Janet, 48, was thrilled when she reached her goal weight after a 52-pound loss. Overweight all her life, she now enjoyed regular physical activity and planned several trips for the upcoming year. However, she had to cancel most of her plans due to incessant pain in her knees. As soon as she received a diagnosis, she asked her doctor about the causes of osteoarthritis.
Overview of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that breaks down the cartilage in your joints. According to MedlinePlus, it’s the most common form or arthritis and is also known as degenerative joint disease and osteoarthrosis.
This disorder breaks down the cartilage – the ends of bones – in your joints. In a healthy joint, cartilage absorbs the shocks of movement. However, when you suffer from osteoarthritis, your bones rub together, resulting in pain, tenderness, stiffness, swelling, and loss of flexibility. You might also experience a grating sensation when you move the affected joint, the Mayo Clinic indicates. Bone spurs, which usually feel like hard lumps under your skin, sometimes accumulate around the joint.
Osteoarthritis most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips, lower back, and neck.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
If you have been diagnosed with this disorder, the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones has deteriorated. Over time, its smooth surface becomes rough and causes irritation. Eventually, if there is enough wear and tear, you will experience bone rubbing against bone. The result is painful joints.
For most patients, doctors can’t pinpoint the causes of osteoarthritis. However, experts suspect that the disorder results from a combination of factors. Among the most likely are the aging process, injury or stress to a joint, muscle weakness, obesity, and heredity. Women are also more likely than men to develop this condition.
Treatment and Prognosis
There is no cure for osteoarthritis. Over time, the condition gradually gets worse. Certain treatments can help reduce your pain and maintain joint movement to make life easier on a daily basis.
The medications most commonly used are acetaminophen (example: Tylenol) for pain, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for both pain and inflammation, and Tramadol as an analgesic to cut pain. Stronger painkillers include prescription drugs like Darvon. Sometimes doctors are willing to inject corticosteroid medications into affected joints.
Physical therapy can strengthen the muscles around the affected joint, increase your range of motion, and reduce the amount of pain you experience. An occupational therapist can find ways to accomplish everyday tasks without stressing any joints affected by osteoarthritis.
Some patients find it helpful to get special splints, braces, shoe inserts, or other devices that reduce pain. You might also find a class in chronic pain management useful.
If you have osteoarthritis, you could eventually face one or more types of surgery. Viscosupplementation involves injections of hyaluronic acid derivatives to cushion a joint and reduce pain. The two joints most commonly replaced are hips and knees. However, surgeons are now able to replace shoulder, elbow, finger, or ankle joints. Sometimes they realign or fuse bones for stability and pain reduction.
If you are able to identify a potential cause of your osteoarthritis as being overweight or obese, you can lower the stress on your weight-bearing joints (commonly knees and hips) by accomplishing even a small weight loss. Combining dietary changes and increased activity will help you accomplish this. Just be sure to get your doctor’s advice as to the appropriate types of exercise and nutrition before beginning.