What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic joint condition. OA is also called wear-and-tear arthritis, degenerative arthritis, and degenerative joint disease.
A joint is where two bones come together. Cartilage is the protective tissue that covers the ends of the bones. With OA, this cartilage breaks down, causing the bones within the joint to rub together. This can cause pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.
OA can occur in any joint. However, the most commonly affected areas of the body include the: hands, fingers, shoulder, spine, hips and knees.
OA occurs most often in older people, although it can occur in adults of any age.
The most common symptoms of OA include:
stiffness in the joint
loss of flexibility and reduced range of motion
tenderness or discomfort when pressing on the affected areas with your fingers
crepitus, or grating, crackling, clicking, or popping sounds when you move your joints
bone spurs, or extra lumps of bone, which are typically painless
As OA becomes more advanced, the pain associated with it may become more intense. Over time, swelling in the joint and surrounding area may also occur. Learn how to recognize the early symptoms of OA, which can help you to better manage the condition.
OA is caused by joint damage. This damage can have a cumulative effect over time, which is why age is one of the main causes of the joint damage leading to OA. The older you are, the more repetitive stress you’ve had on your joints.
Other causes of joint damage include: obesity, poor posture, joint malformation.
Certain risk factors increase your chances of developing OA. They include:
having family with the condition, particularly parents or siblings
gender, with women having higher rates of OA than men
being at least 50 years old, according to the Arthritis Foundation
having undergone menopause
having an occupation that involves kneeling, climbing, heavy lifting, or similar actions
a history of injury
being overweight or having obesity
having another medical condition that affects your joint health, such as diabetes or a different type of arthritis.
A number of different types of OA medication can help ease the pain. They include:
Oral pain relievers such as Acetaminophen could help reduce pain but not the swelling.
Topical pain releivers: these products are creams and gels like. They help to numb the joint area, especially for mild arthritis.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) help reduce swelling as well as pain.
Being overweight can put strain on your joints and cause pain. Shedding some pounds helps relieve this pressure and reduces pain. A moderate weight can also lower your risk of other health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Resting your muscles can lower swelling and inflammation. Be kind to yourself and don’t overdo it. Getting enough sleep at night can also help you manage pain more effectively.
Heat and cold therapy
You can experiment with heat or cold therapy to relieve muscle pain and stiffness. Apply a hot or cold compress to sore joints for 15 to 20 minutes, several times per day.
Physical activity strengthens the muscles around your joints and may help relieve stiffness. Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical movement, at least every other day. Choose gentle, low impact activities, such as walking or swimming. Tai chi and yoga can also improve joint flexibility and help with pain management.
You may have risk factors for OA that you can’t change, such as heredity and age. However, other risk factors can be controlled. Managing them can help reduce your risk of OA.
The following tips can help you manage the risk factors under your control:
Support your body. If you’re an athlete or an avid exerciser, make sure you care for your body. Wear athletic supports and shoes that reduce impact on your knees. Also make sure to vary your sports, so that all of your muscles get a workout, not just the same muscles every time.
Maintain a moderate weight. Keep your body mass index in the appropriate range for your height and sex.
Eat a nutritious diet. Reach for a range of healthy foods, with a focus on fruits and vegetables.
Get enough rest. Give your body ample opportunities to rest and sleep.
If you have diabetes, keeping track of your blood sugar can also help you manage your risk of OA.
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