adversely affects your joints resulting in acute pain, swelling, and discomfort.
So what is Osteoarthritis? Is it a disease or a degenerative disorder or inflammation of the joints or just age-related bone deterioration? This blog is for all those who show the symptoms of Osteoarthritis but are ignorant of the facts, causes, treatment, and prevention.
What is Osteoarthritis?
The word Osteoarthritis is derived from three Greek words:
Osteo- which means “of the bone”
Arthro- which means “joint”
Itis- which implies “inflammation”
So, in simple words, Osteoarthritis means inflammation of the bones in a joint. It is one of the oldest diseases known and has been discovered in the bones of a prehistoric man who lived 500,000 years ago.
As you progress with age, the cartilage lining the joints of your spine wears down, permitting the bones to rub each other. It can occur in almost any joint of the body like joints of the hips, knees, and spine. Cartilage is a rubbery material that envelopes the end of the bones in the joints. Its main function is to prevent friction in the joints and act as a “shock absorber”. When the cartilage loses its elasticity, the joints become stiff. As the cartilage deteriorates with time, ligaments and tendon stretch causes discomfort and the bones begin to rub against each other triggering soreness and pain.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is not caused due to an injury or disease. It is part of the ageing process which is natural. With the progress in age, the water content in the cartilage increases and the protein covering the cartilage degenerates as a part of the biological process. As osteoarthritis advances, there is a total loss of cartilage leading to difficulty in mobility. Inflammation of the cartilage can stimulate new bone outgrowth, also known as ‘spurs’ or ‘osteophytes’.
Osteoarthritis can strike multiple members of the same family, implying a genetic theory for the condition. Hence Osteoarthritis can be due to any of the one reason mentioned above.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:
The most common signs to look out for the disease are the pain and discomfort in the joints after repetitive use. The impact is usually on the knees, hip, fingers, ankle, wrist, and shoulder. There can be swelling and creaking noise from the joints.
The stiffness of the joints can also occur after a long time of inactivity, for example sitting on the chair for a long time. It usually worsens in the later part of the day and in extreme cold environment. In case of severe osteoarthritis, total loss of the cartilage causes acute pain and stiffness even when the body is at rest. It hampers your ability to perform normal chores easily and can cause tremendous agony.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary from patient to patient. In some cases, a patient may suffer from intermittent pains or pain-free intervals between symptoms. Osteoarthritis of the knees is often associated with an obese physique or a joint surgery.
Diagnoses of Osteoarthritis:
A simple X-ray of the affected joint is effectively utilized to detect osteoarthritis. The X-ray reading may denote loss of joint cartilage, spur formation, and narrowing of spaces between adjacent bones. X-rays can also reveal the accumulation of fluids near the joints that leads to degeneration of the protein covering the cartilage. There are no blood tests to diagnose osteoarthritis.
A detailed analysis of the affected joint, duration of the pain, the appearance of the joints also helps the doctor to diagnose osteoarthritis. Any enlargement of the bones due to the formation of the spur can be a factor for investigation. Formation of bunions on the feet can also be part of osteoarthritis diagnoses.
Treatment of Osteoarthritis:
As understood, Osteoarthritis leads to stiffness of joins leading to immobility. Hence the most beneficial way to treat it is to be physically active and not to succumb to the pain associated with it. Simple activities like walking, cycling, swimming, and stretching can provide immense relief from the discomfort. Yoga postures are one the best methods to reduce stiffness and joint pains. Although it is difficult to exercise due to pains, moving the affected limb is the best solution. As you conquer the pain, you can advance with aerobic exercises that will enhance mobility and reduce stiffness.
Medications for the treatment of osteoarthritis include pills, syrup, creams, and lotions. Most of the pills are analgesic and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Arthrocentesis is a simple procedure performed under your doctor’s supervision to remove the joint fluid. The fluid is then analyzed for gout or other types of infection. During the process of Arthrocentesis, corticosteroids are injected to give relief from pain, swelling, and inflammation.
In case of knee osteoarthritis, a kneecap is recommended. Occupational therapists can suggest devices that may assist people to perform their chores like braces, canes, walkers, and splints. Spine and neck symptoms can be improved with neck-collar or lumbar corset.
In case of severity, doctors may recommend for total knee or hip replacement surgery which is very common nowadays.
How to prevent Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease caused due to the natural process of ageing. One can take measures to prevent it from deteriorating further.
Maintain a healthy BMI index: Excess body weight puts a lot of pressure on the knees and the hip. Hence it utmost vital to maintaining a healthy weight to reduce take stress off the knees.
Protect your joints: Do not carry a task that may lead to stress on the spine and knees. Try to use large joints or strongest muscles of the body to perform your daily chores.
Do not let Osteoarthritis ruin your daily life even for a single day. Hope this blog provided useful information on the subject. Be positive and maintain a healthy lifestyle to win over the discomforts caused by it.